Archive for 28 February, 2012

Radiation in Japanese rice

Radioactive rice may enter the food chain later this year

According to NHK the government announced that for Tohoku-region farmers unable to grow rice last year many rice fields contaminated with radiation can plant rice this year. The government reports that 2% of rice harvested last year contained between 100-500 bequerels of radiation, whilst 0.2% had more than 500bq which is not fit for consumption. The decision was made because of concern for farmers’ livelihoods and maintenance of good quality rice fields. Criticisms included no measures for stringent oversight preventing contaminated rice of more than 500bq to slip into the national rice supplies; no means of disposal of contaminated rice; nor financial incentive for farmers and local officials to be honest. Further, it appears to be a commercial decision in sympathy with farmers, and with less regard for consumers.

Previously there were reports in 2010 of expired rice meant for industrial uses, including glue production, was bought from government stocks and commercially resold to pre-schools and schools for childrens’ lunches in the period between about 2005 and 2010.

More pictures of Japanese rice can be found at my gallery:

 
Rice – Images by Andrew Blyth

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Pinterest

I love the Internet and the culture around it. It’s brilliant. I love being able to communicate with friends and family… at a distance, and up close. I love having access to the information and resources that didn’t exist 10 years ago, and I love seeing the new useful stuff. I do admit I let MySpace pass me by, and never heard of Orkut until it was already a living fossil; I was too busy with ICQ. However, here’s a website I’m steering clear of, Pinterest.

Pinterest says in it’s terms and conditions that it reserves the right to resell any image its users have added to Pinterest’s website, including mine. This is without regard to copyright ownership, nor standard industry licensing & purchasing. In short, Pinterest is a messy mass of Intellectual Property law suits waiting to happen. Both Flickr and stock agencies have added the no pin code to their websites preventing image theft (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinterest#Copyrighted_content).

On top of that, Pinterest allows website owners to opt out, which prevents Pinterests users adding your images to Pinterest.com; a rather selfish paradigm, it’s very ego-centric. Now, every single website in the world is fair game, until they insert the code (below) which prevents Pinterest’s users from stealing your copyrighted images. What if every other social network had this system? Should there be a list of websites to blacklist, or “blackcode”? It’d be a nightmare to keep updated, as each website will require unique coding, and occasional updates. The alternative is to invite Pinterests members to your site, and as soon as they illegally upload your images you start suing; it’ll be profitable, and should changed Pinterest’s policies.

 

We have a small piece of code you can add to the head of any page on your site:

<meta name=”pinterest” content=”nopin” />

When a user tries to pin from your site, they will see this message:

“This site doesn’t allow pinning to Pinterest. Please contact the owner with any questions. Thanks for visiting!”

Thanks to this website, http://llsocial.com/2012/02/pinterest-offering-code-to-block-pinning/ for posting the above code. The only caveat is that every time you update your blog software, you may need to reinsert that code. Pinterest’s own ‘no pin’ code is found at the very bottom of this page: http://pinterest.com/about/help/

Useful links:

Mention of Pinterest selling other people’s content: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109214702386760339292/posts/GQaFsSbc6Nt

Business Insider, Copyright Theft: http://www.businessinsider.com/pinterest-illegal-faq-2012-2

PhotoShelter: Pinterest Round 2 (includes pros & cons): http://blog.photoshelter.com/2012/02/pinterest-is-still-not-for-photographers-round-2/

Business Journal; How your business could get sued for using Pinterest: http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/blog/startups/2012/02/pinterest-copyright-issues.html?surround=etf&ana=e_article&page=all

Pinterest’s Terms: http://pinterest.com/about/terms/

Story of the New York Times being scolded by a photographer for not crediting her, because of Pinterest’s problems: http://jimromenesko.com/2012/03/16/ny-post-scolded-by-photographer/

UPDATE, new terms & conditions (from 6th April 2012): http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/blog/startups/2012/03/pinterest-to-change-terms-of-service.html?ana=fbk

Pinterest Terms of Service clearly stating that they reserve the right to sell member content for their own profit.

