Monthly Archives: June 2004

Iranian woman ‘gives birth to frog’

An Iranian newspaper has reported the controversial story of a woman who claims to have given birth to a frog.

The Iranian daily Etemaad says the creature is believed to have grown from larva to an adult frog inside her body.

While it is unclear how this could have happened, the paper carries quotes from medical experts who say there are human characteristics to the animal.

It has been speculated that the woman, who has not been named, unknowingly picked up the larva while she was swimming in a dirty pool.

The woman, from the south-eastern city of Iranshahr, is a mother of two children.

The “so-called frog”, as the newspaper puts it, has yet to undergo precise genetic and anatomic tests.

But it quotes clinical biology expert Dr Aminifard as saying: “The similarities are in appearance, the shape of the fingers and the size and shape of the tongue.”

Medical history recounts stories of people who believed they had frogs – or even lizards or snakes – living and growing in their bodies.

One of the most famous was the 17th Century case of Catharina Geisslerin, known as “the toad-vomiting woman” of Germany.

When she died in 1662 doctors are said to have performed an autopsy, but found no evidence animals had ever lived inside her body.

Japanese boy writes apology in blood

I’ve seen quite a few people pointing to this Reuters story, but I was a bit disappointed at the lack of detail so I found another story from a different source to compare. I’ve posted the original story, and the translation (from Asahi newspaper) below it.

Japanese boy writes apology in blood
TOKYO, Japan (Reuters)—A Japanese teenager was forced by his teacher to write an apology in blood after dozing in the classroom, the school’s principal said on Monday.


The teacher later went to high school principal Hiroaki Dan and confessed what he had done, Dan told Reuters.

The teacher had apologized to the 17-year-old boy and his parents, Dan said, confirming a local media report of the incident, which happened last Thursday.

He said the boy was taken to the staff room of the school in Fukuoka City, southern Japan, after being caught asleep during a lesson. The 40-year-old male teacher handed the boy a box-cutter and paper and told him to write an apology in blood.

The teacher left the student, who then cut his finger and began to write an apology using his own blood.

Other teachers in the staff room did not notice what was happening, Dan said.

“To ask a student to write in their own blood is something I just can’t imagine,” he said.

He said the boy was back in school, and neither he nor his parents had asked to switch teachers. The teacher involved is expected to resume classes in a few days, Dan said.

The incident comes on the heels of an attack in which an 11-year-old girl killed a classmate by slashing her throat with a box cutter, also in southern Japan.


Sleeping student at a highschool in Fukuoka made to cut his finger and write ‘reflection letter’ in blood
It was discovered on the 18th that at Fukushou public highschool in Fukuoka City, Minami district (Principal: Hiroaki Dan, 971 students), a student caught sleeping in class was handed a cutter-knife[note: probably something like an x-acto knife] by a male teacher in his 40’s and told to write a ‘reflection letter’ with blood from his finger. Later in the day, the principal, head teacher and the student’s homeroom teacher[literally ‘responsible teacher,’ which is as the name implies a position with more responsibility to the students than a homeroom teacher in the US], along with the class teacher, went to see the student’s guardian and apologized for the event.

According to people from the same school, at about 3pm on the 17th, this teacher called to the teacher’s office a male student who had been trying to sleep during his class. The teacher warned him ‘If you’re going to sleep, then go to the nurse’s office,’ but as the student’s expression showed no remorse, he handed him a B4 sized sheet of paper and a cutter knife and told him to ‘write with blood, not pencil,’ urging him to use the knife to cut his finger, and then write a reflection letter with that blood.

After that, the teacher went to another office to do some other job, and when he returned a few minutes later the student had cut his right index finger with the knife and written a reflection statement in blood. Apparently the teacher then tried to change his story, saying that the student was supposed to write in pencil after all. The school’s explanation is that ‘He truly did not think that the student was going to write in blood.’

