A Kudaranai Post to Wrap up the Year

When I started this blog a year ago, I predicted the category “くだらない Thoughts” (Stupid / Worthless Thoughts) would led the pack in number of posts.

It was close. I had 43 くだらない Thoughts this year (this post being #43), but 71 posts in the catch-all “Japanese” category.  I suppose this means I was less stupid than I thought.  Always a good thing.

The ” イライラ – the ‘what was he thinking?’ files” only had 5 posts.  I was in good temperament in 2007.

I do appreciate all the comments and visits this year.  After I finish moving theJapanesePage.com, I’m looking forward to working on boosting content. Maybe I will finally learn how to use Adobe Premiere!

Some Very and not so Very Expensive Toys

I’ve decided I need a portable field recorder.
PCM-D1 Sony Professional Portable 24-bit Linear Audio Recorder imageI’ve had my eye on Sony’s 24-bit Linear PCM-D1 Audio Recorder ever since a friend in Tokyo picked one up. After hearing a few samples he recorded, I was amazed at the quality. He sent me a sound file of him recording the ambiance of a Tokyo cafe. A lady was singing and playing guitar while other guests mingled; every detail and feel of a live cafe was there.

The very small problem is—it sells for $2k.

Hence the next item…

PCMD50 Sony Professional Portable 24-bit Linear Audio Recorder imageLast month Sony came out with a baby sister model of the above: The PCMD50. The general specs are identical (up to 24 bit, 96kHz recording; 4 Gigs of Flash onboard memory). The only difference I’ve found from online reviews is it is made of slightly inferior materials. (the line input for example is plastic instead of metal) I’m sure the built in mics aren’t nearly as good, but again after hearing sound files people made of it, I’m impressed beyond impressed.

This little baby is only $500. Not bad and probably within reach, but do I really need this much?!

Recently I’ve realized I usually buy above what I really need. In the past, I’ve rationalized this by thinking I will come up with projects that would require the best of the best, but I rarely do. For my purposes a $300 video camera would be just as good as the $900 one I bought a few years ago. A used Super Nintendo that is falling apart would do just as fine as the Xbox 360 I bought last year… Well, maybe not.

Zoom H2 ImageFollowing this logic (the earlier logic), I’ve decided on this $188 model-the Zoom H2. At less than half the price of the ‘cheap’ Sony, the H2 seems to have everything I need. I’m having to buy a 4 Gig SD card which adds another $28 to the cost, but that is still half off the Sony.

As with the Sony, it can record anywhere powered by batteries and the sound files (WAV or MP3) can easily be sent to your computer via a USB cable. It records in WAV 96kHz/48kHz/44.1kHz at 16-bit or 24-bit, MP3 to 320kbps and Variable Bit Rate (VBR) data formats.

The worst thing I’ve heard about it is if you push the pre-amp up to maximum gain the hiss is pretty bad. It sounds decent if not darn good at mid-levels, though. I need ‘decent;’ ‘darn good’ would be nice, but not essential.

I’m expecting it to arrive in a week or so. I’ll play with it for a few days and then write a review here. For less than $200, if it delivers, this is something any webmaster who works with sound should have. (podcasting, adding silly audio comments to your blog, doing ‘serious’ interviews with your best friend or your dog, etc)

HearJapan Beta — Online Japanese Music Store

HearJapan Beta — Online Japanese Music Store Image

There is a new online Japanese music store on the horizon. It’s called HearJapan and has a nifty torii/music note logo (see left). But that’s not all; it also has music I hear.

It’s a bit exclusive and very beta right now, but I’ve been given a coupon code for people to take a peak inside. (see below) Every song has a 30 second clip (some may be a little shorter) to preview and most songs are only 100 yen (about 90 cents US). Of course all descriptions and menus are in English.

Coupon Code: 9kk3m

You must use the above code and URL since HearJapan is still a (somewhat) closed beta.

The Pros:

  • Everything is in English and accessible to the native English speaker no matter where you live (Hello iTunes Japan!)
  • Extremely high quality MP3s
  • No DRM which means you can play your MP3s on any device anywhere
  • Japanese Search—in addition to searching in English, you can also find artists by their Japanese names
  • 30 second samples streamed for free
  • Latest artist, concert and album information in English

The obvious Con for now is the selection is quite modest, but HearJapan writes:

Over 80% of the artists and groups that HearJapan has already signed to the site are not on the site as of yet. From start to finish it is a long process for each artist, so please have patience. Many larger labels are also waiting for HearJapan to officially open before committing to anything. Currently we are in talks with dozens of labels. In order to bring the fans all of the music they desire, we decided to jump start the beta release to get more labels signed on faster. HearJapan is quite a revolutionary concept, so the most important thing now is to show the labels that there is demand for Japanese music outside of Japan. If you, the fans can do this we are confident that we can make you happy.

If you like JPop (no Enka yet—Come on Tendo Yoshimi!) try it out. I’ve found a few songs that are rather nice.

Coupon Code: 9kk3m

Sorry for Being Late

Hazukashii desu yo imageIn posting, that is. I was shocked to notice my last post here was on the 20th. It is nigh high into the 27th as I type. However, I do have an excuse.

