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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Augmented Shrine

Here’s a piece of art I found on-line that I really liked.

It’s by an artist named Elijah McNeal from Texas, who calls this work “Augmented Shrine”.

Artists like McNeal and my pal Pa5cal, they like to take the organic and infuse it with inorganic.

While this infusion is mild, it certainly is augmented.

HERE’s where I found his art—the muted colors showcase a fair bit of pinks and purples, and while naught else is organic infused, they all possess that Akira/Blade Runner vibe to them - in a good way.

There seems to be more of a collection of his work over at, plenty of mech, tech and what the heck?!

Elijah - great stuff!

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Brave Racists Coming Out

On Thursday afternoon, my friend Vinnie sent me a contributed Forbes article written by Internet buddy Jake Adelstein.

We're not really buddies, but have conversed a few times via Twitter. Jake is a newspaper journalist - a gaijin who had worked the police beat for Japanese language newspapers, and then wrote a very eye-opening tale about the yakuza (Japan's version of the mob), called Tokyo Vice.

It's a very good book that anyone interested in Japan... the real gritty Japan... should buy a copy of and read once or twice. 

Anyhow, you should read Jake's latest piece in Forbes HERE.

Jake writes about a Korean prejudice that appears to be emanating from the female (her sex is unimportant, but I mention it in case you don't know Japanese names) Governor of  Tokyo Koike Yukio (surname first).

The fact that Governor Koike appears to have a prejudice against Koreans isn't in itself mind-blowing. I've found - granted this was 25 years ago - that when the Japanese talk about Korea or Koreans, they don't seem to hold them in high regard.

I discussed this with Vinnie via a couple of e-mails.

I told him how even my locals from the fair city of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken - who treated me with complete respect... even going out of their way to correct others from calling me a "gaijin/outsider", telling them to refer to me as An-do-ryu-sensei (Andrew teacher)... well, when it came to the Koreans, it was a horse of a different color.

We were discussing the Hyundai motor car company, who were building their Korean car in Japan... and I asked my locals what they thought of the cool Hyundai cars... and to a person, all turned their nose up at it.

Why... because it's Korean, and therefore not as good as a Japanese car.

That might have just been self-pride. Back in the 1990s, I can confirm that the Japanese were very proud of being Japanese... maintaining a bit of snob mentality about it.

I can tell you that no one wanted to discuss their attitude in front of other Japanese... just with me, when I was alone with them. They kept their true feelings to themselves back then.

Why to me? I don't know. Why do people tell me anything? They do, though. Maybe I just ask the right questions in the right way. It's my curse. It's also why I'm quite open about myself, here in this blog.

For example, one of the plans the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme had for us foreigners, was to internationalize the Japanese... to make them discover that people are people... that they (the Japanese) are NOT superior to everyone else.

It wasn't like everyone sucks, except the Japanese, but rather more like everything about Japan and from Japan was better than everyone else.

Except when it came to the Koreans... in that case, Koreans and Korean things were inferior.

No... not EVERYONE felt that way... that's an assumption.... I asked a lot of people... and everyone felt Korea et al were inferior, but I assume NOT EVERYONE felt that way. I'm a realist. Still... these people were my friends... and my friends seemed to have racist attitudes.

As an aside... before coming to Japan, one of my very best friends - a White dude - confided that he had never had a Brown friend before... assuming us all to be curry-eating ragheads... but not me... I was different, he assured me. Fawwwwk. He wasn't even drunk when he said that... but it was meant to imply that I was okay because I was the whitest Brown guy ever and didn't speak with an accent and loved Canada, The Tragically Hip and Rush and hockey. I still do... but really... there but for the grace of God, go I because I speak proper English without an accent. You know he never would have said that racist crap to anyone else... he never did again, mind you... still, back then, I was a chicken sh!t and didn't have the balls to tell him what I really thought.

Back to me in Japan... in my story, the Hyundai were being built in Japan by Japanese autoworkers and probably Japanese robots.