Pinterest Terms of Service clearly stating that they reserve the right to sell member content for their own profit.

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POTW Fertility Festival

This Photo of the Week is for the upcoming Nagoya fertility festival, held at Tagata annually on 15th March. The festival promotes having babies and families, and it’s also a place where young single people can pray that they find a husband or wife in the coming year.  In a Catholic western tradition, all thought of sex is considered a sin, but oriental religions do not consider sex a problem, and so there is no shame or sense of sin associated in having such festivals. The public parading of a phallus is not a problem. Families bathe together, and everyone know what all the bits are, so there’s nothing to teeter about. So, without further ado, here’s a giant wooden cock.

For information can be found on Wikipedia, and a gallery of images at my PhotoShelter portfolio.

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Frustration with Sony

That’s it! I’m declaring Sony Japan institutionally racist. I don’t know about other parts of the Sony company, but Sony Japan has got to change. The new Sony A77 and A65 cameras were announced on the 11th August 2011 (Sony A65, DPReview.Com), and yet the Sony Store and all other electronic and camera stores in Nagoya Japan do not provide these digital cameras with multilingual options nor overseas models. In other countries, the cameras that are exported are multilingual, and the menu language can be changed, so French people living in China are well catered for. However, the models sold in Japan are Japanese language only. I do have a Sony Bloggie, but I had to pay extra for “the overseas model”, that is, the model with multilingual menu settings. However, it seems that now there is only one multilingual Sony product available inside of Japan, the Sony Reader.

In 2005 Sony took over the Konica Minolta camera division, and so Sony inherited millions of SLR camera users like me. The picture below on the left is the Konica Minolta Alpha Sweet I bought in Japan in 2005. It was exported to North America as the Maxxum 5d and all other parts of the world as the Dynax 5d (DPReview.Com). These models in Japan included multilingual settings. The camera on the right is the Sony A200 sold in Japan, and just like the current models the menus are only available in Japanese.

The Minolta digital camera on the left provides multilingual options, but not Sony cameras sold in Japan.

The Minolta digital camera on the left provides multilingual options, but not Sony cameras sold in Japan.

In contrast to Sony, Nikon, Fujifilm, and other camera makers do provide in Japan a menu setting to allow the user to set their choice of language. I do have some reading ability in Japanese, but there are some menu options I just cannot understand, and there are some information displays that are beyond me. Also, if consumers pay as much as ¥140,000 (USD$1,700) for the Sony A77 or Nex-7, they would surly feel at least slightly disappointed in not being able to make full use of all of the features of the camera. Wouldn’t some feel at least slightly insulted? Otherwise, I’m sure they would just buy a Nikon or Canon instead. Well, why am I with Sony? I didn’t intend to be with Sony, I started with Minolta, and stayed with the Minolta system when the camera division was handed to Sony, and therefore I had to take on the Sony system. How do I feel now? Well, Nikon is looking like a good option, but they often use Sony sensors in their digital cameras, and I don’t particularly want my money going to Sony right now.

The Sony Store in Nagoya, Japan.

The Sony Store in Nagoya, Japan.

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POTW: Poem of a cacophonous city: Explane

This Photo of the Week was one taken last summer. It was taken on film, and as a double-exposure. It was then digitised complete with grain, dust spots, and other charisma. This series of photos Poem of a Cacophonous City is more in the art realm… than of poetry, but then poetry is also more in the art realm than something like a police report. Anyway, the point is that it will look great on cafe walls.