I’ve made tremendous progress with customizing Drupal—the Content Management Software that will house the brand new TheJapanesePage.com site. I’m finally happy with a theme and layout. Now I have to finish the 1Nichi1Kai.com theme and layout!

I’m paying some Australian technicians to take all the existing user and forum data and translate it into the Drupal dialect. It is no easy task to make sure all twenty-six thousand member’s data is successfully ported.

Basically as soon as they give the go ahead, we will move the site immediately. They had hoped to have had all the bugs ironed out by now, but they ran into a few new problems and a few new holidays.

I really can’t wait until all the coding, theming and setting up is over. I really enjoy producing content and I can’t really do that until the dust settles. Creating content is really a way for me to study Japanese while interacting with other students.

But I guess I should finish prettying up this site first…

芥川龍之介’s 鼻–Well, not HIS Nose, but His Nose Story

Yumi and I are working on recording her reading Akutagawa Ryuunosuke’s short story Hana (Nose). It is only good for advanced students, but here is what we have so far. (This is only about a fifth of the story) . The text comes from the Public Domain repository at Aozora.

Hana by Akutagawa Ryuunosuke image

 禅智内供(ぜんちないぐ)の鼻と云えば、池(いけ)の尾(お)で知らない者はない。長さは五六寸あって上 唇(うわくちびる)の上から顋(あご)の下まで下っている。形は元も先も同じように太い。云わば細長い腸詰(ちょうづ)めのような物が、ぶらりと顔のまん 中からぶら下っているのである。

 五十歳を越えた内供は、沙弥(しゃみ)の昔から、内道場供奉(ないどうじょうぐぶ)の職に陞(のぼ)った 今日(こんにち)まで、内心では始終この鼻を苦に病んで来た。勿論(もちろん)表面では、今でもさほど気にならないような顔をしてすましている。これは専 念に当来(とうらい)の浄土(じょうど)を渇仰(かつぎょう)すべき僧侶(そうりょ)の身で、鼻の心配をするのが悪いと思ったからばかりではない。それよ りむしろ、自分で鼻を気にしていると云う事を、人に知られるのが嫌だったからである。内供は日常の談話の中に、鼻と云う語が出て来るのを何よりも惧(お そ)れていた。

 内供が鼻を持てあました理由は二つある。――一つは実際的に、鼻の長いのが不便だったからである。第一飯 を食う時にも独りでは食えない。独りで食えば、鼻の先が鋺(かなまり)の 中の飯へとどいてしまう。そこで内供は弟子の一人を膳の向うへ坐らせて、飯を食う間中、広さ一寸長さ二尺ばかりの板で、鼻を持上げていて貰う事にした。し かしこうして飯を食うと云う事は、持上げている弟子にとっても、持上げられている内供にとっても、決して容易な事ではない。一度この弟子の代りをした中童 子(ちゅうどうじ)が、嚏(くさめ)をした拍子に手がふるえて、鼻を粥(かゆ)の中へ落した話は、当時京都まで喧伝(けんでん)された。――けれどもこれ は内供にとって、決して鼻を苦に病んだ重(おも)な理由ではない。内供は実にこの鼻によって傷つけられる自尊心のために苦しんだのである。

Read by Yumi Boutwell 12-20-07
Text from http://www.aozora.gr.jp/cards/000879/files/42_15228.html

I just found out I have been saying and writing the author’s name wrong. I thought it was 荒川ARAkawa (waste/wild river) but it is 芥川 AKUTAgawa (garbage river). The two kanji look very similar and I suppose the ‘meaning’ of either name isn’t the most pleasant.


I just found out we are down to our last two umeboshi: Our last two Umeboshi image

Yumi quickly Skyped her mother to let her know of the situation. She will get some of her homemade umeboshi in the mail, but it being December I suspect it won’t arrive for at least two or three weeks.

How will we survive?

Yumi’s mother makes the best umeboshi in Japan. I have had umeboshi from all over Japan. Wakayama is said to be famous for their umeboshi, but the umeboshi I tried there was terrible in comparison. I may be a little biased but I don’t think so.

What is umeboshi? I wrote this for a future page at the new TJP:

ume plum + 干 hoshi (boshi with phonetic change after ume) dry = dried ume plum

Umeboshi are usually roundish, red, wrinkled and about the size of a large grape. But there are many varieties found throughout Japan. Most are salty and very sour but some are a little sweet.

Usually umeboshi is eaten with rice. A cup full of rice only needs one umeboshi to be full of flavor. A common 弁当 bentou lunch box is called 日の丸弁当 hi no maru bentou which resembles the flag of Japan (a single umeboshi in the middle surrounded by white rice).

But perhaps most common is for umeboshi to be found in おにぎり onigiri. Onigiri are rice balls often wrapped in のり nori (seaweed). Pitted umeboshi can be placed in the center of the onigiri for a very scrumptious snack.

I might add, eating an onigiri (with umeboshi inside) with Jagariko snacks is excellent.