Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Experiencing 9/11 in Japan

I heard a click on my answering machine at about 11:10 in the evening here in Sapporo, Japan.  I never get calls that late, so I turned it on to listen to the message.  It was a friend in Sapporo who simply said, “Turn on your TV.”  Because I didn't have cable at the time, it was rather difficult for me to understand what was happening or the implications.  Maybe for that reason I was able to go to bed and sleep.

The whole next day (9/12 in Japan) I had the TV on and little by little grasped the horror of the situation.  I had no classes that day and was alone in my apartment, so had no one to talk to about it.  That evening I went to my Japanese chorus, and the everyday chatter was going on as though nothing had happened.  I slumped into a corner, and a couple of friends came over to see if I was all right.  They had no concept of the impact it had on me - or on the whole world, for that matter.  I can recall mumbling something to the effect of, “It's war,” and they more or less pooh-poohed me, saying it wasn't that bad.

Somehow I made it through rehearsal (I stayed because we had a concert a week later, but I didn't have the breath to sing very well).  At the end I asked the conductor if I could say a prayer.  Being Catholic, he agreed.  I gave it in English, so few probably understood, but it was basically a prayer for peace.  No one responded or talked to me afterwards.  In fact, after that a former member - an Alto - gave the announcement of her engagement and forthcoming wedding, and was surrounded by people congratulating her.  I was overwhelmed by loneliness.

The next day I had private classes, and one student in my afternoon class who had lived in the U.S. came over and hugged me as soon as I came in the room.  That was the first time I was able to cry.  Finally there was someone who understood!

A few days later I got an email in Japanese from my chorus.  We were going to add a piece at the beginning of the concert the following week, and some suggestions were given.  I didn't know the names of the pieces in Japanese so asked my private students what they were. One was to the tune of what I know as “What a friend we have in Jesus,” although the words in Japanese are not the same.  I immediately vetoed that one and suggested “Amazing Grace,” which is what we ended up singing.  When we got to the words, “Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; 'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far and Grace will lead me home,” I nearly broke down.  American friends who were in the audience later told me they were weeping.

Somehow I managed to make it through the concert on 9/19.  It took every ounce of energy that I had.  Afterwards, I collapsed, sobbing, in front of my locker in the dressing room.  No one came over.  The other Sopranos were slowly changing into their street clothes and leaving.  It was a desperately lonely time.

A few weeks later, one of the Sopranos took me aside and talked to me quietly about family members she had lost in the Hanshin earthquake in Japan on January 17, 1995.  She had never mentioned it to me before and tears came to her eyes as she talked.  What it made me realize is how private the process of grieving is in Japan.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

The Clutter Is All in Your Mind

Cathy Anderson's PowerPoint presentation on clutter was posted by a friend just when I needed it the most!
I succeeded in filling two cardboard boxes with recycled teaching material.  Having spent days, months, and years accumulating and organizing it for use in various level classes, it was not easy to just throw all that hard work into a box.  Much of it, however, has been around for several years because either I've refined the material and put it on my computer, or I have easy access to similar - or better - material on the Internet.  In fact, I wasn't even sure what I'd come across in the piles I went through.

I didn't enjoy having to remove all the staples, but I wanted to be sure it was all perfectly recyclable.  The effort was also worth it because I have that much more office space now (a luxury in Japan), and the clutter was taking up mental space as well.  It's great to feel a bit more clear!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Reach Out and Touch Someone - Literally!

“The real action of compassion . . . is touch.”  Dacher Keltner, in Hands On Research: The Science of Touch, gives some profound insight as to not only the therapeutic value of touch but also its social functions. He reports briefly on an experiment showing that the emotions communicated through touch are more easily identified than those from facial and vocal expressions, although apparently this is more true with people of the same gender.

Every time I return to the U.S., I'm so aware of how much more hugging and touching in general - such as pats on the hand or the back - I experience than in Japan.  I often am starving for touch and have to wonder how much that has contributed to my gaining a great deal of weight over the past 15 years.

Fortunately I have my cats, who demand a great deal of touching, but it's not exactly reciprocal.  Even though I have become more keenly aware of the lack of touch in my daily life, through this article and video, I can't exactly run out and start touching the people I come into contact with.  However, at least I can make an appointment with a massage therapist and make sure that I get more healing touch from massage in my life.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

U.S. Lags in School Lunch Makeovers

U.S. Lags in School Lunch Makeovers
The photos in this article show typical school lunches in the U.S. compared with those in other countries. It's difficult finding the vegetables in most of the U.S. school lunches. Also, is the chocolate milk served in order to get the kids to drink milk? I wonder how much sugar it contains.

The worst of it is that children will grow up thinking this is “food.” One of the most important areas where people are lacking in education is nutrition. What a perfect opportunity a well-balanced nutritious school lunch could provide, with the added benefit of less obesity. Go, Michelle!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The New York Philharmonic Honors the People of Japan

A moving message from the New York Philharmonic to the people of Japan.  On the evening of this recording, the orchestra played Requiem for Strings by Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996),  both to honor the departed and as a tribute to Japan's optimism and positive spirit.

