April 2006 Archives

Kasumigaseki cameras, part 2

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On January 16th, I wrote about an upcoming trial of anti-terrorism facial recognition at Kasumigaseki station in central Tokyo.

The testing begins on Monday, May 1 and runs for nearly three weeks, until Friday May 19. According to an article off the Japan Economic Newswire:

The Institution for Transport Policy Studies will conduct the experiment for one hour from 2 p.m. every weekday from May 1-19 at a designated ticket gate at Kasumigaseki Station, noting that the test will involve only selected staff and no private passengers.

The system is designed to issue an alert if the video monitor detects a person with facial features matching those of a person on a specified list, such as a list of criminal suspects compiled by the police or of condominium residents for checking building entrants, according to NTT Communications.

The system analyses the position of the nose and eyes as well as features of the skin from a video capture of the face, according to NTT Communications.

Technically, it can check one person against a list of 10,000 people per second, the Tokyo-based company said, adding that there is still room for enhancing the system's accuracy before the company releases it onto the market possibly next year.

I doubt they're going to get 3,600 (1 person/sec * 60 sec/min * 60 min/hour) employees together for an hour every day during the test, so they will run a limited test on a powerful system. What's the point? Couldn't they have done that in the lab?

This system offers a false sense of security and not much more. Terrorists are not going to be stopped by a facial recognition system, they'll simply avoid it or work around it by using unsuspected terrorists, plastic surgery, or taxis. If I can think of that, how hard can it be for someone determined to be bad to come up with a better plan?

I also believe that plain old security cameras are a bad way to secure something in the moment, even though they provide handy evidence after the fact. Did all the cameras in London stop the terrorist bombings last July? No. They caught the action on the day and even filmed a dry run of the event more than a week in advance, but nobody noticed and it didn't stop the bombings from happening.

Anti-terrorist measures need a little more thought.

Creative Filching

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creative perspectivesHow do you feel about people using the creative output you share online?

I put a lot of materials online for people to use freely - patterns and tutorials. I don't mind, and really can't keep track of, people who borrow an image and use it on their site if they host it themselves.

I don't like it when strangers profit from my freely-given work by reselling it or when they hotlink my images. To me, both are forms of petty theft.

On March 18th, I discovered that one of the files on my server was being used extensively as a hotlinked background image on one of the free website hosts. So I replaced it with a placeholder - nothing as rude as bathtub girl or goatse, though it wasn't exactly polite. Original - Placeholder

This morning I woke up to this mail.

Listen up jerk!! Here is the deal - people put their pictures on line knowing that other people are going to come in and get copies of the pictures. And why you ask ( because you are obviously to stupid to figure it out on your own)? They do it for one of many, many reasons, like advertisement for their product on the page you bring up by clicking on the picture, or to sell me a product, or because they want you to take the picture, and that was the whole point, and they offer many more pictures on the page when you click on the picture, etc, etc, etc. But then there is the even worst of all, the idiots who put a picture up there so they can post their very, very, very, long and boring blog............So, guess what, if you don't want someone to have a copy of your picture, don't put it on line and shut your stupid A** H*** up!!

Well, what do you say to that? In the space of one ranting paragraph I've been labelled a jerk, an idiot, an asshole, and also boring and stupid (twice).

What kind of person writes a note like that in the wake of being told to stop stealing? A youthful American, I would guess. Who else has such violent , self-righteous anger?

So I replied. Politely.

Dear Colleen,

Thank you for expressing your opinion so clearly and strongly in your mail, but I beg to differ.

Regardless of what other people do, I do not put material online for unattributed use elsewhere. I am usually quite happy to allow others to borrow my pictures if they ask politely, and host them on their own server.

What irks me is when people hotlink my images. Perhaps you are unaware of what that means.

Hotlinking is when you put an img tag on your page that points to an image on my server. Doing that means that everyone who goes to your page hits my server first to collect the image. This uses the bandwidth that I pay for. While the image itself might not be so large, multiple hits add up quickly.

In this case, I presume you are complaining about my circles.jpg image which was being hotlinked by a large number of people as a background for their websites. I replaced that image with an alternate image on March 18th.

I appreciate your point of view on the matter of using other people's images, but do not agree. I hope you will respect my opinion and make some technological changes to your website or simply find someone with a more compatible philosophy who will not mind your hotlinking.

Regards,

--
Kristen

Wonder what I'll wake up to tomorrow? I sort of hope she sends me a link to her website so I can discover more of her sparkling personality.

