Nov 25, 2012

The Wreath of Recalling Our Good Things 2012

Left Hand | Right Hand

He is one of my oldest friends on the Internet. When we knew each other, there weren't Facebook, twitter, and even blog services, so we had to write html to made our own website. We deeply know each other, but we have never met in the real world. (I haven't seen even his photo.)

The aim of this project is sharing good things that we experienced in this year. The participants of this project write good things in this year and have links to each other.

You'll find "Left Hand" and "Right Hand" on the top of this entry. If you click "Left Hand", you jump to the next "Good Things" page. And then you'll click "Left Hand" page by page, in the end you will be back to my page. The pages make " The Wreath of Recalling Our Good Things."

Now I'll write my good things in this year.

Fist of all, my family has been staying in good health. Last several years, someone of my family had trouble with their health, so we are happier about our health than anything.

The second is that I became able to express what I want to express in English. English has made my world really wider. I knew people who I would never know without the Internet and English.

I'm really thankful to people who read my weblog, and my family.

"Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan" on National Geographic Channel

As I wrote in the previous entry " How to Score 915Points on a TOEIC Test", I'm really tired of Japanese TV programs, because they are almost all cheap variety shows and dramas. Recently I like to watch documentary programs on National Geographic channel and Discovery Channel. One of my favorite programs is "Dog Whisper withCesar Millan" on National Geographic Channel.

This program is about dog training. Cesar Millan is an outstanding dog trainer, and he visits ordinary families that have dog problems.

Leo Tolstoy wrote in "Anna Karenina", "All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." In this program, I found that all the dog problems are quite alike. The causes of the dogs' problems are not the dogs themselves but their owners, the human beings.

Dogs live in their own communities. It doesn't mean that they just live together, but that they constitute orders. When they are kept by human beings, they think of them as part of their communities. If the orders of the families, which dogs belong to, are unstable, the dogs also are unstable. This is the main cause of the dogs' problems.

In this program, Cesar Millan actually doesn't train dogs but owners. He told them that they should have authority and confidence. Cesar Millan has full of authority and confidence, so dogs respect him and calm down. The reasons why the owners don't have authority and confidence are almost the problems of their families, for example twisted relationships between wives and husbands. As Tolstoy wrote, each family problem is in its own way. So at first Cesar Millan begins to counsel the families that he visits to solve dog problems.

In my company I am a boss of a group of ten people. I don't want to be a tyrant at all, and want to manage my group in a democratic manner. Personally the members of my group and I are very friendly. (At least I want to believe that we are friendly.) But at the same time, as a boss, I should have authority and confidence in order to manage my group effectively.

Dogs become stable, when their owners show them clear rules and policies with authority and confidence. It also gives dogs confidence and makes them happy. In a similar way, it is quite important for the tops of the organizations to show their policies clearly.

Sometimes Cesar Millan looks like a philosopher.

Nov 23, 2012

How to Score 915 Points on a TOEIC Test

I took a TOEIC test last month, and I just got my score certificate. My score is 915 points. I don't remember what score I got the last time I took the TOEIC, but I think it was about 820. 915 points is a really good score for me. There are many articles about ways to improve TOEIC scores on the Internet written in a variety of languages, so I'd like to add a new one.

My method is, "quantity over quality." The more I listened, read, and write in English, the more my English I improve. That's all.

But I have a big problem. I'm living in Japan, and I've been working at a Japanese domestic company, so basically everyone around me only uses Japanese. It isn't a good circumstance to learn English. Even in such a circumstance, making a habit of, and having fun with listening, reading, and writing in English are key factors of success.

On my way to the office, I listened to English Podcast, for example, English as a Second Language Podcast, Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Students News, NBC Nightly News, and TED. I don't make any effort at all. I listen to these podcasts just for fun. Recently I can't be interested in Japanese TV program at all, and I mainly watch CNN, BBC, Discovery Channel, and National Geographic Channel at home.

After I bought Kindle from, it became easier to buy books from the U.S. than from Japan. When I buy books from, I get them almost in a moment, but I have to wait for books to arrive from for two or three days. And it's quite easy to look up a word in a dictionary on Kindle.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake, I've realized that Japanese press couldn't be trusted, so I always compare the articles of the same topic on Japanese press and the foreign press.

