Look out Baywatch! Here comes ABNW!

Thanks to a recent Christian Science Monitor article on XML/RSS feeds, I have added a feature to my blog so that you can bookmark it and be notified whenever I update it. Now I know that my most dedicated fans (Aki, Gilda, ...) look for updates everyday and nag me when I'm a day late. But the rest of you casual viewers could use some sort of notification when I update this blog. Now there's a way.

RSS stands for "really simple syndication". At one point, David Hasselhoff's Baywatch was the most synidicated TV show in the world. It is my humble hope that my blog will be the most syndicated blog in the world. Hah! That's good for a joke. But, seriously now. If you'd like to be notified when I update this blog, there's a few things you need to do:
1. Use a browser like Apple's Safari, Mozilla's Firefox, or Microsoft Internet Explorer or an aggregator like My Yahoo or Google's Reader.
2. Click on the link to the right of this entry entitled, "syndicate this site (XML)"
3. Bookmark the page on your browse. If you are using an aggregatior, copy and paste the feed address into the field where your subscriptions are stored.

In the future, you should see a number next to the title of the bookmark, indicating the number of posts that you haven't seen. Forgive me if this doesn't work for you. I'm an English teacher, not a computer scientist! I know how to do it on my Mac, but I realize that everyone reading my blog isn't on a Mac (yet;).

Now to the entry I promised.

I went to the Osaka aquarium on Friday. Their presentation was unique: ecozones around the volcanic ring of fire in the Pacific Ocean. They've set up the museum so that one must see all of the exhibits before exiting. You ride an escalator up to the eighth floor and travel in a descending spiral to the first floor where you see the large central tank which houses their prized possession: a whale shark. I made sure to get an English audio tour so that I could appreciate the exhibits more.

The display gave the visitor an holistic view of life in the Pacific Ocean. Somewhere the brochure mentioned the Gaia theory of Lovelock. This makes connections between all lifeforms in a web of life. Although the much touted Whale Shark seemed smaller than advertised, at 1100 kilograms, I think that it was big enough! The Manta Ray was also fascinating with its loop-de-loops over the aerator. Was he getting air or plankton?

I couldn't help but make comparisons between this aquarium and the one I know so well: the Monterey Bay Aquarium. My sister, brother-in-law, and aunt gave me a two-year family subscription to it so I could take all of my friends there. (Thanks again Jen, Dave, and Tina!) Their admission prices are about the same and you probably get more to see at the Osaka one. So on these facts alone, I could see why some study abroad students of mine at MIIS in February 2005 didn't like the MoBay aquarium. "Japanese aquariums are better" they said.

But what the MoBay aquarium had that I didn't see in Osaka (my Japanese is limited, but they seemed to give bilingual interpretive signs almost everywhere) was extending the facts and situation of the oceans into the family room and kitchens of visitors. Inspiring visitors to take action and change behaviors to save the oceans.

Before I went to Osaka, I happened to read an article about whale burgers in Hokkaido and dolphin hunting in Wakayama (near Osaka). I admit that different cultures have different values towards man's relationship with nature and by extension animals. But when the entire world except Japan recognizes the moratorium on whaling, that strikes me as something different than cultural values. Is one's village annual harvest of over a hundred top predators sustainable regardless of being ethical or unethical? This is where a museum can make a difference because it gives an in-depth experience and can influence large numbers of visitors to change the kinds of fish they eat. And these are the same people who can influence public policy. Aquariums shouldn't be about preserving an example of a species to ward off extinction. They can serve a purpose by connecting people with the natural world.

What do you think? I know there's plenty of treaties that the USA is the only one not to sign. Perhaps it thinks there's some competitive advantage to holding out. That seems like an expression of economy, not culture. But I could be wrong.