Principal Dan gave the following statement to Asahi Newspaper: ‘I think that he was trying to get across the feelings that he has as a teacher, giving his earnet guidance, but it was inappropriate. Even despite the recent incident in Sasebo in which a knife was used [referring to the incident just a couple of weeks ago in which an 11 year old girl murdered a classmate for no apparent reason] for a teacher his guidance was most inadequate.’


When a relatively minor incident like this gets picked up by an international wire service it’s very rare for a second article from another source to be translated as well, so I thought it would be interesting to give people the opportunity to make a comparison. I’ll check again later and see if there have been any more recent articles with more information.

Yonghe Gong


March 8 2004
Yonghe Gong is a large Tibetan Buddhist temple complex in Beijing. It was originally the palace of a high ranking Beijing noble by the name of Yin Zhen, but was given to a group of Mongol and Tibetan monks in 1744 following its owners ascession to the Imperial throne and became Emperor Yong Zheng in 1723.


One of the temple buildings…


And a closeup of the sign being obscured by the lion’s head in the previous picture. The sign is the name of the temple in four language, which I believe are (from right to left): Modern Mongolian, Chinese, Tibetan and Classical Mongolian- although I’d say about 50% odds that I have the modern and classical Mongolian backwards since I don’t know anything about that language. I know I should be able to read the Chinese characters, but I can’t seem to recall what the first one means, but the second and third are ‘good-fortune’ and ‘hall.’

Japanese Money in North Korea

I’d like to thank the English edition of the Korea Times for reporting on this newest boast of superiority by the North.

North Korea Boosts Cider Production


According to the June 5 edition of Rodong Sinmun, the Workers Party’s newspaper, Kyongnyun Patriotic Cider Factory in Pyongyang is pushing for a rise in production, as well as modernizing its facilities.

The factory is named after Japanese-Korean businessman Park Kyung-ryun, who donated $150 million worth of cider manufacturing machines to set up a factory in the North Korean capital on the 70th birthday of the late North Korean leader Kim Il-sung in 1982. The facility currently produces 5,000 bottles of cider per hour.

Leaving aside sarcasm over the ludicrousness of a ‘Patriotic cider factory,’ it’s actually interesting to see the North Korean media bragging about an investment from overseas North Korean citizens residing in Japan. For those who don’t know, there somewhere in the neighborhood of a million people of Korean descent born and bred in Japan, but for the most part hold citizenship in either North or South Korea, and not Japan. Cash sent from North Korean-Japanese to their often unknown relatives back ‘home’ has actually been one of the things keeping people in the DPRK alive for years now. It is well known in Japan that one of the largest sources of this money is North Korean-Japanese owned pachinko parlors. Some readers may be unlucky enough to have experienced Pachinko, but for the rest- Pachinko is a mind-numbing Japanese passtime best described as a cross between a slot and pinball machine, and the most popular form of gambling in the country. Gambling is illegal in Japan, but Pachinko parlors get around it by giving you ‘prizes’ instead of cash when you trade in your winnings. You take the prize around the corner to an exchange counter (probably with no registered relationship to the parlor itself) where you then sell these prizes for cash, thus evading the letter but certainly not the spirit of the law. In any even, Pachinko’s ubiquity is proof that the government and police have no interest at all in controlling it. The following chart gives an idea of the high level of popularity that pachinko has in Japan.


(Image from here.)

Here is a good collection of links to articles discussing the connection between pachinko in Japan and North Korea.

A recent article in The Japan Times writes that:

[A new] ship bill stipulates that the government can ban, for a certain period of time, port calls by ships from a designated country or those that have stopped at that country.
[...]
The bill is designed to give the government another diplomatic card in its dealings with Pyongyang, allowing Japan to halt the flow of people, goods and hard currency between the two countries.
[...]
It follows on the heels of legislation that revised the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Law, enabling the government to slap unilateral sanctions on the North by halting cash remittances to the reclusive state.


The ‘cash remittances’ mentioned in the article are gifts, donations and investments made by Japan resident North Korean citizens, and the Japanese government is finally making some attempt to control this cash flow after many years of turning a blind eye.

