Saturday, April 30, 2005
This news from ABC isn't embarrasing, it's actually sad. Small arms, even those guaranteed by constitutions like the one in the U.S., is harmful. Plainly dangerous. There are so many irresponsible people out there that even a car is a deadly weapon in their hands, and then you have laws which allow to posses weapons. Paradox. If any government - not only the one in the U.S. - is serious with it's goal of security and peace, they might want to look into their own backyard and disarm their own population.

School Mistakes Huge Burrito for a Weapon

The Mozilla Foundation produced a new, open source browser called Firefox. If this is news to you and you still use Internet Explorer (reasons to switch), go and get Firefox, download it, install it, use it. Btw, this journal doesn't look as good as it should with IE and I can't think of a better reason to get a decent browser. :-)

Get Firefox!

Firefox: 50,000,000 downloads (8:58 AM PST 4/29/05)

Friday, April 29, 2005
Spiegel Online was yesterday, say hello to newsmap.
Newsmap is an application that visually reflects the constantly changing landscape of the Google News news aggregator. A treemap visualization algorithm helps display the enormous amount of information gathered by the aggregator. Treemaps are traditionally space-constrained visualizations of information. Newsmap's objective takes that goal a step further and provides a tool to divide information into quickly recognizable bands which, when presented together, reveal underlying patterns in news reporting across cultures and within news segments in constant change around the globe.
Newsmap does not pretend to replace the googlenews aggregator. It's objective is to simply demonstrate visually the relationships between data and the unseen patterns in news media. It is not thought to display an unbiased view of the news, on the contrary it is thought to ironically accentuate the bias of it.

Prime Minister Koizumi is trying to strengthen bilateral ties with India - further ensuring support for the UNSC bid? Japan already backs India and they will return the favor. The article at Reuters mentioned another detail - Japan is only the fourth biggest investor in India, after the United States... and Mauritius (Britain is 3rd). I knew Mauritius only from stories about the Dodo. Now it seems, since their independence some 37 years ago, they took off-shore banking literally. Not bad for a rather small island in the Indian Ocean. Even Deutsche Bank joined the party.

Reuters - Japan seeks partnership with India as China looms

Thursday, April 28, 2005
We had another appointment with the gynecologist, this time mainly for the results of a trimester-test. Before the test, the chance for a trisomy 21 anomaly was 1:400, now it is somewhere around 1:10000. Good for us, I'm happy we don't have to think about a next step, in case the odds were worse afterwards than before. When we asked about an accoucheuse (midwife), the doctor said there's no need for one before the birth as they can do all the care, check-ups etc. as well, if we wanted one for the first weeks after the birth we could decide that later. I thought midwives have tight schedules and are booked up months in advance - and that the majority of parents utilizes their services. Mentioning the ventricular vestibule septum defect, the doctor said she would check it next month. It's just strange that when I asked first whether it is passed on in the family, she said no and that we shouldn't worry about it. When I made clear that I have had it and not my parents, she changed her mind and wrote it down to check it next time. If it's not passed on genetically, why the change of heart? (no pun intended)

It's already the second time she's acting in an uncertain way. Perhaps we'll find another doctor. I noticed something else, which has nothing to do with her competence as a gynecologist: When shaking hands, she looked elsewhere, but not into my eyes. It gives me the impression she's somewhere else in her mind. If she were Japanese, the missing eye contact wouldn't surprise me as much, but with Germans it is unusual.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005
The GEO Magazine reports that Samurai were among the first who used toothbrushes regularily - the brushes were wooden sticks, wrapped in cloth. I wonder what they used to tooth paste. - Kulturgeschichte