The following is a beautiful rendition of the Requiem for Strings showing the ceramic artwork of Carlo Zauli (1926-2002), a native of Faenza, Italy, who was heavily influenced by both traditional and modern Japanese ceramic art.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Al Jazeera English: Live Stream

One of the most comprehensive, reliable sources for news, devoid of the sensationalism one finds in certain other international networks.

Al Jazeera English: Live Stream - Watch Now - Al Jazeera English

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Google Person Finder & Emergency Information

The Google Crisis Site includes information in English on emergency information, transportation, shelters, and places to donate.  There are boards for posting about missing people.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Simple Visual of Nuclear Reactors

For those who need a simple explanation of nuclear reactors, this short video shows very clearly how they work.  This is one educators might find of use.

The “Shindo” Scale Used for Earthquakes in Japan

I cannot attest as to the validity of the following information, but it explains fairly clearly the difference between the “Shindo” scale used in Japan and the Richter scale.  This was useful for me because I've never been able to understand why an earthquake reported on Japanese TV as a “2” felt more like a “3” or “4” to me.

Japan experiences about 1,000 earthquakes each year of a magnitude sufficient to be felt. While the rest of the world uses the Richter scale to measure earthquakes, the Japan Meteorological Agency uses a seismic intensity scale - used also in Taiwan - known as the shindo (literally 'tremor') scale. Whereas the Richter scale measures a quake at its epicenter, the 'shindo scale' measures it at a specific location where the quake is felt. Therefore the effects of a single earthquake have a variable 'shindo scale' reading depending how far the affected area is from the epicenter.

A Shindo Scale 1 quake is the lightest, while a 7 is the most severe.
In detail, the points on the scale are defined as follows:

  • 0: Goes unnoticed by humans. Speed of shock waves on the ground is less than 0.008 m/s².

  • 1: Barely noticable, but only if inside. Ground speed of 0.008–0.025 m/s².

  • 2: Noticable if inside, and sufficient to wake some sleepers. Ground speed of 0.025–0.08 m/s².

  • 3: Felt by most people if inside. Sufficient to inspire fear in some people. Ground speed of 0.08–0.25 m/s².

  • 4: Sufficient to inspire fear in many people, wake most sleepers, and prompt some people to seek escape. Ground speed of 0.25–0.80 m/s².

  • 5−: Prompts most people to seek escape, but strong enough to prevent some people from moving. Ground speed of 0.80–1.40 m/s².

  • 5+: Strong enough to cause the collapse of a few unreinforced concrete-block walls and gravestones. Driving difficult or impossible. Ground speed of 1.40–2.50 m/s².

  • 6−: Will cause collapse of wall tiles and windowpanes in some buildings. Ground speed of 2.50–3.15 m/s².

  • 6+: In many buildings, wall tiles and windowpanes are damaged and fall. Strong enough to cause the collapse of some unreinforced concrete-block walls and gravestones. Ground speed of 3.15–4.00 m/s².

  • 7: Wall tiles and windowpanes are damaged and fall in most buildings. Even reinforced concrete-block walls may collapse. Ground speed of over 4 m/s².

  • Note that you can click on the title of this block to go to the link, but it also has information that might be offensive to some (e.g., love hotels).

    Japanese News Earthquake Vocabulary

    A resident of Japan has posted this useful list on his blog.  This is especially useful for friends who are working as translators or trying to understand the information in Japanese.  He has a number of other useful links about everyday life in Japan.  Thanks, Harvey!

    木造住宅もくぞうじゅうたくhomes built of wood
    中層建物ちゅうそうたてものa mid-sized high rise building
    港周辺みなとしゅうへんthe area around the port
    倒壊した家とうかいしたいえcollapsed houses
    倒壊家屋とうかいかおくcollapsed houses
    建物の屋根たてもののやねthe roofs of buildings
    瓦礫がれきtiles and pebbles, debris

