Sunday, April 30, 2006

sleepless sky show

Old habits die hard. I always have a difficult time going to sleep the night before a trip. So the sun gradually starts to climb the hill earlier and earlier now it's 4:30am and soon it'll be 4:00 sharp.

Being sleepless I cleaned and packed, and finally decided to breathe some fresh air that my lung can't remeber ever having existed. While walking in my street admiring the number of chirping birds in sight, I looked up and saw this:

It's not one of those planes doodling in the sky. I know it's hard to make out but what can one really expect from a cell phone camera? The meteoroid charges across right above my head making no noise, but obviously disintegrating as it leaves a trail of burning micrometeorite, lights up the dim sky like a fireworks show. As I'm rushing back to the house to grab the camera it disappears into the other corner. Judging from the direction it's headed it'll strike the Pacific but more than likely it'll just burn out in the atmosphere. What a spectacular display!

Remebering my last meteor shower, in NYC it was a chilly 40-degree early morning in 2001 if memory serves, I don't recall any of the two hundred a minute meteorites to look as clear and slow as this one. It took a good five-minute for it to travel across the entire arc of the sky.

Friday, April 28, 2006

sleeping, memory, overworking

Not exactly looking for an excuse for my poor memory, I came across a science article that attempts to explain a correlation between sleeping and long term memory. Basically what it says is while one sleeps, the brains work to file away memories. As you may or may not know we humans only remember things for a very short period of time, somthing like 30 mins, so in order to be able to recall events from a much earlier time, sleeping aids the process in which a sequence of happenings for the day get transferred from a "RAM"-like storage to a "HDD". However if sleeping hours decline the ability to "back up" the daily data goes sharply downhill. That might explain why my long term memories often appear as if I've lived under water. That among other things carves me into the person who wants consistently to live in the moment, in moderation, paradoxically so.

The other day a student who happens to be a doctor commented on my vaction plan as "It should do you some good." Only then I realized I have been working a bit too much. You know when a doctor from the land of workaholics, quality issues aside, says you work too much, it's time to admit it. Six full days a week two of them from 10am to 10pm, it's been the least lazy one year.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

off to HK

Just a couple more days I'll be off to Hong Kong. It's time I took a vacation to do some much needed nerves unraveling. Can't wait!

To do:
go shopping,
drink some good wine,
meet with family, friends,
have dim sum, Chinese food,
go clubbing, possibly bar-hopping.

Friday, April 21, 2006

the strangest weather

I'm sitting in front of the computer at home when the sun starts to fade at 12 noon after what seems to be the brightest day in spring, then all of a sudden icy rain falls from the sky, not hail, not snow, not sleet, but rain mixed with ice that melts on impact and makes a distinct noise of which you know instantly is not rain. Air temp is 10-14C (~57F). Weird.

The big quake in Russia earlier also bothers me since it happened in a remote site where geologically shares the same faultline as Japan, though to the far north.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

I moved

For 2000 yen more each month, I moved into a nicer apartment. A few minutes farther away from the center of town but also newer and slightly more spacious. All in all I'm pretty satisfied. The neighbors have relatively large houses. I get the high tech toilet that seems to be really cool. Living/bed room is nice and clean. Tiny bathroom and kitchen.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

hanami 2006

An archiveed picture of some students from Western Female High School (Baltimore, Maryland) during cherry blossoms in 1941.

Here is one of the two things that can never be overrated in Japan- hanami (花見). Trying to catch a glimpse of its short-lived full bloom bestows a sense of urgency on the already hyped annual event.

The people here take it pretty serious. They orderly sardine into crowded parks or wooded areas to picnic with friends and family under the trees, often in the evening when drinking is involved. My personal favorite though, is not when the flowers are blossoming but right after, when the uniquely pink petals fall like snow, enveloped in artificial twilight.

As of today (2006.4.12), the conditions of cherry blossoms through out Japan (although with rain being dumped down the way it has been, in kanto (関東) at least, maybe there will be hardly any flowers left):

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Big Freeze

A while ago National Geographic aired a new episode of Naked Science titled Big Freeze, one that has something to do with the Earth's climate instead of the entire universe's.

To sum it up, we live in a time called the interglacial period when the world doesn't freeze over like during an ice age, allowing civilizations to flourish. Many scientists believe though that an ice age is, judging from past climate patterns for thousands of years, overdue.

The good news is an ice age takes time to emerge. The graduate change and our ability to adapt to new environments are not exactly the worst combination.

The bad news is along with these studies, climatologists discovered something very strange- the extended period of warm climate that we benefit from, is everything but normal. It's indeed a freak of nature. Long story short, there was a bizarre absence of freezes that should have hit during the interglacial but haven't. When it arrives finally the world will go through a rapid and drastic temperature drop crippling or even wiping out the human race.

What can trigger these quick big freezes:
1) volcanic eruption
-volcanic acid reflecting sunlight resulting in dropping temp, also likely to effect food supply causing famines, civil disobedience, eventually wars and/or anarchy.

2) global warming
-either a man-made process or natrual, the larger amont of fresh water from melting ice sheets pouring into the ocean each year is a fact, which slows the Great Ocean Conveyor, a natural oceanic system that adjusts global temperatures.

Doomed or not, What're our chances?
Scientists say that there is a 50% chance we will see a big freeze in the next 100 years.