I used the Kubrick for Blogger template for the page (original template by Michael Heinemann, the old one was too dark and uninviting. Still some stuff to do though, but right now that should be enough. I had to relearn some programs I used to design with in the past, also, since I didn't really code for ages modifying was difficult enough. Too bad there won't be time to learn CSS properly.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005
How much spam do you get? In my case, it's between 60-150 spam mails a day, which is about 81% of all emails I get. Lately, it's not only spam that's annoying. Early in the morning, we have regularily Jehovah's Witnesses at our doorstep, besides people ringing our bell to drop advertisement several times a day (and everyone claims to be the mail(wo)man - living on the fourth floor, I don't feel like checking every time), salesmen, phone company agents trying to sell new products and what not. I haven't gotten spit yet, but that might be only a matter of time. Anyway. Now I got spam, that really, really crossed the fine line of decency. A friend of mine has a boyfriend, he's some kind of therapist. Opening our letterbox, I found advertisement for some kind of Lovers Journey and partner therapy from a doctor for depth psychology and other workshops, charging between 150 and 1000 Euros. The before mentioned boyfriend was one of the conductors - I was tempted to fill his name into the application as partner therapy seems something he needs far more than I (we) do. Being divorced and a more or less single parent with psychological issues he really ought to work out, he's not the kind of person I would go to for counseling. Meeting him the next time will be interesting. "Friendly spam" hit the fan.

Monday, April 25, 2005
Sounds like science fiction to me - more exactly, like Star Trek's Holodeck. For educational purposes, this could be a major step forward: Imagine schools and universities equipped with such devices. Instead of listening to a lecturer about Einstein, Gaius Caesar or the Battle of Verdun, you could actually "be" there, experience it yourself, talk to the persons involved etc.

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft: CyberWalk

Sunday, April 24, 2005
Today my wife and I visited an exhibition in Aachen about Sophie Calle's work. It was the last day of the exhibition.

My wife, studying history of arts and the "professional" of the two of us when it comes to art, liked the exhibition very much. Myself, I have to confess, I am less enthusiastic. The work I had problems with is exquisite pain, which took some time to absorb in its completeness.

The idea to tell and re-tell the same story from different angles is intriguing, but the first part - "before the pain" - in connection to the second part was actually very dissapointing. The reason for my dissapointment may be due to my personal view on life and values, less to the story told. I'm still thinking about the reason though. Sophie travelled to Japan, leaving behind a man, who broke up with her directly after her trip and didn't even care to tell her the truth in person in New Delhi. Truth being told, I'm not sure how "exquisite pain" can be that intense as how she displayed it to be. I was looking for every picture, reading piece after piece up to a certain point. Somewhere in between, she wrote to her lover something he would "never read" - because she slept with a stranger (I think she was already in Japan at that time). At that point, I thought, "how much does she really love her boyfriend back in Paris? Does she love him at all? What does he mean to her?". Progressing to the part of the story where her boyfriend left her, I thought, "Well, they both didn't really seem to care enough about one another" - because if they did, she would't cheat on him and he would't leave her for somebody else. That's why the display of pain afterwards wasn't that convincing to me. Certainly, this is a perspective on the situation with different values - and I'm not going so far to deny other people emotions, pain or love. I wondered Sophie Calle's boyfriend might have reacted if he learned from her one night stand during her travel. If he were an artist like her, he might create a similar work, don't you think? I left the exhibition with the feeling that - if not one side of the story - at least parts of it remain untold?

I remembered her email address from her correspondence with Josh Greene, the guy she lent her bed to to overcome the end of his relationship. I hope she doesn't mind me writing to her directly.

My favourite piece in the exhibition was the text next to the mirror ("Benedict - a woman vanishing") in which people visiting a museum were categorized and compared to one of four animals: ant, butterfly, grasshopper and fish. The ant walks meticulously from piece to piece, to not miss out any work. The butterfly flies from one part in the exhibition to another, without a plan. The grasshopper sees one work he likes and jumps ahead, ignoring everything inbetween. The fish slowly floats by, but never stops.

I think I am an ant.

Saturday, April 23, 2005
If this is true, I need a year of vacation from the internet.

Emails 'pose threat to IQ'

Friday, April 22, 2005
Not really news, but good to know: The 'Le Kremlin-Bicêtre Cedex' research institute in France published a report about spontaneous abortion. The probability increased with the parents' age. If the father is over 35, the chance increases about 30%, a 40 years old mother has three times the chance of a miscarriage than a mother of 25. The sooner you get a child, the better.