    計画停電けいかくていでんplanned power outage
    核燃料かくねんりょうnuclear fuelLink
    核分裂かくぶんれつatomic fissionLink
    電力不足でんりょくぶそくlack of power
    停電ていでんpower outage
    発電所はつでんしょpower plant
    原発げんはつnuclear power plant
    東京電力福島第1原子力発電所1号機とうきょうでんりょくふくしまだいいちげんしりょくはつでんしょいちごうきTEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant No. 1 reactor
    燃料棒ねんりょうぼうfuel rod (for a nuclear power plant)
    揚水発電所ようすいはつでんしょhydraulic power plant
    電力会社でんりょくがいしゃpower company
    節電せつでんenergy conservation, to conserve energy
    供給不足きょうきゅうぶそくinsufficient supply
    原子炉を冷やす機能げんしろをひやすきのうthe function to cool a nuclear reactor
    格納容器かくのうようきstorage container (refers to the steel container housing the reactor)
    容器を海水で冷やすようきをかいすいでひやすcool the container with seawater
    放射線ほうしゃせんradiation (radioactive rays)
    放射生物質ほうしゃせいぶっしつradioactive materials
    発電施設はつでんしせつpower plant facilities
    Rescue and damage
    孤立こりつto be isolatedLink
    安否確認あんぴかくにんconfirmation of safetyLink
    安否不明あんぴふめいunknown whether (they are) safe or not
    安否確認が進まずあんぴかくにんがすすまずmaking no progress in regards to confirming the safety of…
    炉心溶融ろしんようゆうcore meltdownLink
    爆発音ばくはつおんsound of an explosion
    水素爆発すいそばくはつhydrogen explosion
    壊滅的な被害かいめつてきなひがいdevastating damage
    救助ヘリコプターきゅうじょヘリコプターrescue helicopter
    救助を待っているきゅうじょをまっているwaiting to be rescued
    不明ふめいunclear (missing people) 死者・不明1400人超 (more than 1,400 dead or missing)
    行方不明者ゆくえふめいしゃmissing persons
    軽傷者けいしょうしゃpeople with light injuries
    遺体いたいdead bodies / corpses
    被曝ひばくto be exposed to radiation
    避難範囲ひなんはんいevacuation area
    避難住民ひなんじゅうみんevacuated residents
    救出活動きゅうしゅつかつどうrescue operations
    震度しんどThe strength of an earthquake (shindo, Japanese scale 0 to 7)
    震度6弱しんどろくじゃくAbout shindo 6
    大震災だいしんさいGreat earthquake
    震源しんげんThe hypocenter (of an earthquake)
    揺れゆれto shake
    白煙はくえんwhite smoke
    黒煙こくえんblack smoke
    海面かいめんsea surface
    沿岸部えんがんぶcoastal area
    水没しているすいぼつしているto be submerged in water
    水没した車すいぼつしたくるまsubmerged carsLink
    Transportation and vehicles
    乗用車じょうようしゃpassenger cars (regular cars, as opposed to fire trucks, ambulances, etc.)
    消防車しょうぼうしゃfire truck
    船舶が座礁しているせんぱくがざしょうしているships have run aground
    Government and organizations
    気象庁きしょうちょうMeteorological agency
    自衛隊じえいたいJapan Self Defense Force
    国際原子力事象評価尺度こくさいげんしりょくじしょうひょうかしゃくどInternational Nuclear Event Scale (INES)
    Place Names
    宮城県みやぎけんMiyagi prefecture
    南三陸町みなみさんりくまちminamisanrikumachi (In Miyagi prefecture. Devastate by the tsunami.)
    岩手県いわてけんIwate prefecture
    〜が相次いでいるあいついでいるblah blah is occurring over and over again
    恐れがあるおそれがあるmay occur (something negative) e.g., 停電が続く恐れがある the power outage may continue.
    半径3キロはんけいさんキロa radius of 3 kilometers
    命を落とすいのちをおとすto die (to lose life)
    待機たいきto wait
    状況の把握が難航しておりじょうきょうのはあくがなんこうしておりdifficult to understand the (actual) situationLink
    市街地しがいちurban areas
    拡大する見通しかくだいするみとおしexpected to increase/expand

    Japan Earthquake Information on Facebook

    Several people have mentioned “the” earthquake and “the” tsunami.  It needs to be made clear that these are both in the plural.  The aftershocks continue, and an earthquake is never *over* in several senses.  Of course, there are the rescue and clean up operations that many of you have viewed on TV.  Even more, there's the emotional trauma to deal with (see my earlier blog on PTSD).  Most of all, there could easily be another sizable earthquake.  Japan experiences over 1,000 earthquakes a year that can be felt!  Most of them are not large enough to cause serious damage.  However, there is concern about more earthquakes occurring in the near future on top of what people have already experienced on Friday.

    I'm particularly grateful for Facebook right now because a large number of friends have been checking my page there.  This has enormously helpful because it's been impossible for me to respond to all the messages and inquiries that I've received.  I apologize for being abrupt with those who have used chat to contact me, but there simply hasn't been much time to talk one-on-one.

    I was surprised this morning to find that Facebook is sending out special messages to its members in Japan [see below].  This has been an invaluable service because, now that electricity is being “rationed,” it's essential to get out information about blackouts to those who are not fluent in Japanese.  Of course, the irony is that, if one is in an area where there is a power outage, they won't be able to access Facebook anyway - except possibly through cell phones, iPads, and the like.

    In Sapporo, we're fortunate that we have electricity (we'd freeze without it!) as well as enough food and other essentials.  It seems strange to have life going on as normal, knowing what others in the country are experiencing.

    Japan Earthquake Information - Updated Mar 14, 8:05AM (Japan time)

    Scheduled Blackout
    There will be a scheduled blackout (power outage) starting the morning of 3/14 in Tokyo, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Gunma, Chiba, Kanagawa, Saitama, Yamanashi, and Shizuoka.
    Areas will be divided into 5 groups and each group will experience about 3 hours of power outage.

    Please refer to the TEPCO Homepage (as of now, the list is only provided in Japanese) to find out which group you are in and what time the power outage will occur in your group.

    Train companies have announced that there will be irregular operation, including out of service hours. Summary here.

    JR | Tokyo Metro | Toei Subway/Bus | Tokyu | Odakyu | Keio | Tobu | Keikyu |Keisei

    Major out of services are: Tokaido Line (all day), Yokosuka Line (all day), Yokohama Line (all day), Odakyu will only operate between Kyodo to Shinjyuku (all day), Keio will only operate between Chofu and Shinjyuku (during morning and evening rush hours).