Now on surviving it:
How life survived the big freeze

Download Big Freeze on here
Recent evidence suggests we might be heading towards a Big Freeze with the power to cause a global catastrophe with mass extinctions. This new freezing climate could hit us far sooner than we think with little or no warning. The next ice-age may stillbe in the distant future but ironically could Global Warming be a possible trigger that will accelerate climate change? Naked Science examines what may cause temperatures to plummet and how abrupt climate change could spell disaster for Earth.

Friday, April 07, 2006

solar eclipse

Some views of last week's total eclipse of the Sun were better than others. One spectacular view occurred over Adrasan (near Antalya), Turkey and was captured there by industrious astrophotographer Stefan Seip. The above digital mosaic caught the Moon in several stages as it moved between the Earth and the Sun. During the center frame, a total solar eclipse was visible, the Moon completely blocked the Sun, the area became dark, and the magnificent corona of the Sun became visible. The foreground frame from the same location was taken during sunlight. The next total eclipse of the Sun will occur in August 2008 and be visible from parts of North America, Europe, and Asia.

source: NASA

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Top 50 Indie Films

...according to Empire:
Big budgets, big names and a wide release are but three of the advantages enjoyed by studio films. An overriding concern to make money, interfering executives and lack of creative control are three more, rather less enjoyable, attributes. Because of this it's more often independent cinema you must turn to for examples of truly brave and innovative filmmaking and, assembled herein, you will find Empire's choice of the 50 greatest independent films: some of the boldest and most creative movies ever undertaken. Bearing in mind that to encompass all those that are independently financed would mean The Phantom Menace is an independent film, we've qualified all entries by ensuring they were made with what we consider to be an independent spirit. The final order then takes into account the quality of the film, the circumstances behind its production, the achievement of the filmmakers despite monetary and logistical constraints and its influence on subsequent projects. (the list)

#10 Mean Streets (1973)
# 9 Sideways (2004)
# 8 The Usual Suspects (1995)
# 7 Sex, Lies, And Videotape (1989)
# 6 Night of the Living Dead (1968)
# 5 Monty Python's Life Of Brian (1979)
# 4 Clerks (1994)
# 3 The Terminator (1984)
# 2 Donnie Darko (2001)
# 1 Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Monday, April 03, 2006

old pic

I dug up an old picture on the Interweb, well not all that old (2003.11.15). I am in the back row being one of the few not wearing a kimono. The photo marks my eighth month in Japan. Here is an idea- it might actually be an interesting profile pic.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Maher vs. Stewart

I'm a little puzzled as to why these two are not compared more often. Let me pick up the slack.

Bill Maher:
William "Bill" Maher, Jr., (born January 20, 1956; last name pronounced /mɑɹ/) is an American comedian, actor, writer, and producer. He hosted the late-night television talk show Politically Incorrect on Comedy Central and ABC, and is currently the host of the weekly Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. He is known for his political satire, most of which comes from a left-wing perspective mixed in with some libertarian notions with regard to issues of personal pleasure, such as drug legalization and prostitution. However, the notion of Maher having any sort of libertarian credentials is highly disputed (See below). He skewers the right-wing with particular ferocity, but also occasionally challenges leftist orthodoxy and the notion of political correctness. (source)
Jon Stewart:
Jon Stewart (born November 28, 1962) is a Jewish American comedian, actor, author, and producer, best known as host of The Daily Show. The popularity of this late-night show has earned Stewart notoriety as "the most trusted name in fake news", a reflection of his purported stature as the "Walter Cronkite" for a younger generation. He has also gained attention as an outspoken critic of established news media sources. (source)
Ego buildup: (Maher wins)
Maher in general has been more modest since being fired from his trademark show "Politically Incorrect." You can see him delivering soundbites with a hint of hesitation. Still he favors and devotes more airtime to shocking one-liners that are entertaining as well as ture-ringing, if at the expense of excessiveness. The man is cocky within the realm of verity.

Stewart's humble beginning of a hit-and-miss career takes its tolls and protrudes into soaring ego following recent years' success. The man is arguably more intelligent of the two and perhaps than most if not all those in his playground of show biz. He pitches more political jargons, all amid gags result in some members of the audience scratching their head and playing catch-up.

Risible bits: (Stewart wins)
Real Time's "New Rules" proabably is the funniest segment of the show but it obviously puts entertainment above all. Guest's outbursts often render delicious surprise.

The Daily Show has got excellent doses of laughing gas. It's hard to pick one particular funny segment but I thought "This Week in God" when Steven Colbert was still on takes the cake. Often hilarious parts include conversations between delusional correspondents and sound-of-reason Stewart.

Eccentricity: (Maher wins)
Let's face it, after years of satire-dishing, cult-like following, and physical comedy (mostly facial) acting both hosts display some less than desirable behaviors occasionally. Although the energy of these men is the heart and soul of their respective shows, one can't help but think sometimes they're either drunk, high, or edging ever so close to insanity, which annoys the heck out of some guests, Stewart more so than Maher. Of course I'm really being choosey here.

Bottom line: (a tied game)
Real Time with Bill Maher, more resonable and sophisticated due to the panel format, suffers from a certain entertainment quota. Also the quality of the panel guests often dictates the level of intelligence on the show. One hour of Real Time per week is about as satisfying as a double quarter-pounder and as clear as a pellucid brook.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report (come on! these shows are the two sides of one coin and the brainchild of Stewart), brilliant while boisterous at time, strike a fair balance among themselves and Maher's HBO slot.