Influence of Paternal Age on the Risk of Spontaneous Abortion

Japan's Prime Minister Koizumi apologized in front of 100 Asian and African leaders for the damage Japan is responsible for in World War II. Hu Jintao, the Chinese president was also present, and I would be really curious to know what they will talk about directly during the Asia-Africa summit in Jakarta. Unfortunately, Japan will have to show that its words are backed by actions. Right now, the opposite is the case, and that is exactly why apologies can be made, but their believability is equal to zero if at the same time 80 Japanese members of parliament turn out to pay their respects to Japan's war dead at Yasukuni shrine. What do the Chinese, Koreans and other people see right now? On the one hand, one part of the government apologizes for the war and and at the same time, a considerably big part of the parliament pays its respect at a temple with enshrined war criminals. The parliamentarys' spokesman said, they paid the 'visit to honor the dead and pray for peace', there seems to be quite an insensibility towards the additional meaning of the visit.

There have been plans to move the war criminals out of the shrine as an attempt to defuse the problem. Unfortunately, the government can't has no influence over Yasukuni's priesthood in this matter. Although Shinto experts have confirmed that a relocation of class-A war criminals can be done, the priests in control have no inclination of doing so. They (correctly) refer to the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion, but a look on their website reveals a revisionist and nationalist view on history. Interesting enough, the Google search result in English gives as a description Includes photos, FAQ, and its nationalist war memorial museum. The description hits the mark. Let's take a look at their website.
The text books used in history instruction at intermediate schools from the 1997 school year will contain material on the subject of comfort women. The textbooks depict as a historical fact the story of Asian women who were forced into prostitution by the Japanese Army. Imparting this story to students who are still young and immature has become a great problem since last year. [...] Can we say that this view is correct? [...] We cannot help but feel that the possibility of ulterior motives have not been discounted. [...] Japan's dream of building a Great East Asia was necessitated by history and it was sought after by the countries of Asia. [...] We cannot overlook the intent of those who wish to tarnish the good name of the noble souls of Yasukuni.

I guess the content doesn't require further explanation, the message is quite clear. The shrine claims eight million visitors per year, including top government officials. The shrine itself might be independant, but the message the shrine and the visits send out to Japan's neighbors weight far more than words. I can't imagine China will be contented by Prime Minister Koizumi's recent apology, there's quite a chance that it will be seen as an opportunistic move to increase Japan's chances for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council - irrespective of the honesty of the apology.

Koizumi Apologizes for Past, Meeting with Hu Sought

Thursday, April 21, 2005
Sometimes you surf the net and you don't know where the next click takes you. I read a posting in the newsgroup soc.culture.japan.moderated about a review at The article's title in question was The Dave and Tony Show. Read the review what the two books are about - I can really recommend the second one to anyone who's married to a foreigner, but especially to Japanese readers. The review mentiones a guy named Olaf Karthaus. As this name sounds German, and since I'm a very curious person, I looked it up in Google. The top page listed in the results was a copyright form in German for a "Project Daniel". I moved two parent directories up and found The Daniel Project.

On first look, it was a memorial site for a child as I have read a few in the last several years. Then one sentence caught my eye: "Born with a severe congenital heart defect." That sounded familiar. When I was born, I was diagnosed with a ventricular septum defect, I was a blue baby with a little opening in the wall between my two lower heart chambers. My condition though was far less life-threatening than Daniels. In contrast to him, I didn't need any surgery. I wasn't allowed to participate in every sport event at school, but when I turned 14, my body seemed to have healed all by itself, the systolic murmur detected by cardiac auscultation in regular checkups was gone. I read the whole website, including the book about Daniel's life, his surgeries and his death. I can't remember when I have been so touched to tears by somebody's writing on the net. I haven't thought about it earlier, but now I'm a little bit worried whether our own baby will be healthy or not since there's an indication of a genetic link. Let's hope for the best, my wife's genes aren't as crappy as mine are.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Benedictus XV.Benedictus XV. (1914-1922)