Vinegared Daikon Pickles

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recipe thursdayI decided to try a home delivery service for (primarily) organically grown vegetables. The "trial box" arrived today, packed with dirt-covered root vegetables, a lovely lettuce, spinach, mini tomatoes and other goodies. And a sheet of recipes. So today's recipe is one from the sheet for daikon, a vegetable that I like but never know what to do with.

Vinegared Daikon Pickles
makes as much as you like

daikon
kombu (dried seaweed)
soy sauce
vinegar
red togarashi (dried red peppers)

Cut the daikon into "rhino eye" slices or "wooden clapper" chunks and pack into a glass jar. Add the kombu and togarashi. Mix together equal quantities of soy sauce and vinegar and pour into the jar to cover the daikon. Pickle for 2-3 days.

Collectik.net: “like mixtapes for podcasts”

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I am pleased to announce the beta launch of Collectik - the project I've been working on for past few months. The following letter & animation explain our baby.


Collectik highlights, animated (Quicktime)


Meet Collectik.net – a website for organizing podcasts and online media. It's like mixtapes for podcasts.

  1. build a Collection of podcasts & online radio programs
  2. mix a Playlist of episodes you want to hear
  3. listen via iTunes, XML, or streaming m3u

Collectik.net has tons of great features that will help you manage, mix, listen to and share all the best audio (and video!) on the net.

  • Search to find the stuff you want and
  • Build custom Mixlists (for the gym, for your politics class, or for your hip hop-loving aunt)
  • Make Friends to help you find great audio
  • Tag podcasts and episodes to make them easier to find
  • Use our Firefox plug-in to collect media files or feeds from anywhere on the net
  • Put a “Collectik This!” button on your own podcast page, so others can easily collect your podcast
  • Import and export OPML lists of RSS feeds
  • Coming soon: Comment on episodes you loved (or hated)

Collectik.net is a free web tool for anyone to use and it's also a community of podcast fans. It's run by Chris Goringe, Kristen McQuillin, and Hugh McGuire, who are also founding members of LibriVox.org, the all-volunteer, all-public domain, audio literature podcast project.

Mix it up at Collectik: http://collectik.net

Feedback, questions, comments, and criticisms are all welcome: contact@collectik.net.

Chris, Kristen & Hugh.
http://collectik.net

Art Exhibit

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sdvpostcard.jpg
Scott de Vacherie in Japan exhibition card

A friend's art exhibit opens tomorrow and I spent my day helping put things together at the gallery in Diakanyama. My knees are bruised from crawling around on the floor for hours and when I left at 10:30 pm, some of the exhibits still needed attention, but I'm sure everything will be prepared for the opening party in the evening.

You can find out more about the exhibition here: Scott de Vacherie in Japan or the Art Front Gallery website.

The exhibit has gotten a fair amount of press, with mentions in the Sankei Shimbun, Brutus, StudioVoice, Nippon Vogue and a few English outlets, so there should be a good turnout.

Japanese Rice

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recipe thursdayIn addition to the cookibook I read from last week, I've been enjoying the other old (pre-1923) cookbooks at Project Gutenberg. The prefaces are gems, the prose is brilliant to read, and the recipes reflect the times and tastes in which they were written.

Here's a recipe from Mrs. Wilson's Cook Book (1920). The instruction on How to Cook Rice American Style concludes with "It is now ready to serve, either as a vegetable to replace the potato or prepared into many delectable dishes that our Oriental neighbors relish so keenly" and leads right into this:

JAPANESE RICE

Wash and chop fine two medium-sized leeks and then cook tender in one-half cup of water. Drain. Now add

Two cups of cooked rice,
One teaspoon of salt,
One teaspoon of soy.

Mix thoroughly and then dish on a hot baking dish. Cover with slices of hard-boiled eggs. Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley and garnish with slices of smoked salmon. Place in the oven for a few minutes to heat. Soy may be purchased at fancy grocers.

That's not a Japanese recipe. I think it might be a very distant relation to ikura-don (salmon eggs on rice)!

Checked out

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My Turning Point exam wasn't nearly as dreadful as I feared.

When I arrived at 9, there were already 22 people before me, mainly women from their mid-forties to mid-fifties I'd guess, judging from wrinkles and greyness. I saw one much older lady, but I think she was a doctor. Shortly after I arrived, a tall and swarthy man came in, so I wasn't the only foreigner there.

I didn't wait long before the first test - the barium x-ray. I'm glad it was first because I was nervous. MJ projectile vomited when she had to do it. Tod had one last year and said it was difficult and nasty. But I didn't have any trouble with the fizzy stuff or the thick barium shake they made me drink. It went right down and stayed where it belonged. I didn't even feel like burping.

