Sep 30, 2004

Reminiscent of Alice's adventures

In college a friend remarked once, after an all-nighter or vision quest or some such thing, that it would be great if trees could serve as natural audio speakers. I wasn't exactly sure what he meant at the time, and later neither was he.

But someone else apparently had a similar idea. Because now - on a somewhat smaller scale - the dream has become reality.

MDN reports:
The therapeutic power of flowers takes on new meaning with a Japanese gadget that turns plants into audio speakers, making the petals and leaves tremble with good vibrations.

Called Ka-on, which means "flower sound" in Japanese, the machine consists of a donut-shaped magnet and coil at the base of a vase that hooks up to a CD player, stereo or TV.

Masumi Gotoh, president of Japanese telecommunications-equipment company Let's Corp., explains about the company's new invention. (image and text from MDN)

Let's Corp., the Nagoya-based telcom equipment company that developed and manufactures the Ka-on, offers no relevant English and little background science regarding the product on their website (Japanese). But they do show pictures of the various models (LF-511, etc., ranging from $46 to $460) and provide brief advice on how to achieve the desired results. They also request Ka-on users to recommend any plants that yield particularly good sound.

In addition to the visual aesthetic, Ka-on is reported to provide benefits such as a "more natural" ambient 360-degree sound, as well as providing longer life for cut flowers and serving as an insect deterrent. "The plant is happy listening to music," says Let's president Masumi Gotoh.

The Ka-on is also available in speaker phone models.

Ka-on speaker phone (from Let's website)

Sep 28, 2004

Art reapers

"A rice paddy showing an enlarged work of Aomori woodblock artist Shiko Munakata (1903-1975) is harveted in Inakadate, Aomori Prefecture." (pic and text from MDN)

MDN first ran a short story and photo of the as-yet-unripe work back in July. I'm glad they followed up with this snapshot of the harvest underway.

Host or guest?

Fourteen days of the three-week silence at dailysoy can be explained by the visit to Japan of my college buddy John and his squeeze Karen. Rie and I were ostensibly playing host... they stayed in one corner of our cramped apartment, after all. But John ended up guiding us around Japan, introducing us to sights - many of them architectural - that may have otherwise remained outside our usual cone of vision. A look at his photos here and here will give you an idea of the list of places they came prepared to search out.

It was great to see familiar faces again. And of course it's always nice touring around and dining out with friends. But now we have to think about how to entertain my folks when they show up in early October.

Sep 7, 2004

Crazy weather

Typhoon number 18, known as Songda outside Japan, has done its worst damage in Okinawa, Kyushu, and elsewhere in southwestern Japan, and is now cruising to the northeast where it is expected to retire in the Sea of Okhotsk. Another smaller typhoon - you guessed it, number 19 - is heading this way but is slated for downgrading to "puny wannabe tropical storm" before it ever hits the mainland.

map of current typhoon action from the Japan Meteorological Agency website

But just because these storms rarely center over Tokyo doesn't mean we miss out on the action completely. Quasi-typhoon weather has been toying with us all day, beginning with the mystery sprinkles this morning. The sky was blue, with just a few fluffy white clouds visible, yet from somewhence fell rain. Then there are the incessant winds, ranging in strength from "blustery" to "Joan Rivers." These winds are deceptively chilly; underneath the surface they are humid and mineral-rich, rendering human skin sticky and incapable of breathing. Garbage cans are sent rolling, bicycles are tossed about like so much tinkertoy, and mackerel and saury fall from the sky. Between 7 and 8 this evening we were treated to an encore of serious rain, the majority of it falling at an angle acute to ground level. Many unfortunate souls were returning from work at this time with no umbrella, but the few with umbrellas were no better off. By 9 the wind had all but dried the streets.

At least with all the concrete here we needn't fear landslides.
Of course, there are always earthquakes.