Tiananmen


March 8 2004
Can a travelogue which includes Beijing NOT have a picture of Tiananmen?
Tiananmen, whose name means ‘Gate of Heaven’s Peace’ is the main gate to the former Imperial Palace, aka the Forbidden City. There is a moat surrounding the wall, and three bridges span the moat to lead into Tiananmen. The center bridge was reserved for the Emperor himself, so when Chairman Mao crossed the center bridge when he entered the gate to proclaim the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on October 1 1949 he was graphically demonstrating the fall of the Imperial state. Ironically, today the center gate is again closed by chains, and overshadowed by a massive portrait of Mao (which is the backdrop for thousands of Chinese tourists’ photographs every day).


This is the one of the two towers which once guarded Qianmen, the front gate to the walled inner city area of Beijing. The remains of the walls were destroyed by government authorities during the absurd purges of the Cultural Revolution, but luckily the large towers were preserved well.

Docomo Widestar

NTT Japan’s Docomo subsidiary is now offering a satellite based phone service called “Widestar,” offering both voice calls and data transmision.
According to the service’s web site the primary customers are people isolated in mountainous areas or remote islands, or for emergency services like ambulances, for whom reliability is paramount.



One of the more intersting uses they mention is providing data links to electronic signs on highways, to which it would be impractical to run cable. Since the signs are also solar powered (obviously with batteries for night) the system is completely wireless. Some other remote locations they mention are: weather sensors, remote seismic activity sensors (essential in earthquake-prone Japan), dam and river water-level sensors and tectonic movement sensors.
Satellite network map

Some of the stats they supply for the network are:
Two N-Star satellites in a geosynchronous orbit 36,000 KM above the equator, covering all of Japan.
Satellite expected lifespan:At least 10 years.
Daterate: 5.6kbps voice mode, 4.8 kbps data mode (perhaps the discrepancy is for extra
error checking for pure data?)
Signal strength: 2 Watts
Date, voice, fax.


I won’t get into all the details of various pricing plans, but for basic voice service it costs 13,000 yen (over $115) to start, and then depending on the time of the call and what kind of phone it’s to calls are anywhere from about $1 to $3 per minutes. As for data, billing is based on 128 byte packets. They have different plans for high and low volume users. The one for high volume costs 25,000 yen to start and includes 110,000 packets. If you exceed 110,000 then each additional packet costs 0.6 Yen, but if you then go over 200,000 packets the price for additional packets (after number 200,000) drops to 0.4 yen apiece.

B eijing, The Summer Palace

Here is what Aisin-Gioro Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China (as seen in the film by Bernardo Bertelucci), says about the Summer Palace in his autobiography.

When he was made responsible for the founding of a navy my grandfather misappropriated a large part of the funds to build the Summer Palace as a pleasure park for the Empress Dowager. The busiest stage in the building of the Summer Palace coincided with exceptionally heavy floods around Peking and in what is now Hopei Province, but a censor [a kind of eunuch advisor] who suggested that the work should be temporarily suspended to avoid provoking the flood victims into making trouble was stripped of his office and handed over to the appropriate authorities to be dealt with. Prince Chun, however, said nothing and worked his hardest to get the job finished. When the Summer Palace was completed in 1980 he died. Four years later the so-called navy he had created came to a disastrous end in the Sino-Japanese War, and the marble boat in the Summer Palace was the only one left on which so many millions of taels (ounces of silver) had been spent.



March 7 2004

We did eventually make it to the Summer Palace.




Unfortunately, due to being lost we arrived quite late and didn’t have enough time to get inside any of the museum buildings. Still, there were some excellent pieces outside within the grounds.



The sun sets, the palace grounds close.