The man running the machine had a patter that never stopped and alternated, rapid fire, between descriptions of what he was doing, "I'm turning the table a little to the side now", and orders for me, "I want you to turn a little to the side now." Unfortunately the distinction was sometimes lost on me and I moved when I shouldn't or turned the wrong way. He was frustrated but we flew through it only a little more slowly than other subjects.

The rest of the examination was a breeze: height & weight, urine sample, medical history, consultation with the doctor - who did nothing but wield a stethoscope - then off for an electrogardiogram, blood draw, retinal photography and a chest xray.

I was out of there in 70 minutes.

Now for the important part...what did I wear and who did I meet during my roujin debut? I chose an ensemble that expressed my casual attitude about the whole affair (yes, yes, roll your eyes): a faded rusty plaid home-made skirt, an embroidered purple t-shirt, a brown hooded sweatshirt, and brown clogs. Despite my sartorial elegance, I didn't really meet anyone. The staff were friendly and pleasant but busy. Okada-san was always before me in line. We exchanged some small smiles of encouragement, but didn't speak a word. Neither did anyone else.

I guess I'll have to find my old-lady social circle elsewhere.

Roujin debut

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turningpointpapers.jpg
Looming on my desk...

Tomorrow is my roujin debut - the Turning Point Physical Examination I wrote about last month. This could be as important for my social life in old age as it is for young mothers taking their babies to the playground for the first time. I wonder what I should wear?

The ku sent me a big manila envelope stuffed things to read, fill out, and bring with me. A medical history. A permission slip for the barium x-ray. A questionnaire about my Hepatitis C risk factors. And the "ben no torikata" - a do-it-yourself stool sampling kit.

I figured out how to use it from the pictures and simple instructions in the accompanying pamphlet. The joys of functional semi-illiteracy.

The medical history is another matter. I know that one question asks "Do you have any of the following conditions?" but except for high blood pressure I have no idea what the conditions are. One of the kanji looks like kushiage (skewered foods) over heart. What the hell is that??

I'll just answer "no" on that one and hope for the best.

Maybe as the only gaijin in the room (I can pretty safely assume), I will meet all sorts of wonderful old ladies like me. On the other hand, we're all likely to be nervous, stressed and disinclined to chitchat.

I'll report in tomorrow. For now I must fill in forms and plan my outfit.

Red & Gold Period?

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Tod was off "camping with the boys" this weekend, so I had the apartment to myself and after I had cleaned and tidied to my satisfaction, I had time on my hands.

So I made some stuff.

pillows.jpg
A pillow cover (and two pillow forms). This ties together the reddish zabuton floor cushions with the lovely Thai elephant Sachiko gave us. It also fulfills part of my pledge to "Use What You Have" for April. You can see some closeups of this pillow on Flickr.

lampshade.jpg
A lamp. The socket was formerly duct taped to my workspace. I wired on a switch, bought an extension arm and a bulb protector. Then I wired some brass mesh and beads to the frame. Not sure I like this, but it's a little more interesting than "bare bulb in cage." There are snaps of the lamp turned on (so bright!) at Flickr.

After these creations, it looks like my environment is developing a bit of a red & gold glow.

I can't decide which of these qualifies for WhipUp's Whiplash - they both sort of fit.

whipup

Pound Cake & podcast

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recipe thursdayThis is from Elizabeth E. Lea's 1866 cookbook Domestic Cookery, Useful Receipts, and Hints to Young Housekeepers. This pound cake recipe is the basis for the method of many of the other cakes in the chapter. This is not such an extravagant cake - the fruit cake recipe calls for 30 eggs and a pint of brandy.

Cakes back then were somewhat larger than contemporary cakes and were baked in very large ovens. They also had odd ingredients, though none are evident in this recipe. Saleratus is baking powder. Rose brandy is made by steeping rose petals in white brandy.

I read this chapter for LibriVox today, and thought I'd share not only this excellent foundation recipe, but also the whole of the Cakes section in the form of an mp3. This will be put together with the other chapters to make a full audio cookbook.

Pound Cake.

Wash the salt from a pound of butter, and beat it with a pound of loaf sugar till it is as soft as cream; have a pound of flour sifted, and beat ten eggs, the whites and yelks separately; put alternately into the butter and sugar the flour and eggs, continue to beat till they are all in, and the cake looks light; add some grated lemon peel, a nutmeg, and half a wine-glass of brandy; butter the pan, and bake it an hour; when it is nearly cold, ice it. If you want a very large cake, double the quantity.