This series is meant to convey the business, the proximity, the noise, and general clutter of the city. However, this particular image is meant to convey a different kind of clutter. The spelling, or mis-spelling of the titles this particular picture has had include Ex-plain, Explane, and Explain. Essentially it toys with the idea that Nagoya, the city where this photo was taken, was a flood plain, or a delta, that was regularly inundated after each snow melt, where new sediment was deposited. Now, there are flood barriers, and in the last 40 years, the general Nagoya area has sunk about 20cm, and especially sinks during and after each shaking of the sediment from earthquakes. So, this former, or ‘ex’-plain had pretty flowers here once, and now it’s a city. But why put a city here? Explain to me, that. Especially because sedimentary plains shake more in earthquakes causing more damage, and the whole basin will be below sea level quite soon. Isn’t it a poor choice to have one of the richest cities of the world?

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Sony Bloggie MHS-CM5 Review (or rather a rant)

The Sony Bloggie MHS-CM5

There are a number of reviews for this cheap mini digital video camera on the internet, and a Google search can help you find them (CNet has this technical review). This, however, this is a much more qualitative review. I have not been paid by Sony, and I do not depend on any electronics manufacturer to supply me with products to review, and therefore indirectly promote. I have bought this device, and have used it for a while now. What I have noticed in a recent Google search is that some basic problems of my Bloggie seems to be inherent in the current models (see other CNet reviews). Below, is my qualitative review.

The Sony Bloggie is very small, compact and I like the burgundy colour (though Sony, a Japanese-language company, claim it’s violet). It fits a Sony Memory Stick or standard SD card, making it in part ways compatible with some of your other electronic devices. It comes with a single Sony shape battery, that does not last very long and there’s no external charger, nor will the battery fit any other manufacturers devices. The Bloggie does not take standard AAA or AA batteries so you are locked in. It can do a few recordings before it needs recharging. I have been in a situation where I though it was charged enough, only needing to recharge it off of my laptop battery right at time of need. The added problem was that it would not function whilst it was charging. Even though it is intended for blogs and an internet social life, hence the name, it cannot be used for live streaming like on Google+ Hangouts or UStream. The primary assumption by Sony Engineers must have been a standard point of view that you would record, then upload, and not do both simultaneously. The supplied software, PMB does not upload high quality video to YouTube, see this early video of mine as an example, Nagashima Town Festival. Instead, you need to use the YouTube uploader to provide HD quality video to your adoring fans, see Sumo Bitch Slap. Aviation buffs will be disappointed with the rolling shutter problem, as shown in this video of a Curtis Kittyhawk taxiing. You will also notice that it can be a bit slow to focus, and the auto focus system can focus on not the thing you want it too, and you have no control of that. It does have a face-recognition auto-focus system, so most of the time you’ll get what you want. In this video of the Nagoya Domatsuri (Nagoya Dance Festival), you will also see it’s dynamic range (control of dark and light areas) isn’t bad, nor it’s automatic exposure settings. You have no control over the exposure, that is, there is no manual settings, but the auto-functions does a good enough job, however, I do not professionally produce videos anyway.

Now, as promised, the rant, but I promise to keep it unemotional. The problems I have encountered are when you want to play back the videos. On the camera the video appears smooth, on the Sony PMB software on your computer, the video appears smooth, when uploaded onto YouTube (using either PMB or the YouTube uploader), the video appears smooth. However, when viewing on your computer with QuickTime, Windows Media Player, or any of the Linux players the mpg visuals will jump and pause, whilst the sound will just carry on; it will be a frustrating watch. If you record family videos, party videos, or anything that you will keep private and share with friends, you cannot just send the file. You need to convert it to another format that will replay the video smoothly on your friends computers. I have used Any Video Converter in the past, but I had spent an entire day trying to find the right settings to convert the Bloggie mpg-4 file. Eventually I gave up and then tried Acala Video Studio. These two video converters are available on Cnet Downloads for free. I eventually found that the Bloggies mpg-4 file could be successfully converted to wmv format that will play smoothly, and so you can share private videos with your friends. In the year I’ve had this camera firmware and software updates have become available, and I was unaware of them until I experienced the frustration of getting a smoothly playing video file. I have not tested the camera with the updates, but will get to updating this review when appropriate.