A Nuclear Discussion

This Christmas I sent a postcard to friends and family giving the usual update of a Christmas card. Here is the text of the card, in case you didn't get one:

Dear friends and family, I'm back with my Christmas postcards so that means that I'm making more than $7,000 this year! Where have I been since my Christmas 2002 card? I moved to Monterey, California to study at the Monterey Institute of International Studies for an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I graduated in May of this year. Now I am an assistant teacher of English at a private, Christian junior high school in the Kansai area of Japan. It is my first experience to work in a country where I haven't learned the language before I arrived. Nevertheless, Japan is a daily fascination of food, traditions, technology, and gracious people. Six weeks into my stay here I took a school trip to Hiroshima. We visited the Atomic Bomb Dome and the Peace Memorial Park. Before I waffled on the USA's use of the bomb to kill at least 80k civilians because it would save American lives. When I left, I couldn't imaging putting a national label on life to justify saving one and sacrificing another with such a horrendous act. If everyone could visit Hiroshima, I think that we could have peace on earth much sooner. With peaceful wishes for Christmas & the New Year

My motive was to share my personal transformation of viewpoint after visiting the Peace Museum in Hiroshima. I wanted to make a connection between the building behind me in the picture and peace at Christmas. When I went home for Christmas, some people told me that my Christmas card was too political. In retrospect, I think that I could have worded the card differently to focus more on peace instead of who did what to whom. When I returned to Japan after the Holidays, I received a letter from a friend who has had significant experience in nuclear physics. He had a unique perspective on what I wrote in my card and I would like to share it with you. Here is what he wrote:

(December 19, 2005) Dear Jeff,

Circa 1947 I wrote a paper for my international relations professor on the subject of the decision to use the atomic bomb. This was at Brown University. My conclusion was that it should have been used on a military area with warning and not on a city, no matter how much war industry it represented. Interestingly Kyoto was on teh top five list and was ahead of Hiroshima. The secretary of state took Kyoto off the list before Truman made a decision because he, the secretary, knew Kyoto was a very important historical and cultural center, having been the capital in years gone by...
The bombing of Dresden and the fire bombing of Tokyo, particularly the latter may have caused more deaths. No matter how you slice it, war tends to drag all parties into a whirlpool of depravity. In this case a great deal of soul searching went into the decision, but the decisionn-makers had no concept of the awfulness of the weapon. Today, people generally, and many political types have no concept whatsoever. I worked for the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory and participated in bomb tests in the early 1950s, and being a physicist and all, had a notion, but it was not until I witnessed explosions and participated in the initial test of the hydrogen or fusion weapon did I begin to see what was implied. I became acquainted with Ernest Pollard, a physicist at MIT who worked at which he self published. It is a novel about the detonation of one low yield hydrogen bomb over NYC [New York City]. He describes in detail the effect on the United States. Aside form the metropolitan NY area, the entire country was affected because of the interrelated nature of our society and civilization. It was terribly edited, and I volunteered to redo it and have it republished; however it was too much of an emotional experience, and I did not need that sort of thing to deal with. He asked that I write a chapter about the effect on the cities and towns on the Long Island Sound extending all the way to RI [Rhode Island].
I think the North Koreans and the Iranians must be disarmed. The Russian arsenal must be controlled. I am under the impression that if weapons are not "refurbished" they tend to degrade, and if detonated will not do as much damage, but nevertheless spread a lot of radioactive material over the countryside, and with age they can become duds. How old or how probable this is, is not known to me. The US arsenal has been shrinking, and since the end of the cold war has dropped by 75%. There are less than 5000 weapons in the US inventory, and I understand it is being reduced monthly. It is a major project, and as you know we have given money to Russia to do the same. There is a book by Stansfield Turner (Adm. USN Ret.), former head of the CIA, that suggest how to put the genie back in the bottle. You might look it up. It may be called "The Trimtab Factor". I don't have time to look for it now in my library.[My friend emailed me back when I requested his permission to publish his letter on my blog. The real title of Adm. Turner's book is "Caging the Nuclear Genie" (ISBN 0-8133 3328 - 8)] It is curious that you chose this subject to re-establish contact at this time of year. Next time tell us about the beauty of Kyoto.

