Archive for 27 March, 2010

Cherry blossom season

It’s that season again. Every year the cherry blossoms (known in Japanese as ‘sakura’) bloom for about just one short week. For over 400 years, since the edo era, the cherry blossom season has been a time for fun and frivolity, where Japanese can relax. Today, it’s an excuse for co-workers get out of the office and have beers, for the retired to meet their friends and have sake, and for families to have a bar-be-que.

A banner annoucing the Japanese cherry blossom festival

A banner annoucing the Japanese cherry blossom festival

For over a thousand years, the cherry blossom has been a symbol of spring, and the start of a something new. The new school year begins in the first week of April, shortly after the cherry blossom season. Companies have their new recruits begin work in April, staff that are to be transferred begin in their new offices also in April. Many companies use the cherry blossom image, and cherry blossom petal as a symbol of their spring advertising campaigns. Electronic stores can use fake plastic cherry blossom trees as a part of their displays.

The week of blooming begins amid much anticipation. The cherry blossom blooms are triggered by warm weather. For about 50 years the Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) have attempted to forecast when the trees would bloom. Japanese travel companies have come to rely on these forecasts and their accuracy, and complained when the JMA were not accurate enough. Consequently, 2009 was the final year in which JMA made cherry blossom forecasts, in an attempt to avoid such criticisms.

Close up of Japanese cherry blossoms (sakura) in the spring

Close up of Japanese cherry blossoms (sakura) in the spring

The final part of the emotional experience that Japanese have with the cherry blossoms in the week of blooming is when the spring winds blow the dried petals in a small gentle-pink flurry. This has been seen in movies like “The Last Samurai”. The Japanese samurai viewed cherry blossoms as a metaphor of their own lives: short lived.

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JALT CALL 2010

I will be presenting “Teaching and Learning Using Computer Mediated Communication” (CMC) at the Japan Association of Language Teachers (JALT) Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) Special Interest Group (SIG) annual conference in Kyoto on 29th -30th May, 2010. This presentation is aimed at beginner and novice CALL teachers, introducing basic how-to’s and some new technology. See more information about the conference at JALT CALL 2010. I already assembling a resource page at Winjeel.Com. Hope you’ll come.

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Eco-points scam

The Hatoyama Government has made a very public pledge to reduce carbon emissions by 25%. Ambitious, but possible. However, this was made amid a very serious economic downturn, and still the Japanese economy is fragile, and many tens of thousands factory workers are still unemployed. To maintain the economy, keeping money floating and changing hands, the ordinary people are not being asked to pay out so much. Public education is set to become free (a bill will be submitted later this month to parliament), but two important points are being made public in Japanese media. National highway tolls will be cut to just one-thousand yen per section, and “eco-points” (ie: government cashback offers) for all new “ecologically friendly” televisions and other appliances bought.

In previous holidays, we saw that with a decrease to one-thousand yen highway tolls, that there was a significant increase in traffic. Meeting the 25% carbon reduction appears more difficult to attain. However, can eco-points assist in this? Perhaps not. The offer ends on March 31st, 2010.

Our previous television used about 190 watts per hour, and it was an older, 36″ cathode-ray type. The new “eco-friendly” television, at 40″, bought second hand (ex-shop display) uses 170 watts per hour. Hardly a reduction at all. But we do get twenty-thousand yen back from the government, which should cover the electricity bill for the times when I accidentally leave a 40 watt desk lamp on while watching my environmentally friendly television.

Why offer cheaper highway tolls, cash back on electronic products, and free education? Not really to keep the economy turning (at least artificially), but because there’s an upper house election later this year. But a High Definition LCD TV is so much nicer than the previous cathode ray tube.

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Server migration

Sometime on between the 9th and 11th March this website will be migrated to new servers affecting and causing downtime of this site. Migration is due to old server hardware needing to be retired. We apologise for interruptions this will cause. It should also be noted that e-mail services will probably be affected in this time, as well.

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Australia

I thought I would have made a few posts by now, but I’ve been a bit too busy. I’ve found it hard to get out and about, partly because of the rain and the dull lighting from overcast days… excuses aside, I’ve put together a small sample of what I’ve got so far. Later I’ll properly process these images when I get back to my main computer back home, in Japan, then I’ll let you know where you can purchase these from. Enjoy.

Update, these are now available at http://www.photoshelter.com/user/ablyth

Kangaroo on the Gold Creek Country Club golf course, in Canberra

Kangaroo on the Gold Creek Country Club golf course, in Canberra

Seaweed washed up on the beach at Jervis Bay

Seaweed washed up on the beach at Jervis Bay

Aboriginal style rock art, near the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

Aboriginal style rock art, near the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra

Old Parliament House foregrounding the new Parliament House, Canberra

Old Parliament House foregrounding the new Parliament House, Canberra

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