The other problem with the PMB software for playback and uploading, is that once it has automatically installed onto your computer direct from the camera (nice and convenient), it cannot do that again, even if you have a new computer. Not to worry, just open the MP Root folder and then upload to your online account directly or onto your hard-drive. Files the Bloggie produces are quite large when the best quality settings are chosen (and I recommend you do this), so I also advise you to have an external hard drive to keep your videos on.

The below video of the Toyohashi Fire Festival demonstrates that the Bloggie can deal with difficult lighting situations, but also shows the slow autofocus. The sound quality seems reasonable, but there is no external microphone jack to improve things anyway. Would I buy this again? I’d probably shop around a bit more and see if there is something better (and cheaper), whilst still not discounting this.

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Photo of the Week: Nabana no Sato

This POTW is of Nabana no Sato is a private botanic gardens, where you pay to enter. They always of some special feature at all times through the year. Currently their special feature is the nighttime illumination, which started in late October and runs until the 1st April. It is especially a great place to take your Valentine’s date.

From Nagoya Kintetsu you can take an Express train to Yatomi and change to a Local or Semi-express and get off at the next stop for 390 yen (one-way). Also, in the late afternoon and early evening some Express trains will stop at Nagashima (announced in Japanese, Kintetsu is not very good at ad-hoc bilingual notices), so it’s better to ask the guard / conductor at the rear of the train to confirm if the Express train you’re about to take will stop at Nagashima or not.

More photos of Nabana no Sato can be found at my agent’s website: Henry Westheim / Asia Photo Connection.

The chapel lit up at Nabana no Sato (Nabana Park)

The chapel lit up at Nabana no Sato (Nabana Park)

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Cherry blossoms :: sakura

Thanks to +John Asano reminding me that it’s almost Cherry Blossom (sakura) season, which is usually the end of March early April and goes for about a week. In Japan friends, social groups, companies, and families all stake out a place under an arboretum of cherry blossoms and have barbeques and pretend it’s not uncomfortably cool. These barbeques / parties are known in Japanese as ‘hanami’, or ‘flower looking’. Because of the 11th March earthquake last year, most people thought it bad taste to have a party only a month after the disaster, so there were very few hanami parties in 2011, and so I bet they’ll make up for it this year. See more Japanese pictures at my PhotoShelter portfolio.

This year, I made up a gallery of pictures that have “sakura” as a keyword. I’ll admit that I was in that stage where I was repulsed from taking hanami party pictures, until last year when I couldn’t. So this year I’ll add more to the collection.


Cherry blossoms / Sakura – Images by Andrew Blyth

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Heavy snow

Some parts of Japan have received heavy and accumulating snow. Last week many areas in the north received snow, followed by a slight warming, which has allowed the top layer to melt slightly before freezing again. On top of this icy layer, known in Japan as corn snow (due to it’s micro scopic shape), fresh snow created yet another layer. Concern is for a number of points.

  • The corn-snow layer allows for surface avalanches
  • Avalanches and surface avalanches can be triggered by earthquakes
  • Snow sliding off roofs can kill people under them. A meter of snow can weigh upto 500kg (1/2 ton).
  • Snow clearing with snow ploughs have killed pedestrians
  • Snow clearing off roofs have accounted for about 75% of deaths. Most deaths involve people aged 60 and over. Most deaths are as a result of falls, heart attacks, or falls with snow burials.
  • Solar panels on roofs have also contributed, as normal roofs have stoppers that hold snow in place, or slow the rate of fall. However, solar panels were not designed with this consideration, and often sit above snow stoppers, thus with the smooth surface are more dangerous than a regular roof (see the picture below).
  • Finally, some houses this week have collapsed under the weight of snow on their roofs. So far, some areas have more than 3 meters of accumulated snow.

Below are file pictures relating to the extreme weather.

 

Solar panels allow snow to dangerously slide off roofs, which has caused the deaths of many people.

Solar panels allow snow to dangerously slide off roofs, which has caused the deaths of many people.

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