Now I've been keeping English diary on Lang-8, which is a social network website for language exchange, and the BlogSpot. In the office, I write only in Japanese, but on the Internet I mainly write in English. It's really much more fun for me to communicate with people all over the world than just in Japan.

Using English isn't the way of mastering English. I have many things in English to listen to, read, and write, so I just do so.

Nov 17, 2012

The Death of PC

I'm using iMac with Mac OS 10.5 Leopard in my home and Lenovo ThinkPad with Windows XP in my office. As I wrote in the entry "Whydo I buy Apple Products?", basically I'm satisfied with both of iMac and ThinkPad.

It's enough for me just to be able to use a mailer, a browser, and MS-Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint). I guess that most PC users are as same as me. This situation hasn't changed since I began to use Windows 95. I can say that there has been no innovation of PC at all for the past seventeen years.

When I touched PC at the beginning, I used PC with MS-DOS 3.1. At that time, I didn't connect PC to the Internet, and mainly I used word processor, 一太郎 (Ichitaro), which was the most popular Japanese word processor, and WordPerfect, and Lotus 123.

After Windows95 was released, the way of using PC was changed dramatically. It became much easier for me, as an ordinary user, to connect PC to the Internet, so a mailer and a browser became must-have items. MS-Office expelled WordPerfect and Lotus123, and I began to use PowerPoint. It was a kind of revolution that changed my office life.

And then, as I wrote, although PC has been improved, nothing innovative happened.

Now I should update OS of my PCs. Some of applications, for example Flash Player and Kindle, don't work on Mac OS 10.5, and the end of service of Windows XP will be April 2014.

I called the customer support of Apple, and we talked about which version I should update to. The latest version is Mac OS 10.8 Mountain Lion, but it is possible that some of old software don't run on the version 10.8, so I decided that I would update to version 10.6. In similar way, my company decided that they would update to not Windows8 but Windows7.

It's too much of a bother for me to update OS, because nothing will change by updating OS. It's just marketing of Apple and Microsoft.

Nov 16, 2012

The History of The United Colonies

I've just finished one third of the book "Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America."

This book is really interesting. I almost didn't know about the history of North America before the American Revolutionary War at all, so it was first time for me to hear the word "the United Colonies" in this book. If I thought about it, it would be quite natural that there were "the United Colonies" before the United States was formed, but I never thought about it before.

One of the reasons why I didn't know about the history of North America, is that the history of the conquests of Central and South America by Hernando Cortes and Francisco Pizarro were so dramatic and impressive. I've read about them a lot, but I was rarely interested in the history of North America. Cortes and Pizarro conquered the Aztec Empire and the Inca Empire with quite small bunch of soldiers in the fifteenth century, so I imagined that Pilgrims might conquer the natives in North America in a similar way, but it wasn't true.

Early Western colonists in North America in the seventeenth century settled just in the coastal regions of North America along the Atlantic Ocean, and they didn't conquer the natives but traded beaver furs with them. In the sixteenth century, a beaver hat became quite fashionable in Europe, and beavers in Russia was almost hunted to extinction. So colonists wanted to get beaver fur from the natives in North America, where beavers were abundant.

I guess that the Aztec Empire and the Inca Empire had been so centralized that Cortes and Pizarro could conquer with small soldiers because they just had to seize the Emperors. But the societies of the natives in North America were decentralized, and it was impossible to conquer them with small number, even if they had muskets. And through fur trade, the natives got muskets from Western traders, so it was more difficult to conquer them.

Mainly the colonists didn't fight with the natives, but colonist fought with each other. At first British colonists and Dutch colonists, who built New Amsterdam that is now New York, made a competition for fur trade. And then British colonists and French colonists competed, and in the end, British colonists and their home country fought with each other. After the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, the actual invasion into the inland of North America began.

Of course, there were frictions between British colonies, but they united against common enemies, Dutch and French colonists and their home country. The United States was based on the union of British colonies.

I wrote the entry "American Whaling and Japanese Modernization" about the book "Leviathan: The History of Whaling America", written by Eric Jay Dolin who wrote "Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America." This book is also quite interesting.

Nov 13, 2012

Naked Culture in Japan

Sometimes I read the articles on the website "GaijinPot" (Gaijin means foreigners in Japanese), which is interesting, because the standpoint of this website is from that of foreign people and it is new for me, although sometimes it is ridiculous.