Gramaphone continued

After having this post linked to by BoingBoing a few days ago I decided it was time to get the site together. I just added an xml link in the sidebar. Since Blogger generates Atom-formatted XML I’m using the Feedburner service to convert it to an RSS 2.0 format, which is far more widely readable. I’m planning on reworking the layout later this week if I can find the time, probably switching to one of Blogger’s newer templates and then doing quite a bit more customization on it than I’ve done on the current one.

About a day and a half before I was linked to BoingBoing I installed a site tracker from www.sitetracker.com which allows me to keep detailed track of visitor statistics. I went from having a fairly small number of mostly friends reading it to getting over 1,000 visitors over the previous few days. Since this system also keeps track of referrals-that is to say, you can tell what site a reader comes from if they came by following a link from another site-I’ve found that following the initial link from the popular BoingBoing there was a sort of ripple as people who had found me through that site posted their own links on smaller sites.

Here we can see I was linked to by a Japanese forum. They actually linked to Chinese Snacks. The conversations mostly consist of people trying to decide which animals are on sticks, and whether or not they would eat them. For the record, there are seahorses, scorpions and cicada. Off-screen there were also starfish kebabs, which are horrifying and silly at the same time, much like the monsters from an HP Lovecraft story.

Some Germans linked to my post on the record player toy here.
According to Google Translations, “Für Fremdsprachidioten hier ne Übersetzun
Kostet übrigens so 38 EUR.” Is translated as “For foreign language idiots here ne translation by the way costs so 38 EUR.” I find it very amusing that the poster finds it likely that a ‘foreign language idiot’ (a.k.a. Fremdsprachidioten) can read my English. Is that a statement on the level of my writing or the high operational level of German idiots?

An Aging Island Embraces Japan’s Young Dropouts

HATOMA ISLAND, Japan – For the children new to this tiny subtropical island, population 58, it was the magical time of the day – after the school bell had set them free and before sunset would summon them to their foster parents’ homes

Strangely, this map from the New York Times article shows Hatoma Island as being in the Ryukyu Islands, which is the older and now less common name for Okinawa. The article itself also never mentions Okinawa.

As in many Japanese villages, its school was the center of community life here. Without a school, without children, the island risked becoming populated only with increasingly fragile elderly people incapable of fighting off the trees and bush that, as in other hot places, threatened to swallow up roads and houses.

“If there are no children,” said Isamu Kajiku, 50, one of a handful of older men sitting under the shade of a tree, “the island is not alive.”

So nowadays, several aging islanders act as foster parents to children who have experienced troubled homes or playground bullying or who simply did not fit inside Japan’s regimented schools. With 10 students and 9 teachers living with the 39 locals, the school and island sustain each other.


I know almost nothing about Okinawa and had never heard of this tiny Hatoma Island before so of course I tried a search on Google. Here is a picture of the school mentioned in the article.

Here
is the travel log of a girl named Akiko, who’s family name curiously seems to be Hatoma, the same as that of this island. She says that you could walk all around it in perhaps an hour, and of course like the islands of Okinawa are famous for is full of fabulous beaches. She went to this school in question and tells us that there were 3 elementary and 8 middle school students. The schoolhouse has one floor, and she is impressed by how every room of it has an ocean view. She says it has a ‘warm atmosphere.’

Here we have another travel diary. The first entry is an account of how the tiny community of Hatoma Island is supported by daily (except sunday) trips by the mail boat (Fusakiya-Maru, which Maru being a traditional boat-name suffix) from the larger Iriomote Island to the south.
Here’s a translation towards the end.

“The bulk of the post is for Hatoma Elementary/Middle School. Now there are eight students in the middle school and three in the elementary school, but in 1974 the middle school had reached zero students and was threatened with closing. At that time Mr. Tsuuji [I’m not quite sure if I’m reading this name correctly.] became the center of the foster parent movement and devised a plan to receive children from the mainland. The result was that in 1984 there were three students and after 10 years the middle school was reopened. “This island doesn’t lack a post office, and it doesn’t lack a school. The children are this island’s treasure,” says Mr. Tsuuji as he narrowed his eyes”