I suppose that I was trying to make a point by bringing up this issue at Christmas time. Can the message of the Prince of Peace, whose birth is traditionally celebrated on December 25, overcome the most destructive weapon that mankind has ever created? I believe it can. But if no one talks about this possibility when most people are listening to the Christmas message, then I think that people are less likely to remember it when faced with a nuclear decision in the future.

As a "child of the 80s" I can remember the fear of launching an array of nuclear weapons between the USA and USSR before the end of the cold war. I think the "children of the 00s" may have a similar feeling about people who want to detonate just one nuclear weapon to make a statement for their cause. The Message of the Man who blessed peacemakers is no less relevant today than in the 80s for bringing peace through nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.


A Badge of Photos from the Train Trip

Return at Twilight

originally uploaded by fuzzyjefe.
I made it to Himeji, now its time to turn back and see if my theory works. Will I be charged an arm and a leg or just some pocket lint? Read the entry below to find out!

Coming of Age Day

originally uploaded by fuzzyjefe.
I got over my shyness to ask these women if I could take their picture as they passed through the train station. I think they're happy that I asked.

Take a free ride on the Sanyo Railroad

It was freezing in my apartment and my aircon unit wasn't spewing out
hot air. So I decided to get out of the house. But where could I go?
All public buildings were closed due to the holiday. So like any
valley girl that I know, I head to the mall:) They had some
activities: mochi making, spinning tops, and puppet show. I don't know
if they were related to coming of age because it was only little kids
indulging. But I didn't care, anywhere there's free food, you know I'm
there. Then I had McDonalds, value meal cheeseburger, shake and fries.
that didn't sit well with me afterwards. My first Mickey D's since
after ELV '04. Then I went to the train station. I thought it would be
a good place to find girls dressed up in their coming of age day
kimonos. I was right. I looked up the phrase for "can I take your
picture" (shashin ee desu ka?) and approached some girls. This is hard
for me because I'm so shy of imposing myself on strangers. But they
all obliged (who wouldn't want some attention on their special day).
The kimonos were beautiful! I'll put up a slide show on my blog.

I didn't want to go back home to my cold apartment, so I decided to
get on a local train and just ride. The commuter train system is
billed like Washington, DC or London: you pay based on where you get
on and off as marked by your ticket. So I hypothesized: what if I ride
as far as the system goes, come back, and exit the system at a stop
that costs 150 yen? Otherwise it would cost 2000 yen if I got off at
the end and then reentered to come back.

So I went west to the huge castle town of Hemeji. I read my book,
looked out the window, and people watched as they came and exited the
train. We approached the shore line, went under a gondola line to
connect with a mountainside community, saw a huge suspension bridge to
connect with another island, Awaji. After 2 hours on the local train
we arrived in Hemeji. By this time the sun had set and the afterglow
of twilight was creating a beautiful palette on the sky. No sign of
the fabled castle, but I had ridden to the extent of my curiosity. Now
it was time to go back.

I got on the limited express going back. Its terminal station was the
Hanshin line and I entered the Hankyu line. If I got out at the wrong
company's line, I feared that it would report the rider anomaly to the
authorities. I decided to get off at a stop where I could transfer.
Asked a perfect stranger where to transfer and he told me to wait for
the next train which would take me right there. It is easy to see how
Americans can get used to this country with the efficient
transportation and comforting safety and kind feeling of approaching
strangers for help. I reached Nishinomiya within 45 minutes. Now the
test. I put my card in the machine. A slight delay. My heart takes an
extra beat. Puhchew! Out it comes with 150 yen taken off. SCORE! I got
a tour of the south coast of Hyogo prefecture for 150 yen! Ah the
simple pleasures of a man who can't speak the language to make friends
to hang out with or read the labels on his heating unit control panel
to stay warm in his home!

So that was my day. Now I'm freezing back at home. I've decided that
the best activity to do this winter is to go to bed early and cozy up
under the covers. I get 9 solid hours of sleep and I don't have to
freeze or do any mind numbing activities like Internet or Japanese TV
which I don't understand. Of course when the term starts I may need
that 9-10 hour, but oh well.

Countries I have visited

Where I've been in the USA