    The Facebook website will not be affected by this blackout.

    About this box: Facebook uses this box to provide information to foreigners and visitors in Japan for the duration of the current crisis.

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    Diagnosing and Coping with PTSD

    A friend posted this summary on his Facebook page about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The source for the information is:

    The following three groups of symptom criteria are required to assign the diagnosis of PTSD:

    Recurrent re-experiencing of the trauma (for example, troublesome memories, flashbacks that are usually caused by reminders of the traumatic events, recurring nightmares about the trauma and/or dissociative reliving of the trauma)

    Avoidance to the point of having a phobia of places, people, and experiences that remind the sufferer of the trauma or a general numbing of emotional responsiveness

    Chronic physical signs of hyperarousal, including sleep problems, trouble concentrating, irritability, anger, poor concentration, blackouts or difficulty remembering things, increased tendency and reaction to being startled, and hypervigilance (excessive watchfulness) to threat.

    How can people cope with PTSD?

    Some ways that are often suggested for PTSD patients to cope with this illness include:

    learning more about the disorder as well as

    talking to friends, family, professionals, and PTSD survivors for support. Joining a support group may be helpful.

    Other tips include

    reducing stress by using relaxation techniques (for example, breathing exercises, positive imagery), actively participating in treatment as recommended by professionals, increasing positive lifestyle practices (for example,

    exercise, healthy eating, distracting oneself through keeping a healthy work schedule if employed, volunteering whether employed or not), and

    minimizing negative lifestyle practices like substance abuse, social isolation, working to excess, and self-destructive or suicidal behaviors.

    [Thanks, Steven!]

    Tuesday, March 01, 2011

    Kill the Bill!

    • I appreciated the detailed explanation of the different clauses included in Wisconsin Governor Walker's “budget repair” bill given by one of my friends, Patrick Flynn, Vice President of Franchise Development (Midwest Region).  For those in Wisconsin who are focused on only certain bits and pieces that you may agree or disagree with, it's important to know the whole bill would impact your life and the lives of your children and grandchildren. 

      1. ELIMINATING MEDICAID: The Budget Repair Bill includes a little-known provision that would put complete control of the state’s Medicaid program, known as BadgerCare, in the hands of the state’s ultra-conservative Health and Human Services Secretary Dennis Smith. Smith would have the authority to “to override state Medicaid laws as [he] sees fit and institute sweeping changes” including reducing benefits and limiting eligibility. Ironically, during the 1990s it was Republicans, especially former Gov. and Bush HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who helped develop BadgerCare into one of the country’s most innovative and generous Medicaid programs. A decade later, a new generation of radical Republicans is hoping to destroy one of Wisconsin’s “success stories.”

      2. POWER PLANT PRIVATIZATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL NEGLECT: The same budget bill calls for a rapid no-bid “firesale” of all state-owned power plants. One progressive blogger called the proposal “a highlight reel of all of the tomahawk dunks of neo-Gilded Age corporatism: privatization, no-bid contracts, deregulation, and naked cronyism” and suggested that the provision will open the way for large, politically connected corporations, like Koch Industries, to buy up the state’s power plants on the cheap. While it’s unclear whether corporations would be interested in buying the plants, a similar proposal was vetoed six years a go by Gov. Jim Doyle (D), who called the plan fiscally and environmentally irresponsible. Many of Wisconsin’s power plants are in violation of federal clean air regulations and desperately need to be upgraded and cleaned up — not dumped into the private sector.

      3. DANGEROUS DRINKING WATER: Republican lawmakers have introduced bills in both the Senate and the House which would repeal a rule requiring municipal governments to disinfect their water. Conservatives have said that the clean water rule — which went into effect in December — is simply too expensive. Yet the rule only affects 12 percent of municipalities and the price may be worth it. In 1993, 104 people died and 400,000 fell sick when the Milwaukee water supply became infected. Even two decades later, the Environmental Protection Agency Advisory Board notes that 13 percent of acute gastro-intestinal illnesses in municipalities that don’t disinfect their water supplies are the result of dirty water. Municipalities can keep their water clean for as low as $10,000 per well — but apparently for the Wisconsin GOP that is too high a price to pay to keep citizens safe from deadly microorganisms.

      4. DESTROYING WETLANDS: In January, Walker’s proposed regulatory reform bill exempted a parcel of wetland owned by a Republican donor from water quality standards. But the exemption was more than just an embarrassing giveaway to a GOP ally: environmental groups believe the bill’s special provision would actually affect the entire county, eliminating public hearings on proposed wetland development, short-circuiting approval of development projects, and disrupting the region’s water system.

      5. FISCAL IRRESPONSIBILITY: Walker signed a bill this week requiring a 2/3 supermajority in the legislature to pass any tax increase. Republican lawmakers are now reportedly considering a constitutional amendment that would make the rule permanent. A similar constitutional amendment in California has been called the “source of misery” of that state’s crippling budget crisis and has forced lawmakers to “gut public education, slash social services and health care programs, close prisons, and lay off record numbers of public employees.” While claiming to “make a commitment to the future instead of [choosing] dire consequences for our children” Walker and GOP lawmakers are instead putting generations of Wisconsinites in a “fiscal strait-jacket.”