You can tell when a cake is done by running in a broom-straw, or the blade of a bright knife; if it comes out without sticking, it is done, but if not, set it back. You can keep a cake a great while in a stone pan that has a lid to fit tight.

Note: if you don't want to weigh the ingredients here are the equivalents in cups.
1 lb butter = 2 cups
1 pound loaf sugar = 2 cups granulated
1 pound flour = 4 cups sifted
1/2 wine glass = 3 ounces


play mp3Domestic Cookery, Useful Receipts &tc. "Cakes" 22'36" MP3 (20.7 MB)

Spring Green

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springgreen.jpg
Intensely fresh against a wet and dreary twighlight

Your Composition Analyzed

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Tod found this funny Japanese website. Put in your name and it tells you what you are made of. You can try it here, though the results will be in Japanese.


成分分析 Composition Analysis


If you don't read Japanese, copy the text into Babelfish or Excite translatorfor a rough/poor translation, but I suggest you put periods at the end of each line to help it out.

Here's what it said about me.

Results of a Composition Analysis of Kristen
85% adult circumstance - Kristenの85%は大人の都合で出来ています
8% bewilderment - Kristenの8%は気の迷いで出来ています
5% negative ions - Kristenの5%はマイナスイオンで出来ています
2% concentrated sulphuric acid - Kristenの2%は濃硫酸で出来ています

(It told me my computer was a mix of strictness, sulphuric acid, words, candy and bewilderment...that seems about right so I guess it has me pegged, too.)

Head to Head Vanilla

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In a surprising but unanimous blind taste test, Meiji Super Cup vanilla ice cream was voted superior to Haagen Dazs vanilla.

Super CupHaagen Dazs
ColorYellowBeige
FlavorMild vanilla start to finishStrong alcohol aftertaste
TextureAiry with soft lumpsDense and creamy
Price100 yen/200ml250 yen/120ml
Webスーパカップハーゲンダッツ

Maybe our three person sampling wasn't statistically significant, but we were amazed by how much we disliked the Haagen Dazs and enjoyed the domestic brand. And at quadruple the cost, how can we ever buy Haagen Dazs again?

Nanohana

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nanohana.jpg

Tod & I joined our neighbor Shinji on an outing to Satte, Saitama-ken, to view Japan's "other" spring flower, nanohana. It's called "rape" in English, which might contribute to why I never knew it in the US. When we eat it, we call it rapini.

I put a selection of our photos on Flickr if you want to see the carpet of brilliant yellow we experienced. I tried a watercolor sketch, but am not satified with it. I might use it for the basis of sone other drawing instead.

P.S. In case you wonder, it's na-no-hana, vegetable flower, not nano-hana, teeny-tiny flower.

Mixing it up

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creative perspectivesI've been thinking a lot about mixtapes and mixCDs (and m3u playlists).

But I can hardly remember the last time I made a physical tape or CD with a narrative arc, a message, an ebb and flow of tempo and emotion. But I miss that, so here's a mix trade offer for Creative Perspectives readers:

I'll send you a CD of music that always puts me in a creative mood, if you'll send me a creative mix of your own. Leave a comment with your e-mail address before next Friday and I'll be in touch to trade mailng addresses and such.

In the meantime, if you want to find out more about mixtapes or see what other people mix together, here are some resources:

Wikipedia article - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mixtape
Tiny Mix Tapes' Automatic Mix Tape Generator - http://www.tinymixtapes.com/amg/
Mixtapes at MusicWiki - http://en.music.wikia.com/wiki/Category:Mix_CD

Roasted Pork

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recipe thursdayI'll warn you right up front, be prepared to air out the house after this meal - the scent of slow-cooking cabbage and sauerkraut really permeates everything. But the results are worth the odor. Tod, who is not usually a big fan of sauerkraut, nibbled the leftovers out of the pot.

Halfway through the cooking, the pork roast will tighten to an unappealing, tough lump of meat. Keep cooking it. It will become juicy and wonderful. The cabbage and sauerkraut turn brown with carmelised sugars. Mmmmmmmm. I'm going to make this one again soon and then I'm going to wash the curtains and carpets.

Roast Pork with Cabbage
serves 2-3

500 gr pork roast
1/2 head green cabbage
1 cup mild sauerkraut
1 pinch celery seed
1/4 tsp fennel seed
salt & pepper

Slice the cabbage into 1 cm wide pieces and pile it into the bottom of a covered casserole. Spread the sauerkraut on top, then lay the pork roast in, fat side up. Sprinkle with seasonings. Cover and put in the oven at 140 for about 2 hours or until the meat is tender and the cabbage and sauerkraut completely camelised. You may want to mix the cabbage once or twice throughout the cooking time; it tends to stick to the sides of the casserole.