"Habemus papam" is probably the most important sentence said this year. After a long day doing research in the library, falling almost unconscious onto the sofa and turning on the news, this was really a surprise. Alright, I wasn't right with Tettamanzi and I thought the conclave might take longer because the participants have no pressure to hurry up, their lodging is comfortable like never before and the Sistine Chapel has a roof (one conclave was speeded up by exposing the conclave to the roughness of nature). The new pope's name is Benedictus XVI. The last pope with this name was Giacomo della Chiesa (1914-1922), he failed repeatedly to conciliate the parties involved in World War I. Benedictus is the first word in the song of Zacharias at the birth of John the Baptist. Traditionally, the choice for the new name carries a message. I wonder why cardinal Josef Ratzinger chose that name.

One sidenote: "That a German has been elected as pope is a moment of pride, it is an honor," said Angela Merkel, the leader of the opposition Christian Democratic Union (source: Spiegel Online). Pride has never been a favorable or salutary emotion. Pride as the strong emotion it is can be hurt, be it by other people's insults, or in extreme cases, by simple difference of opinion. Where I'd have to agree, Benedict XVI.'s heritage as German apparently wasn't a disqualification for his eligibility.

Monday, April 18, 2005
Since the end of World War II Japan has - in contrast to Germany - never really looked back and dealt with the shadows of their history. Surely, there has been an apology by the government under Miyazawa for example (first apology by a Japanese prime minister in a policy speech), there's the normalization agreement with South Korea from 1965, reparations have been talked about, but the issue of Military Comfort Women hasn't been on the table until the 90ies.

A lecturer at the Institute of Modern Japan once said, Japan behaves 'like a bull in a china shop' when it comes to its history - and he might not be mistaken in this point. Shintarô Ishihara, Tokyo's governor and Prime Minister Koizumi are good examples. In 2000, Ishihara referred to Koreans and Taiwanese as "sangokujin" and calling on Japan's Self-Defense Forces to maintain order if the immigrants rioted in the aftermath of an earthquake. On several occasions Ishihara suggested that the Rape of Nanking was a Chinese fabrication. He is still Tokyo's governor. There are other shadows in the past nobody likes to talk about, chemical and biological warfare and experimentation with prisoners by Unit 731, for example. I don't think I've ever read anything about in Japanese media. Prime Minister Koizumi repeatedly visited Yasukuni shrine, which is a well known memorial, where the remains of 14 convicted and executed Japanese war criminals are interred. I sometimes think those visits were comparable to a visit of a German chancellor to a church with a graveyard where Nazi-Germany's military political leaders are buried. All of Europe would cry out loud, for sure. There are regular protests in China and South Korea, but until now, Japan's conservatives had the luxury to largely ignore those protests.

Another weak point is the so-called textbook scandal. Being the only victim of nuclear attacks, post-WWII Japan allowed itself to more or less blend out their active role as committers of war crimes and to focus on its role as victim. The textbooks issued by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform play down Japan's role, but fortunately, most Japanese teachers traditionally lean to the left and use other books. Nevertheless, there's an obvious decrease in knowledge about both sides of the story noticable.

A few years ago, the Institute of Modern Japan in Düsseldorf organized a meeting with several Japanese aged 18 to over 60 to talk about WWII. The younger the person, the less they knew about what the imperial army actually did in Asia 60 years ago.

Now, Japan rallies to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Since its neighbors are not happy with the way Japan deals with the past, protests rose in the past weeks. In China, a grass-roots movement started an internet campain, gathering more than 30 Million signatures to express their feeling of opposition. Also, large anti-Japan protests broke out, for example in Shanghai, where the manager (born '63) I'm teaching German travelled to last week. It'll be interesting what he thinks about the whole matter. If Japan's leaders really want to get into the UNSC in September - provided there won't be a consensus and the General Assembly will get to vote on the matter - talking to China, South Korea and other Asian countries will be crucial.