      6. DISENFRANCHISING VOTERS: This week, Republican lawmakers moved forward on a bill that would require voters to present a photo ID from the DMV at the polls, making it significantly more difficult for the elderly, the disabled, college students, and rural residents to participate in elections. While Republican lawmakers insist the bill is necessary to prevent voter fraud, there have been almost no documented cases of fraudulent voting in the state. Instead, the Wisconsin State Journal writes, the GOP bill is going “overboard in limiting ballot access in a state proud of its long history of high participation in elections.”

      7. CUTTING JOBS, LOSING THE FUTURE: Last fall, Walker killed an $810 billion federally funded high-speed rail project, forcing the Transportation Department to pull its funding. Walker’s decision killed 130,000 expected jobs and forced the Spanish company Talgo to close its Milwaukee factory and layoff its 40 person staff. A spokeswoman for the company told The Daily Reporter that “the state’s decision to back away from the high-speed rail project sends a terrible message to businesses considering locating in the state.”

      8. STIFLING INNOVATION: In late January, Walker introduced a bill that would ban wind-powered energy from Wisconsin and exacerbate the state’s dependence on out-of-state coal. If passed, it’s estimated that the law would immediately eliminate $1.8 billion in new wind power investments and jeopardize eleven currently proposed wind projects. After a public outcry earlier this month, Walker’s bill is (for now) dead.

      9. “NAKED POWER GRAB”: Earlier this month in a party-line vote, the legislature ceded “extraordinary control” of the state’s rule-making oversight process to the governor. Walker now has complete power to draft agency rules which the legislature must then either approve or reject. The law gives Walker the power to write rules for formerly independent state agencies like the state Departments of Justice and Education — and most ominously the Government Accountability Board, the state’s ethics watchdog.

      10. POLITICIZING STATE AGENCIES: A provision in Walker’s budget repair bill would convert thirty-seven state employees from civil servants to political appointees — consolidating his power over state government and expanding his power to “hire, fire and move key employees to carry out his agenda.”

    • • Allows the state to take out an additional 200 million in loans, putting the state further in debt. (Page 30, Section 63)

      • Cuts off all state aid to municipalities. (Page 135 – 136 Section 9211, Page 58, Section 148)

      • Cuts off all state aid to public K-12 schools. “About 900 million dollars total” (Page 135 – 136 Section 9211, page 58 Section 148)

      • Cuts off all state aid to University Wisconsin Schools. “This will cause the tuition at UW schools to go up 26% over the next two years.” (Page 135 – 136 Section 9211)

      • The state will lose 46 million in federal grants to public transit. “The federal government requires that public transit workers have collective bargaining.” (Page 63 – 109 Sections 163- 314)

      • Allows the state to take 28 million from Employee Trust Fund. “This is the State Employees' Pension Fund; they will use the money to pay the State's portion of State Employee's Medical and Pension contributions until 2013.” (Page 125, Section 9115)

      • In 2013 the State will no longer pay anything toward state employees' Medical and Pension Fund. State employees will be required to pay the entire cost of their Medical and Pension Fund. “Roughly about $1500 per month for each state employee.” (Page 58, Section 62.623)

      • Limits the right to collectively bargain for all employees who are not public safety employees (general employees) to the subject of base wages. (Pages 63 – 109, Sections 163- 314)

    Saturday, February 26, 2011

    The Art of Morphing Women in Art

    This incredible piece morphs one work of art into another.  As one friend put it, “It amazes me that the faces -- even while morphing -- all remain distinctly feminine and also that many of the face of great art have a high degree of similarity.”  My sister simply commented that “This is wow-worthy.”

    You make have to click on the link to watch it directly on YouTube, but it's definitely worth watching!

    Friday, February 25, 2011

    A Singer's Conductor

    Joseph Flummerfelt is the visiting conductor I had the privilege of making music with in Italy.  This article does well at explaining why he has been admired and respected by so many over the years: Joseph's Many Colors.

    I totally agree with the comment by a former student of his.  “One of his natural traits is his ability to inspire and discipline a group.  He has an incredible presence in the room, as well as exquisite ears, and of course a comprehensive knowledge of the choral repertoire.”  There is magic in the room when Joseph conducts: “He stands on the podium and casts spells from the big book.”

    I sincerely hope that I'll be able to experience that magic again some day!

    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Addiction to Facebook

    How addicted am I to Facebook?  I thought the results would be much higher!

    How Addicted to Facebook Are You?
    Created by Oatmeal

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    My Religion

    According to the
    Spiritual Belief System Selector Quiz
    the following are the rankings of my spiritual beliefs.  How interesting that Unitarian Universalism should come out on top, since I've been with the UU's since 1965!  The New Age is also no surprise.  I would have thought that Buddhism would place higher than Hinduism, but generally I think these percentages are in line with my beliefs.