All I could get was that the Japanese didn't care much for their Korean "brethren"... and no one could or would provide details. And this came from my BOSS Mr. Hanazaki... the last person I would have expected it from. 
I think that there is a deep-set hatred of Koreans in Japan. It's like the Koreans are Japan's version of the Gypsies and Jews of pre-WWII Europe.

It goes back generations and generations... and the fact that there still seems to be an ethno-divide... and this is me guessing that the Koreans still seem to identify as Koreans... well... I wonder if that's because of how Japan treats them, or if that's the Korean contingent's choice.

Anyhow... the Tokyo Governor has been supported by radical Japanese groups that whitewash Japan's WWII war atrocities... and there were quite a few of those.

Governor Koike herself also has denied that thousands of Koreans were slaughtered by Japanese mobs in 1923. She's of the opinion that history is written by the winners... or at least can be rewritten after 75 years or so after the fact. It doesn't make it any less of a farce.

My e-mails to Vinnie adds: "It's amazing how all the "haters" come out when they see someone else be unafraid... and in this case I'm talking about Trump.

"While Abe (Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo - surname first) has never been afraid to show his colors, I must admit that he seems to have backed down a bit as Trump goes off the rails... (though) I think he's quietly egging Trump on."

I bring all this up after reading about how in the evening of Thursday, October 19, former U.S. president George W. Bush had this to say:

“Since World War II, America has encouraged and benefited from the global advance of the free markets, from the strength of democratic alliance and from the advance of free societies,” Bush said. “Bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone, provides permission for cruelty and bigotry, and compromises the moral education of children.”
He also warned of the dangers of a worldwide pattern of countries — including some in Europe — “turning inward.” And though Bush did not refer to Trump by name during his remarks, his warning about the current U.S. chief executive was clear.
“America is not immune from these trends,” Bush said. “Bigotry seems emboldened. Our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”

While former president G. W. Bush made mention of America and Europe turning inward, with too much of a "me first" attitude, he probably could have included Japan into that mix.

Bush's dad, George H. Bush, when he was president barfed all over Japan prime minister Miyazawa Kiichi. The man was sick, but still felt it his duty to play diplomat - and I respect that, so you'll have to look up the videos of this incident without my help.

My point... heil myself, is that there is nothing wrong with wanting to look after your own, but it should not be done with complete disregard for others.

The "me first" attitude always seems to play on prejudice and bigotry, and in current politics, sexism - the complete disregard for anyone different from "me".

If it's okay for one leader of the free world to do it, why not its population? Why not politicians from other countries?

Let's just say that there were and are, a lot of closest racists in Canada and the U.S. and everywhere else... and they have become emboldened to speak their mind nowadays since their political leaders are doing it. Oh yeah... what a wonderful rife.

This is what we are seeing now. We saw it all back in the 1930s, and we ignored it until it was too late.

As the old adage goes: Those that forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Image from Forbes: Tokyo Governor and leader of the Party of Hope Yuriko Koike greets her supporters during an election campaign appearance in Saitama on October 18, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Behrouz MEHRI (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

Friday, October 20, 2017

American Money Prepared In Case Of Japanese Attack

A $5 bill... with the word Hawaii written in the back?

Why couldn't it have been a $50?! Yeah, like no one else was thinking about Hawaii 5-0!

What we have here, however, is the not-yet-State of Hawaii, specially marked overprint for four denominations of currency, consisting of:

One dollar silver certificate; a five, 10 and 20-dollar Federal reserve Note, that were issued on June 25, 1942… just in case Japan captured Hawaii.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941—Hawaii, which was then a protectorate of the United States of America (much as Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are today), and each of those countries was allowed to vote in US elections, and could use American money.

By the way, here’s a list of FORMER protectorates of the United States of America:

    •    Liberia (1822–1847)
    •    Cuba (1898–1904)
    •    Panama Canal Zone (1903–1979)
    •    Haiti (1915-1935)
    •    Honduras (1903–1925)
    •    Nicaragua (1912–1933)
    •    Dominican Republic (1914–1924)
    •    Sultanate of Sulu (1903–1915)
    •    Germany (1945-1949)
    •    South Korea (1945-1948)
    •    Ryukyu Islands (1945-1972)
    •    Commonwealth of the Philippines (1934–1946): Under the provisions of the Tydings–McDuffie Act, the territory would become self-governing although its military and foreign affairs would be under the United States.
    •    Hawaii (1850s–1894/1898)
    •    Compact of Free Association
The Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau have a similar status (associated state) since their independence.