Information Density

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For the past two months, I've been working on a site which should be launching soon. My role on the three person team is user interface and graphic design.

Today I started reworking the site, based on comments from the alpha testers. These 11th hour changes aren't a little tweaking here and there, they are a full-blown "hey, nobody gets this; we need to really explain it better" mandate. As one of the team commented, our current site is good at the how-to, but not so good at why; we say "Shovel - hold by handle, thrust, lever, pull" but we need to be saying "Shovel - move dirt!"

So we reconsidered. We changed the language. We shifted focus from "flexible" to "narrowly defined." We added features. And if I have my way, we'll axe some features, too (though I haven't presented that to the team yet...).

Afterwards, I redesigned the front page of the site. It started out with 11 features. Now it has 12. But I think it is better organized and easier to understand. It also suits smaller laptop screens much better.

I color-coded the sections to highlight for myself where things moved to, what gained emphasis, where I had reduced or increased real estate. It's pretty to look at, even if you can't see the details underneath:

redesign-colored.jpg

Doing this lets me see that I still have a few things to change. Based on the importance of the content, that reddish section in the lower right is probably too big; the blue area next to it needs more space.

But I will do that tomorrow. For now, sleep!

Orientation

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It's the beginning of the new school year in Japan.

Walking past the local university today, I saw all of the freshmen out on campus looking dazed, carrying orientation packets, and chatting in small groups. The were busy trying to figure it all out before classes begin and signing themselves up for interesting campus organizations to meet people and fill their newly free hours after years of cram schools and entrance exam pressures.

It looked like they were new hires at a conservative company. They were all wearing suits. Everyone had fresh haircuts or carefully applied cosmetics. They were quite a contrast to the upperclassmen who were wearing jeans and artfully rumpled t-shirts, tossled hairstyles and a lot of attitude.

Some of the frosh had their parents in tow. It was cute. They looked so young-- soft-featured, unsullied, eager. Their parents seemed to be my age, which struck me as odd. Then I realised that I entered university 22 years ago.

Yeah, OK. I walked on past a little faster.

Get (sorta) Outta Town

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Tara chatted me this morning, "I'm going east today. You want to come along?" She's been taking advantage of her unexpectedly extended trip and trying to visit out-of-the way hanami spots around Tokyo. Today we went out to Higashi Oojima on the Toei Shinjuku line, and walked along the 小松川千本桜 (Komatsu River 1000 Cherry Trees).

That part of town is so unlike the Tokyo we are familiar with. It is completely flat. There are wide open areas on either side of the river - playgrounds, sports fields and grassy picnic areas where you can see a lot of sky - surrounded by blocky concrete high rises in pastel colors. It looks more like Singapore or parts of China than Tokyo.

It felt like we were a thousand miles away when it was only a 20 minute subway ride from home.

Celebration

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1 sunny day
3 cinnamon camphor trees
15 people at the park
2 homemade birthday cakes
18 apple-peach explosions
1 bag of peanut butter chocolate pretzels
1 box of "bochi chocolate"
8 pita breads
5 middle eastern dips
4 loaves of bread
5 cheeses
2 freshly cooked pizzas
3 varieties of strawberries
8 herbed egg sandwiches
11 bottles of wine
1/2 bottle of tea
8 beers
12 people for dinner
1 lamb roast
2 giant salads
40 sheets of acid-free paper
2 batteries (and a battery tester)
3 handwritten letters
1 pottery bowl (and two plates)
1 board game
1 framed photograph
1 soybean-cashmere sweater
1 sexy bustier
1 opal and diamond ring
1 floral arrangement
1 phone call

EQUALS

my 40th birthday.

Thank you Tracey, Ashley, MJ, Jonathan, Sachiko, Jim, Yuka, Jeremy, Andy, Tod, Seth, Tara, Sean, Uchida-san and Josh, who made my birthday so festive with good wishes and laughter. There are a few photos from the park if you want to see what we got up to but they don't do the day justice.

Announcing: 40 x 365

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40x365.jpg

To celebrate my 40th year, I've joined in Dan's x365 project. Today and for the next 364 days, I'll be writing 40 words about someone I know. There's a link in the sidebar to 40 x 365, so you can go visit whenever you like. You never know when you might turn up there...

Today's entry is, of course, my mother.

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