Thilenius-Kolumne: Kleiner Anlass, große Krise

Sunday, April 17, 2005
I've been using Skype for a while now since the company I'm working at uses it for communication between our office and tele-workers. I've also registered at Sipgate as they issue free VoiceIP phone numbers, and use it with X-Lite. Skype's quality is far better, and yet almost nobody knows my sipgate phone number, but that could change sooner or earlier. Beside those offers, Freenet and their iPhone include 100 free minutes, so I signed up as well - but today it got even better:

Today somebody posted a news in usenet, a company called Voipbuster offers free calls to any regular phone in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland and United Kingdom! Just tested the quality, it's comparable to mobile phones. I wonder how long they can keep this offer, they will have a hard time generating money if calls are completely free. Too bad Skype won't be offering SIP support ...ever.

Friday, April 15, 2005
Science did it again. Every once in a while, somebody cooks up an interesting experiment about some aspect of everybody´s neighbor normal life and publishes in the consequence an absolute "in your face" result that shocks every parent. I´m not a parent (yet), but I wonder. If my kid is going to be the neigborhood´s ugly duckling, will I be less attentive and giving than I would be if the kid was a future topnotch model? Would you? Really? How can you be sure?

The theory goes like that: You´re automatically more likely to lavish attention to the attractive child because it´s made of the best genetic material. The brothers, sisters weren´t just as lucky. Makes me think, when I look at the sonograms. Then again, I look into the mirror, think of my wife and our life together - and suddenly there´s nothing to worry about anymore. ;-)

Researchers show parents give unattractive children less attention

Thursday, April 14, 2005
When I was 16, a friend of mine and me made a bet: Within ten years, a character in a computer game would be able to do everything and anything that a real person could with other people or inanimate objects within the game world. That was eleven years ago, and I almost won. Surely, technology leaped forward and developed into forms we didn´t even dream of. I can remember how I first saw Strike Commander by Chris Roberts in a then popular magazine and thought that must be the best graphics I ever saw in a game and perhaps, it would be difficult to do better. Couldn´t have been more wrong, honestly.
Anyway, today Spiegel Online published interesting news about the gaming industry. Notable blue chips start advertising in online games like Anarchy Online. The ads version is for free, the ad-free version still costs you. Enough to hook people on the game? Perhaps. I´m curious enough to try it out, there´s a torrent available here. It is the last, but not least, sign that computer games hit mainstream. I wonder whether there´ll be a webwasher for games one day, too.

Another game that cought my eye was Food Force. Not because the graphics are eyecandy, but because of the moral message the game carries. The player´s task is to do humanitarian work, give aid to villages, feed thousands of people - the WFP, the world food programme is behind the game and is certainly worth a look.

The article over at Spiegel Online (in German):

Virtuelle Plakate: Anzeigenattacke im Online-Spiel

Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Now, this is really bad news. Germany already has a low birth rate, especially among young academic families - the women prefer education over reproduction and I certainly can´t blame them. If a woman doesn´t have a good chance to keep her job or to be able to continue with her old job as soon as the bread-earner can share the burden of day care with her, they will continue to choose not to get kids. Mr Hundt might have his reasons for his claim, but it´s going to have a rather negative effect on the German population in the long run. "Reintegration of parents into the job market" is a worthy aim, but cutting down on mothers´ rights is the wrong direction.

Sparforderung: Arbeitgeber wollen Job-Garantie für Mütter verkürzen

Monday, April 11, 2005
The pope is dead, long live the pope - and I´m very sure it´s going to be Dionigi Tettamanzi, Milan´s archbishop or Carlo Maria Martini, who stepped down as archbishop in the same city.

The Pope's Legacy: John Paul II and Europe's Revolution of Freedom

I differ with the idea that computers generally dumb down kids, it´s rather like everything else: If you use or do one thing too much, you get out of balance. That´s what happens to kids, who play too much with their playstation (what happened to meeting friends outside?) and watch TV for the whole afternoon. ;-)

How computers make kids dumb | Channel Register

And now to something completely different, really worth a read, even if you´re not interested in technology...

New Scientist 13 things that do not make sense - Features

Sunday, April 10, 2005
Ultraschall 2005-04-06
6. sonogram

Tuesday, April 05, 2005
5. sonogram