    1. Unitarian Universalism   (100%)
    2. New Age    (98%)
    3. New Thought   (95%)
    4. Taoism   (87%)
    5. Hinduism   (86%)
    6. Liberal Quakers - Religious Society of Friends    (82%)
    7. Christian Science Church of Christ, Scientist   (79%)
    8. Jainism   (79%)
    9. Neo-Pagan    (78%)
    10. Mahayana Buddhism    (75%)
    11. Scientology   (71%)
    12. Theravada Buddhism   (63%)
    13. Secular Humanism   (56%)
    14. Sikhism   (56%)
    15. Mainline - Liberal Christian Protestant    (55%)
    16. Orthodox Quaker - Religious Society of Friends   (48%)
    17. Reform Judaism   (42%)
    18. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons)   (31%)
    19. Non-theist   (20%)
    20. Baha’i   (17%)
    21. Jehovah’s Witness   (17%)
    22. Seventh Day Adventist    (17%)
    23. Orthodox Judaism   (15%)
    24. Eastern Orthodox   (10%)
    25. Islam   (10%)
    26. Roman Catholic   (10%)
    27. Mainline - Conservative Christian Protestant   (10%)

    Note: The site gets low points in terms of spelling and punctuation (e.g., Bahai rather than Baha'i, and a space before the % mark).  Also, the list is inconsistent in that it's a mixture of beliefs (Taoism) and believers (Roman Catholic).  However, its accuracy was otherwise uncanny.

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    What I Face

    This is a partial listing of what was posted on my Facebook page this morning.  For those of my friends not yet on Facebook, for whatever reasons, I'd like to share how much more than a social network it is for me (although it’s definitely great for contacting people and keeping in touch, as well).

    Last week in Tucson we saw: "...a white Catholic male Republican judge murdered on his way to greet a Democratic Jewish woman member of Congress, who was his friend. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year-old Mexican-American gay college student, and eventually by a Korean American combat surgeon, and this all was eulogized by our African American President." Allen Ginsberg, Historian

    I appreciated this quote posted on one friend's page:
    Life is too short to wake up with regrets.  So love the people who treat you right.  Forget about the ones who don't.  Believe everything happens for a reason.  If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands.  If it changes your life, let it.  Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.

    I also looked through messages from friends living in or visiting Italy (scouting for restaurants and places to sing for this year's Umbrian Serenades), France, Portugal, Yemen, South Africa, Japan (including British and Chinese friends who live here), as well as several from North America.  I'm especially enjoying reconnecting with Wheaton Community High School classmates before our 50th (!) reunion in 2012.

    Of course, I enjoyed watching the Top 8 episode of So You Think You Can Dance, sharing comments with 3 other armchair judges, scattered around Japan, on our special Facebook list made just for the show's aficionados in Japan.

    And, finally, this bit of fun:

    Sunday, January 09, 2011

    How to Own Guns in Japan [sic]

    The following was written in 1995 by a Mr. Masaaki Ishida in response to a question about gun control on a Google groups site.  The name is not uncommon in Japan, so I know nothing about Mr. Ishida's background or his expertise in the area.  I'm certain, however, that gun control in Japan is much stronger than that in other countries I'm familiar with.  I post it here because of its being extremely relevant to what has occurred in the U.S. today (January 8, 2011).

    How to Own Guns in Japan

    In Japan there are many people who believe that Japanese shooters at Olympics are policemen or soldiers of Self-Defense Force.   Some other people believe that Japanese citizen cannot own guns and people who enjoy shooting have to rent guns at shooting range, and some other people believes that legal gun owners must keep guns in lockers assigned for them at shooting ranges. So, I decided to write short introductory article about gun ownership in Japan.
    In Japan, the kind of guns owned by civilian are as follows. 
       Air Rifle
       Hand Rifle
       Air Pistol (limited to 500 people for sports shooting only)
       Pistol (limited to 50 people for sport shooting only)
    The purpose to own guns is limited to two, i.e., hunting or sports shooting.
    It means we cannot own guns for defense purpose.

    The procedure to own the gun is as follows.
    Of course, people who use guns in their work (policemen, soldiers, etc.)
    don't have to follow the following step for guns used in the job.
    The terminology about 'air 
    gun', 'air rifle' follow Japanese custom. 
       Participation in a lecture at nearby police station

       This is a requisite condition for anyone who tries to own gun.
       You go to the police station which is responsible for your address area, and
       apply for the lecture on 
    gun regulation for beginners.   In case of Tokyo,
       entire districts are divided into four blocks, and the actual place to have
       the lecture is one police station in the block.
       The lecture for beginner is held once in a month, I think. 

       The lecture starts at 9:00 in Saturday morning, and written examination
       follows after lunch.   To 20 questions, you have to give at least 14
       correct answers.   When I had this lecture, two or three people did not
       pass among 32 or 33 attendance.   This performance was high because usually
       80 % of attendants pass the examination.   After passing the examination,
       a certificate is given and its copy must be submitted whenever you do some
       application afterwards.   The certificate is valid three years.   It means,
       after the valid date of the certification, you have to attend a lecture
    gun owners to get the new certificate.   This time, no examination is

       Air rifle, hand rifle, and shot gun

       Once you get the certificate of the gun regulation lecture, there are two
       different paths depending on what you want to own.   Note that you cannot
       apply for usual rifles nor pistols at this stage.   To own them, you need
       further qualification. 