I found the article "Why Japanese People AreComfortable With Nakedness" on this website. It is true that we have many chances to see naked Japanese men especially at festivals, and the festivals called "裸祭 Hadaka Matsuri" (naked festival)" were held all over Japan. But I don't know if this phenomenon is related to onsen, Shinto, or prostitution, as this article pointed out.

Off course Japanese men don't get be naked at just anytime, anywhere. We have a strict rule on when and where we can be naked. I'm living near Ikebukuro Station, which is one of the biggest terminal stations in Tokyo, and during a festival I see many naked Japanese men walking on the street just in front of Ikebukuro Station and foreigner people watch them with curiosity and take photos. But we never see naked men on an ordinary day.

In every culture there is a rule about the costume that participants of festivals should wear. Nakedness is the costume of the male participants of Hadaka Matsuri (naked festival) just like the female participants of Rio's Carnival. The article said, "While sexuality is not encouraged in most Western religions, Japan’s native Shinto religion is more open-minded," but the main religion in Brazil is Christianity.

It is common that things that aren't allowed in everyday are allowed in festival time. The participants of Hadaka Matsuri (naked festival) and Rio's Carnival turn to be naked, because they aren't allowed to be naked in everyday. Japanese folklore scholars call this phenomenon "ハレとケ (hare and ke)". "Hare" means festival time, and "ke" means everyday life.

We also turn to be naked in a public bath and onsen. It is not that we are allowed to be naked in the public bath but we SHOULD be naked in the public bath. Off course it is rude to watch other's naked bodies. In the hinterlands there are mixed bathing onsens, which aren't sexual at all. You can see just old naked men and women.

It's true that sometimes we, Japanese, turn to be naked in public, but it isn't preference but custom.

Nov 8, 2012

Idealism and Pragmatism: the Presidential Election of the U.S.

Obama won the presidential election.

I wrote "From the standpoint of Japanese view I think that President Obama is so underestimated from American people." in the entry "President Obama and Mitt Romney", so I wasn't surprise with his victory at all.

I think that Mitt Romney isn't bad. He is a quite competent businessman, and he could do well if he became the president of the U.S. But Obama is historic and special. He is the first non-white president of the U.S. and his family and he are really cool and sweet. This is the photo that was uploaded on Obama's Facebook wall when his victory came out. He is attractive.

The recession after Lehman Shock wasn't Obama's fault, and it can't be overcame easily because its cause is deep-rooted. Huge trade imbalance between the U.S. and emerging countries is the background of this problem, and there is no silver bullet to solve this situation.

Even Romney can't make jobs, because it isn't the president but businesses that make jobs and the government just can support businesses. Romney, who believes in the power of business sector, also might think so at the bottom of his heart.

When I heard Obama's speech, I was moved by his high ideal. But now, American people want pragmatic solution more than high ideal, don't they? Romney seems to be quite pragmatic.

At the end Obama was reelected, but his political situation isn't easy because Republicans dominates the house. ("Obama Wins a ClearVictory, but Balance of Power Is Unchanged in Washington" The New York Times) I hope that he will make his high ideal for the next four years. He doesn't have to be reelected any more, so he can do what he really wants to do.

Nov 4, 2012

The Writing Revolution

I, who have been keeping a weblog in Japanese for fifteen years and a weblog in English for two and a half years, am deeply interested in the method of writing.

I found the interesting article "The WritingRevolution" on "Atlantic Magazine website".  The author of this article wrote as followings.

Fifty years ago, elementary-school teachers taught the general rules of spelling and the structure of sentences. Later instruction focused on building solid paragraphs into full-blown essays. Some kids mastered it, but many did not. About 25 years ago, in an effort to enliven instruction and get more kids writing, schools of education began promoting a different approach. The popular thinking was that writing should be “caught, not taught,” explains Steven Graham, a professor of education instruction at Arizona State University. Roughly, it was supposed to work like this: Give students interesting creative-writing assignments; put that writing in a fun, social context in which kids share their work. Kids, the theory goes, will “catch” what they need in order to be successful writers. Formal lessons in grammar, sentence structure, and essay-writing took a back seat to creative expression.

