Andrew Cassagnes and Ambergris

Good morning everyone,

Ok. Tell me that wasn't the nicest way to start February! I don't know what the temperature was, but if felt like about 15C. It was sunny, warm and practically a perfect day (the only thing bad about it was that I was at work...ha ha!). Today will be pretty much the same and please enjoy it because we are going to see rain for the next three days after that...yep, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are all calling for rain. <sigh> The weather will stay above 10C so I guess that is one good thing. The end of the week will see sunny skies return but bring with it cooler temperatures-by next Saturday, the high will be only around 6C.

Have you heard of either of the two things in the news yesterday?

I hadn't, well not directly anyway.

Andrew Cassagnes was the inventor of Etch-a-Sketch. I don't know a single Canadian kid who didn't have one of these when we were growing up. I had no idea who the inventor was, but EVERYONE had one of these...
Did you have them in Japan when you were a kid? I loved mine when I was growing up. It's sooooo difficult to draw a picture on, but it's so fun and easy to erase. You just hold it upside down and shake it and start over.

Well, Mr. Cassagnes, whose fun invention, which was also called the 'magic screen', passed away in Paris at the age of 86 yesterday. His invention brought smiles to millions and will continue to after his death.

On the other hand, this lump brought a smile to only one man.
Do you know what ambergris is? Well, to put it bluntly-it's whale vomit. That's right. Whale vomit. And do you know what it's used for? It's used in women's perfume. The gold colored lump that his dog found on the beach is worth about \15 million! I think I might start going for my runs along the beach! Ha ha! Who knows what I might find? It'd be like winning the lottery!

Apparently, it's pretty stinky stuff and hard as a rock. If you found one, would you pick it up and carry it home? Hmmm...I'm not so sure...for \15 million I probably would! What am I saying? "Probably"?! Without a doubt I would! Ha ha!

Have a great day!

Aging, shrinking and shopping

Good morning everyone,

Yesterday was a lot colder and snowier than I expected. It was freezing outside! And we had snow off and on all day in Koi! Today is supposed to be mostly sunny and slightly warmer. The good news is that tomorrow the forecast has been changed to be mostly overcast with a slight chance of rain-only 30% now. Sunday and Monday are looking like the best days of the week, with highs around 10C and mostly sunny skies!

We all know that the Japanese population is aging-we're inundated with news articles about the problem, but I'm yet to hear any solutions about it from a politician...but today is not a rant about politicians (for a change...ha ha!)

I was shocked when I read that the population had shrunk a record amount last year. According to the government, there were 1,033,000 births in Japan last year and 1,245,000 deaths. That means that the population declined by the difference-212,000. A post-war record decline. I didn't know that the Japanese population had declined for the past 9 years, making 2012 the tenth year in a row that the population fell.

The top four leading causes of death in the country were cancer, heart disease, pneumonia and cerebrovascular disease. The four diseases accounted for 60 percent of the overall death rate.

The fertility rate of Japanese women - the average number of children a woman will have over her lifetime - is estimated to be the same as in 2011 at 1.39, according to the survey. I guess I'd better get going if I don't want to bring the average down...ha ha! In Canada, the fertility rate is 1.68.

On average, in Japan a person is born every 31 seconds and a person dies every 25 seconds.

But that lowering population figure doesn't change the craziness on January 2nd. I saw some clips on the news and it was mad! There were people fighting for those lucky bags that cost around \10,000 each. One store timed the madness and they sold out of all the bags in 33.7 seconds. Just watching that on tv reminded me why I stay home on January 2nd...ha ha!

Did you partake in the craziness of New Year's shopping?  I'll never do that! I wouldn't go shopping on Boxing Day in Canada or Black Friday in America either. I like a good deal as much as the next person, but I also like to enjoy my shopping experience. None of those days are fun at all.

Have a great day!


Good morning everyone,

It looks like it's going to be a cloudy and dreary grey December day today-the good news is that it could get up to 16C! There is a chance we'll be seeing some rain during the day, but that'll pass by late afternoon. Tomorrow is looking like a gloriously sunny and warm day for the Sanfrecce Parade with a high of 14C! I wish I was going...Monday will be cloudy with a chance of showers (a slight chance) and then Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday will be mostly sunny with highs around 10C.

I don't even know where to begin. I suppose, by now, you've heard about the mass shooting in the US. A young man went to an elementary school and opened fire with a couple of guns killing 6 adults and 20 children before turning the gun on himself. Details are still sketchy becaue it's breaking news. 

It appears that the shooter's mother was a teacher at that school and the 24-year old shooter headed directly to that classroom and shot and killed her along with many of the students. After that, details become a bit unclear but students and teachers were killed mostly in a couple of rooms before the gunman shot and killed himself.

The death toll of 27 makes it the second worst school shooting in America's history-this incident is particularly difficult because all of the victims are under the age of 10. The 600 student school only goes up to grade 4 so all of the students are between 5 and 10.

It's a devastating scene and I couldn't imagine what I would do if my child was one of the kids shot-I'd probably go crazy actually! I can't even wrap my mind around what that little community is going through right now as the shooting occurred in a small town in Connecticut, long believed to be one of the safest places in America.

Even for those whose children survived, it must be a horrible shock to have their image of safety torn apart in an instant. My heart goes out to everyone in that community.

It seems terrible to wish everyone a 'great day' so please take a moment to think about the victims and thank the gods (whichever one you believe in) that you haven't experienced such a tragedy and pray that you never will.