    A. Air rifle or hand rifle. 
          People who are not familiar with gun confuses air rifle from
          'air soft 
    gun' (or simply 'air gun') which uses plastic bullet and
          whose barrel does not have rifling.
          In fact, recently it was reported on TV that some members of AUM camped
          near by Mt. Fuji and did some military training using 'air rifle' of
          AK 47.   This report was not correct.   What they used must be air soft
    gun shaped like AK 47 or model gun of AK 47. 
          Hand rifle is unique to Japan.   It is actually air pistol, but long
          sleeve covers the barrel, and long stock is attached to the grip.
    Japan, ownership of pistol (air or not) is restricted because of
          their small size which enables covered transportation.   Therefore,
          hand rifle was introduced for people who plan to own air hand 

          If you want to own air rifle or hand rifle, you can go to a gun shop
          with certificate to show to clerks, determine which 
    gun to buy, ask
          clerks to write a paper which describe the detail of the 
    gun, and name of
          the shop.   When you buy a 
    gun not from a shop but from a current owner,
          the same paper is needed. 

          You must be at least 18 years old, or, you need to be over 14
          years old and have recommendatory letter from an organization which
          governs all official sports organizations. 

    B. Shot gun
          Prior to go to gun shop, you have to take practical shooting course,
          followed by examination.    To apply for it, you have to submit a lot
          of papers to the police, and it takes a few months until you get the
          approval because you and your family who live together are examined. 

          After the approval, you have the course at a shooting range and pass
          it (it is quite easy).   Then, you go to a 
    gun shop, determine the gun
          to buy, and ask clerks to write the paper. 

          You need to be at least 20 years old.
       After applying for any gun, usually it takes about one month until you get
       permission.   When you get notification from the police about permission,
       you go to the police station to receive license booklet, take it to the
    gun shop and receive the gun.   Then within two weeks, you have to go to
       the police station again with the 
    gun to have it inspected and stumped on
       the license. 

    SB - Small Bore rifle (0.22 caliber, rim-fire) 

       Since using of 0.22 caliber rifle (both rim-fire and center-fire) for
       hunting is prohibited in 
    Japan (probably small animals suitable as targets
       of 0.22 caliber live not far from where people live), the only permitted
       purpose to own it is for rifle shooting sports.   The step to own Small Bore
       (rim-fire) rifle is as follows. 

     A. Become a member of a branch of National Rifle Association of
    Japan, then become a member of N.R.A.J. itself.
          I my case, I became a member of Setagaya (one district in Tokyo) area
          at first, which means automatic membership of Tokyo branch of N.R.A.J,
          then had to wait one year until I was allowed become a member of N.R.A.J
          it self.   But this term differs with branches.
          If you want to just enjoy air rifle, and have no interest in participating
          in national wide shooting meet, to stay just as Tokyo branch's member
          saves membership fee. 

    B. Participate in a few hour's lecture by N.R.A.J., and get certification. 
    C. Participate in at least two shooting meet per year before you apply for SB. 
    D. Get certification of skill of shooting.
          In case of shooting in Standing position, the score of criteria is
          300 for S60, and 200 for S40.   It is quite easy. 

    E. By satisfying above A,B,C,D, then you can apply for SB to N.R.A.J.
          What you get if you pass the examination is recommendatory letter that
          you are suitable for shooter of N.R.A.J., and have potential to become
          a shooter for higher level competitions like Olympic. 

    F. Submit above letter as well as many other papers to the police station.
          Like the case of shot 
    gun, it takes a new months until the police
          issues a permission to take shooting course in practice. 

    G. Take a practical shooting course at a shooting range, and get a

    H. Apply for a gun to buy. 
    LB - Large Bore rifles (center-fire)

       There are two purposes you can use LB, one is sports shooting under
       control of N.R.A.J., and the other is hunting. 

    A. For rifle shooting as sports, the requisite to apply for it are
          as follows. 

          a. It is over one year since you have owned a SB. 
          b. You have already participated in 2 shooting meet per year with SB. 
          You apply for recommendatory letter to N.R.A.J., and follow the similar
          steps (without practice course in a shooting range) as SB.
          It looks only bolt action rifles can be allowed. 

    B. For hunting purpose, you must have continuous 10 years' history to
          have own shot 
    gun or SB.   You simply apply for a gun to the police

    Air pistol

       The requisite condition to apply for air pistol is almost the same
       as SB except that certification of more skill in shooting is
       required (in case of AR S60, score of over 510). 

       Since the number of owners of air pistol is limited up to 500,
       you usually wait one year or more (it means you wait someone
       fails to update the license) until you get recommendatory letter. 

       After getting recommendatory letter from N.R.A.J, follow the same
       procedure as other kinds of guns to apply for the license. 


       To apply for pistol, you need quite excellent skill of air pistol
       (in case of AP60, score of over 555) to apply for pistol. 

       This time, the number of people is limited to 50, but because of
       so hard criteria, I heard two years ago that only 30 people owned it. 

    Permission for ammunition

       Anybody can buy bullets for air rifle, hand rifle, and air pistol without
       restraint.   For ammunition which contains powder, you have to get
       another paper from the police.
       On the permission paper, based on which kind of guns you have, the kind
       of ammunition 
    gun shops can sell to the owner of guns are listed as well
       as total maximum amount.   This paper is valid for one year, and, if my
       memory is correct, the maximum number of ammunition the police allow to
       a paper is 4,000.

