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 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.

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”