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”

Berliner’s Gramaphone

This new Japanese product allows you to make your own cds records [embarassing typo fixed] out of scrap material such as old CDs. Link courtesy of Boing Boing. Translated text from the product site is below.



Record/Playback sound on thing like a CD-ROM or lid from a container of instant ramen using a needle and a cup.
Berliner-style turntable gramophone

In the 20th century this round record spread throughout the world as media that could both record and play back sound. The turntable gramophone that was invented by Emile Berliner, Edison’s greatest rival in the field of gramophones, is the ancestor of this product. Recording and playing with a paper cup and a cotton needle, anyone can easily make original records.

Characteristics
Recording and playing with a paper cup and a cotton needle, anyone can easily make original records. Recording, playback – a useless CD-ROM or an instant ramen lid are OK!

Setup takes about one hour. No special tools are needed; anyone can construct it with ease.

Experiment Highlights
Even if you construct it in perfect accordance with the instruction book, the sound quality will still vary for some people. This is because if during the course of making a record even a mere 0.5mm of shake occurs, then there will be an effect on the state of the recording. Whether or not the operations of making a hole in the exact center of the cup or setting the angle of the needle are perfectly performed will appear as differences in the sound.

Due to the setting of the mount when recording, differences in those setting may make gaps between the grooves will be large and repair will be difficult. It can be said that proceeding carefully with construction from the beginning is the most important point for picking up clear sound.

Experimenting With Different Materials for Discs
Smooth surfaced materials such as a CD-ROM pick up better sound. Also, things like Ramen lids or soft files (what is that?) have a different textured material on the back. Compare the recording sound quality of both sides and the fact that smooth surfaces make for better sound will probably be confirmed. Also magazine covers-you might worry about the papers texture, but the hard coating picks up sound clearly.

Materials such as thin aluminum foil bags can be used if you insert something like thick paper or a CD-ROM underneath as a mat. The material of the mat will also affect the sound so all sorts of good experiments are possible.

Also, glossy photographs or postcards can also be used. Two people who both own one of these gramophones could exchange audio messages though the mail by recording on postcards and sending them back and forth.

Contents
Series name: Adult Science Series
Product Name: Berliner-style turntable gramophone
Material: Plastic
Product Construction: Parts for assembly, Disc, CD-ROM
Target Age: Middle school students and up
Weight: 670 grams
Box Size (in mm): 212d×160w×123h
Assembled Size(in mm): 185d×150w×180h
Construction time: 1.5 hours
Battery: Type 2 (they use numbers instead of letters in Japan. I can’t recall what size this is in the American battery labeling system)
Items needed in construction: Cellophane tape, Phillips-head screwdriver, Scissors
Produced in: China
Instruction manual: Included

Beijing Duck


Beijing Duck
March 5 2004

Was it my inability to understand the warnings? Or simply reckless abandon? In any case, I wasn’t about to visit Beijing without trying their most famous cuisine.

I ate at Quanjude with Hyunju when I met her in Beijing, and then when I met Ashle and the two Chad K’s took them there. The three of them seemed sqeamish about eating the duck’s actual head, but those jaw muscles do make some good meat.

Click the link for detailed information on both Beijing duck and this restaurant, which is perhaps the most famous of all serving the dish.

Hutong


Inside one of Beijing’s famous hutong alleys.
March 5 2004

The unique architecture and neighborhoods of the Chinese capital are being swept away by the rampant construction needed to prepare for the Olympic games of 2008, particularly in the central areas of the city.

Bird Flu in Beijing


Beijing West Station
April 4 2004

After I took the train from Shenzhen to Beijing (a dreadfully boring 24 hour ride) I found these wonderfully informative signs in the lobby. Take special note of the crying bird in the lower-right section of the second photograph. I can read quite a lot of the words in this sign, but I don’t know nearly enough about the actual grammar of Chinese to do more than a dodgy and innacurate translation, so I won’t even try, aside to say the obvious, that it warns against birds that have not been disinfected and explains the nature of bird flu.

Snacks


Treats in a Beijing market.
March 6 2004

I’ve done a closeup as well so you can clearly see the seahorses. There was another stall later on that had actual whole starfish on a stick as a snack food, one of the most horrifying things I have ever seen. When I tried to take a picture the stall owner blocked my shot, so I just went on.

Interestingly there are two different kinds of similar food stalls on this street in the market. One is like this, with a variety of meats and … things that you could charitably call meat. The other is stalls run by Uyghur, the Muslim minority of the Western Xinjiang province of China. As muslims they would never eat or sell something as un-halal as a seahorse. I can’t say I blame them.

North Korea and Japan Sign a Deal on Abductions

More lunacy from Kim Jong Il’s Democractic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). This is what he considers diplomacy.

In a region where saving face is paramount, the 10-hour stay in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, was riddled with slights to the Japanese leader. When Mr. Koizumi, leader of the second largest economy in the world, arrived in Pyongyang, only a midlevel Foreign Ministry official was at the airport to greet him. There was no banquet. Mr. Koizumi ate a box lunch of rice balls an aide brought from Tokyo.

*****

On Saturday, North Korea’s news media did not mention the issue of the kidnappings. Instead, it dwelled on the fact that the leader of Japan traveled to North Korea bearing gifts. In the past, defectors have said, foreign food aid is portrayed by North Korean officials as “tribute” to their militarily powerful nation.

Shenzhen


Office Building Face in Shenzhen
March 3 2004
Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province, China


Construction visible from Shezhen University.
China has a reputation as being constantly under construction and from what I saw this is more visible in Shenzhen than anywhere else. Here we actually see five identical large buildings in a row in the same stage of construction.


Shenzhen University Dorm Room
Standing in the middle of the room is my friend Henry, who studied here at Ritsumeikan University in Japan for a year. This is the room he lived in before he studied abroad in Japan; he now lives in a much roomier room actually intended for foreign students, which he got into because he works part time for the international office.

Shekou


Hong Kong Ferry
March 3 2004
This odd looking boat is the ferry from Hong Kong to mainland China, Shenzhen city in Guangdong (Canton) province. It arrives in a place called ‘蛇口’ which is pronounced ‘Shekou‘ in Cantonese. In Japanese as jaguchi, and is the word for faucet but I have no idea if there is a relationship.

Emmigration from Hong Kong, immigration to China, and the respective customs checks were trivial. They’re a lot more interested in keeping illegal immigrants out of Hong Kong than out of China. The ferry takes about 40 minutes and costs $105 Hong Kong dollars. HK$ are about 7.5 to a US dollar, so it really isn’t very expensive for an international trip, even at such a close distance.


Just on the outside of the ferry terminal was this stall selling fishing gear. Notice the double turtle-dragon creature on the counter, and the giant can of Carlsberg beer behind the counter.