       Because of the law, the maximum number of ammunition you can keep
       at home is limited to 800, and you must keep them in a specially designed
       locker which is different from 
    gun locker. 
    Updating the license 

       The license of gun is a booklet like passport.  [emphasis mine]
       Your name, photograph, address, birth date, license booklet No. and its
       issue date, etc. are in the first page.
       Then pages for up to 12 guns follow (so, if you own more than 12 guns,
       you have several license booklets).
       In the last page, there is a holder to insert the permission paper to buy

       The license for each gun is valid three years (more correctly, until
       the third birthday after you get the license).
       It means, if you have three guns which you owned in three continuous years,
       you have to update the license of different 
    gun every year.   If you have
       three guns owned in the same year or owned in interval of multiple of three
       years, you can update them in the same year.   Here, 'year' means not
       calendar year, but a interval between two birthdays of the owner, i.e.,
       if you buy two guns, one a day before the birthday and the other one day
       after the birth day, their licenses are updated in the different years.

       To keep the license, following things must be cleared. 
    A. Requisite to update license. 
          There's no condition to update the license of air rifle, hand rifle,
          and shot 
    gun.   But if you have not used them in the past three years,
          license can not be updated. 

          To update the license of SB and LB, you have to show stump you got
          at rifle shooting meets.   Though one of conditions that N.R.A.J.
          issues recommendatory letter for SB and LB is that owner should
          participates at least two formal shooting meets per year for EACH 
          in realty, it is not checked by the police strictly. 

          To update license of air-pistol or pistol, it is strictly examined
          whether you participated in enough number of shooting meets, and score
          at them were enough to qualify the ownership. 

    B. Annual gun inspection. 
          Usually in spring, there's a day of annual gun inspection (the date
          differs with police stations).   You bring not only all guns but also
          a paper to report the number of times you used 
    gun (for practice,
          shooting meet, hunting) as well as the number of bullets you consumed. 

    C. Certification of a lecture which is valid at the time of update. 
          To update of the license, valid certificate of gun regulation lecture is
          necessary.   It means you have to attend the lecture every three years. 


    A. There are many kinds of papers which you submit to the police at
          various opportunities.   The following is a list of them (not all of
          them are needed every time). 

          o Application for ownership
          o Application for license update
          o Application to buy ammunition
          o Paper to return expired paper to buy ammunition
          o Signed paper that 
    gun shop or ex-owner agrees to sell a gun to you,
            which contains detailed description of the 
          o List of your family who live with you
          o Abstract of your family register
          o Past 10 years' record of your address, job, crime, and guns
            you ever own
          o Doctor's certification that you are not a user of drugs, and
            satisfies some other physical conditions.
          o Certification of 
    gun lecture (for beginners, or for owners)
          o Certification of practice course at a shooting range  
    [emphasis mine]

    B. If you have some crime history, using knife or guns, you cannot
          apply for 
    gun ownership for some amount of years.
          Also, if you live with dangerous people, like member of Yakuza,
          it may happen application is rejected. 

    C. In Japan, most policemen are transferred every several years to avoid
          their adhesion with residents.   In case of a policeman who is
          in charge of handling 
    gun ownership, he is transferred every two years. 
    D. Because only one policeman works for gun ownership in each police
          station, I experienced several times that he was absent for criminal
          investigation.   What I do when I have some business about 
    gun ownership
          is to call him in the morning to check his convenient time, then
          go to the police station.   So, it is often necessary to take
          annual leave of a day or half just to submit papers.
          I hope some reformation about this inconvenience. 

     E. The most popular accident caused by legal gun owner is to shoot the
          colleague mistakenly at hunting.
          In total, 10 to 20 accidents on legally owned guns happen every year.
          N.R.A.J is proud of its record of no accident at shooting meets. 

    F. The number of owners of shot gun and air rifle are, if my memory is
          correct, around 35,000 respectively, whereas owners of rifles are 1/10
          of them. 

    G. Guns must be kept in your house in a specially designed locker.
          One exception is pistol (not air pistol) which must be kept in a locker
          of the nearby police station. 

          You must keep key of the locker in a secret place (your family should not
          know it), and even if policemen comes to your home for inspection,
          only owner should show guns.
          He can reject to show guns if policemen come without prior notification.
          It is to avoid an incident that guns are stolen by 'false police'. 

    H. To do hunting, you need another license for it.
          Issuing of hunting license is under control of Governor of each
          The first course for beginners is followed by written examination
          follows like that for 
    gun ownership.   License is valid for 3 years. 
    I. When you apply for a gun, you specify its purpose (target shooting, or
          hunting).   You cannot use a 
    gun for hunting if its purpose in the
    gun's license is "target shooting". 

    CA's note:  If anyone can provide further information on this topic, please let me know.  All I can say is that I have never seen a gun, except as a sidearm for police on such occasions as the G8 Summit, in the 20+ years that I have lived in Japan.  I do not personally know of anyone who has ever been shot or killed by a gun, which is not the case for people living in the U.S. including close friends and relatives.