PS I got two comments on yesterday's blog-it made me so happy! I should get sick more often...ha ha!

Peace Park Tourist

Good morning everyone,

It's going to be a warmish day out there today with highs getting up 22C. It'll be mostly cloudy with some sunny periods. In fact, it's looking like that weather will stick around for most of the week-except for one thing-it'll be about 5C cooler. I'm glad I bought my Uniqlo undershirts last week, it looks like I might need them sooner than I had thought!

Yesterday I went to Peace Park with one of my students so she could prepare for being a tour guide in English. It was interesting. I've been to the park dozens of times but I've never had a tour before. Of course I've been there on the anniversary of the bombing and I looked around when I came here on holiday (before I knew I was going to move here) but I can see why having a tour guide is tempting for a lot of people.

For one, it means that you don't have to think about where you're going. The most arguments I've seen amongst travellers is fighting about where they are and what is the best way to get where they want to go. With a tour guide, you don't have to worry about it, the guide takes care of it all.

Of course the downside is that you have to go where the guide takes you, so if you want to see something else you're SOL (it means out of luck-you can't do it, so give it up).

Anyway, I got the free tour yesterday and it was very informative. Of course we covered the basics such as the cenotaph and the Peace Flame. I learned that the flame is not an eternal flame, that it will be extinguished when the last nuclear weapon has been dismantled...well, it's basically an eternal flame then, isn't it? I can't imagine people ever completely giving up on them-there are still over 18,000 remaining.

We then visited the burial mound. Apparently this site used to be a temple so many family members took their dead there in the first few days after the bombing and it became an unofficial crematorium. Now, the mound resembles those used by lords in ancient Japan. It is home to the ashes of countless victims who were never identified or who had no family remaining alive to claim them. Some estimates say there are around 30,000 remains under the mound. Do you know how they counted them? One shovel full of ashes was meant to count as one person. It sounds so sad...

We also visited the children's monument where the paper cranes are displayed that have been sent from all over the world and I got to hear about the story of Sadado Sasaki. I had heard the story before but it was the first I had heard that the number of cranes she had managed to fold remains a secret as her parents preferred it that way.

Then we headed to Aioi Bridge and the A-Bomb after ringing the bell for peace. I've seen those places every day since I opened my school-in fact twice a day as I ride back and forth to work. Did you know that the Hiroshima people were split about what to do with the A-Bomb Dome as many people wanted it torn down. Luckily for us, they decided to keep the dome as a reminder to the world of the devastation a single nuclear bomb can wreak.

I also made it to the actual hypocentre for the first time. I had no idea it wasn't over the bridge. Did you? Everything at the Peace Museum shows the bomb as being over the bridge. I understand that it was the intended target but the bomb actually detonated about 600m above Shima Hospital which is around 300m from the bridge. I never knew that till yesterday. I went and saw the small plaque in front of the hospital which of course has been rebuilt. When the bomb detonated over the hospital, temperatures on the ground reached about 4000C which is more than double the temperature required to melt lead.

Then we finally went to see the Chinese Parasol trees (アオギリ). It was my first time to see them. It was amazing that they survived the bombing and are still alive and doing well today. You can see the  damage caused by the bombing and how the treees have repaired themselves.
Apparently the trees sprouted new branches and leaves the spring following the bombing and gave people great hope that life could come again to the city.

It's a great idea to end the tour on a positive note and I'll do the same for my blog...

Have a great day!

Mother Nature

Good morning everyone,

Well, the forecast for this week hasn't changed much. We can still expect the weather to cool down a bit-lows in the morning will be under 10C and highs will be between 17C and 19C. As of right now there is no rain in the forecast although the weekend is looking a little unsettled. It's looking like Mother Nature will be nice to be and not make me run in the rain on Saturday!

She was also nice to me yesterday because I got to go out during my lunch break. I started to walk towards the Food Festival but gave up by the time I got to YMCA. There were so many people and cars and a big traffic jam and I was feeling annoyed before I even got within 500m of the festival so I gave up! Ha ha! I ended up going to the Italian Fair at Mitsukoshi and bought some prosciutto and pancetta and parmesan cheese. Yesterday was the last day so everything was on sale. The stuff I bought was originally about \5000 but I got it for only \2000. For me, all that food will add up to three or four meals so it was worth it for sure!

Unfortunately mother nature  hasn't been so nice to Canada though. On the West Coast there was a pretty big earthquake yesterday-7.7 on the Richter Scale which shook things up  a bit causing lots of falling items and minor damage. Fortunately no serious injuries were reported. It did create a tsunami warning as well and after last year's massive tsunami in Japan, people are still a little wary. A two-metre tsunami hit the coast of Hawaii but calling it a 'tsunami' almost seems comical when compared to the forty-metre one that was part of the March 11 disaster.

Even bigger news for the east coast is Sandy. Sandy is no longer a hurricane but they are calling it a 'Frankenstorm' because it is so late in the season and is so huge. Do you know the monster Frankenstein?

Well, he was big and scary and dangerous and slow-moving and made up of the parts of many different people. These days many people are using his name as an adjective, 'frankenfoods' or 'frankenstorm'. It means something that is unusual in an unknown and scary way which combines different parts of different things. This storm is being called a frankenstorm because it is a combination of a hurricane and a winter storm so it could cause flooding, wind damage and blizzards along with freezing rain and...well, nobody really knows what to expect. It's going to hit my hometown region sometime in the next twelve hours and because of its size, it'll batter them with rain and win for about one day. Everyone back home, please take care!
Have a great day!