The catch method works for some kids, to a point. “Research tells us some students catch quite a bit, but not everything,” Graham says. And some kids don’t catch much at all. Kids who come from poverty, who had weak early instruction, or who have learning difficulties, he explains, “can’t catch anywhere near what they need” to write an essay. For most of the 1990s, elementary- and middle-­school children kept journals in which they wrote personal narratives, poetry, and memoirs and engaged in “peer editing,” without much attention to formal composition. Middle- and high-school teachers were supposed to provide the expository- and persuasive-writing instruction.
I heard that in school of the U.S. the method of writing was emphasized, so I was surprised with this article.

Although I don't know about the present education of writing in Japan, I got "the catch method" of writing education in school. I had to write a diary in every summer vacation for homework, and I didn't know what I should write on a diary, which my teachers would read.

After I finished school, I learned the method of writing by myself. The most useful reference for me is Barbara Minto's "The MintoPyramid Principle: Logic in Writing, Thinking, & Problem Solving." It's no useful for me to learn "the catch method" in school. Of course there are people who don't like "the pyramid principle."

I think that the suitable method of writing differs depending on the person. Someone can become able to write creatively well by learning "the catch method." But it is effective for someone to learn "the pyramid principle" like me. It might be important for anyone to be able to choice their suitable method.

As I wrote in the entry "Swim in the Ocean", we wouldn't be able to swim in the ocean just with reading a book about how to swim. We have to write certain amount in order to became able to write well, if we learned any kind of methods.

Nov 1, 2012

Heta-Uma (Unskillful but Skillful) and Uma-Heta (Skillful but Unskillful)

There is the word "ヘタうま (heta-uma)" in Japanese, which hardly can be translated into English. Heta-Uma is combined with the two words, "へた (heta)" and "うまい (umai)". "Heta" means unskillful or primitive, and "umai" means skillful or sophisticated.

In the 1980s, Teruhiko Yuasa, a Japanese illustrator, advocated the concept "heta-uma." He insisted that artworks, which were seemed to be unskillful but in fact were skillful, were most excellent, and called them "heta-uma." And he also criticized artworks, which were just quite skillful but not excellent, and called them "uma-heta."

I'd like to show one of his artworks "情熱のペンギンごはん (Passionate Penguin's Meal)". I think that it isn't realistic but quite skillful. At least it doesn't seem to be primitive for me at all, so I'd like to call it "uma-uma" (skillful and skillful).

In the previous entry "I Hate SongsSung by Whitney and I Love Songs Sung by Carole" I made a comparison between Whitney Houston and Carole King. In the words of Teruhiko Yuasa, Whitney Houston's songs are typically "uma-heta." Her songs are just quite skillful but without any substance.

Sony used to be like what Apple is now, but now it lost its luster. Sony invented Walkman, but it couldn't invent iPod, iTunes, and iPhone. It's not only Sony, but most Japanese electronics companies are slumping. Panasonic, one of the largest Japanese electronics companies, released the report about the estimate of huge loss in fiscal year 2013.  I myself don't want to buy products made by Japanese electronics companies, but I actually bought Apple's products, iPod, iMac, and iPhone.

When I compared the specs of electronic products, sometimes I find that Japanese products were best, but they don't make me want to buy them at all. I guess that they resemble to Whitney Houston's songs, "uma-heta" (skillful but unskillful).

The specs of Whitney Houston might be better than most singers, but her songs don't move me at all. Recent Sony's Products don't move me either, but Apple's products touch me.

In the entry "Why Do I Buy AppleProducts?" I wrote "Nowadays the specs on PCs are not different so much, so the feel of them are important for me. In this mean iMac is as same as my Mont Blanc's fountain pen, whose touch is really nice." Apple's products don't seemed to be unskillful, so they can't be called "heta-uma" (unskillful but skillful) but "uma-uma" (skillful and skillful), but it's clear that Apple doesn't pursue specs on the paper. For example, the size of display of iPhone 5 isn't largest in smart phones, because Apple took account of usability.

One of the strangest electronic products that I've ever seen is the PC with an air washer made by Fujitsu, one of the major Japanese computer manufactures. Who wanted to PC with an air washer? It is "uma-heta" (skillful but unskillful), isn't it? No, it is just "heta-heta" (unskillful and unskillful).