Anyhow, just in case Japan was able to take over Hawaii, American military officials were concerned that the Japanese would then get their hands on a whole lot of Us money, which could be taken from banks or even private people.

So, on January 10, 1942 Military governor Delos Carleton Emmons signed an order to recall all regular US paper money in the Hawaiian Islands… noting, however that individual people could carry up to $200, and businesses $500 (plus extra paper money for payroll).

Then, on June 25, 1942 the Hawaii overprint banknotes were issued:
  • Series 1935A $1 silver certificate;
  • Series 1934 $5 and $20 Federal Reserve Notes, and;
  • Series 1934A $5, $10, and $20 Federal Reserve Notes from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
If you look at the bills, you Americans especially should see the color difference… each possess a brown-ink color on the serial numbers and the treasury seals.

As well, an overprint of the word “HAWAII” was added: two small overprints to the sides of the obverse of the bill between the border and both the treasury seal and Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco seal, and huge outlined HAWAII lettering dominating the reverse. 
The plan: Should the unthinkable happen and Japan take over Hawaii, the American government could immediately declare any Hawaii-stamped banknotes declared worthless.

The people of Hawaii were told to turn-in all regular US notes by July 15, 1942 and were issued the new Hawaii-overstamp notes.

As of August 15, 1942, ONLY the Hawaii-overstamp notes were considered legal tender in Hawaii… except under special circumstances. 

To ensure the Japanese never did get their hands on the turned in regular banknotes, some $200-million worth of currency was destroyed in Hawaii, rather than attempt to have it shipped back to mainland U.S.A where it could have been waylaid by the Japanese.

At first, a crematorium was used to destroy the money, but when that proved to be too time-consuming, a furnace at the Aiea sugar mill was also used.

Hawaii continued to issue new notes until October 21, 1944. 

But, as of April 1946, the Hawaii-overstamp bank notes were recalled… but like in any recall, not everyone turned in the bills, with more than a few kept as a souvenir.

Denomination    Quantity Printed    Asterisk/Star Notes
$1                             35,052,000        $204,000
$5                               9,416,000        ?
$10                          10,424,000         ?
$20                          11,246,000         $54,500

I’ve never understood why some banknotes have an asterisk/star added to the right of a serial number. Until now. I have a few Canadian banknotes with an asterisk/star… and never knew what it was all about…

As I now understand, they are denoted as “replacement notes”, but these bills are already replacing the standard US currency in Hawaii. I believe it has a star added when a series of notes is accidentally printed with the same serial number—and no two notes should ever have the same serial number… and rather than destroy them (a waste of paper and ink), an asterisk is added.

Andrew Joseph


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Rock'em Sock'em Robots: We Have A Winner

For those of you who are interested, Japan and America went to war on the evening of Tuesday, October 17, 2017.

They battled with giant robots.

I wrote about the hype HERE - and maybe you should (re)familiarize yourselves with it first, or you could simply skip MY hype and watch the hype AND the bout in its entirety in the video below.

No... no spoilers. I wouldn't do that to you. It's 26:42 long. 

Just watch and enjoy:


Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

How A 19th Century Artist Is Helping Clean Up After 21st Century Nuclear Disasters

Yeah… you read the headline correctly, though I admit it is a bit of creative license on my part. Sort of.

Back in the 1830s, Katsushika Hokusai (surname first - but he is, for some reason, better known via his first name, rather than his surname) began using a blue ink on his paintings - such as The Great Wave Off Kanegawa (see above)as part of his epic “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” woodblock print series.

It’s a globally-famous painting, where you will often see artists copy those fingerlets of the waves into projects of their own, from standard art, to manga, to anime… I had always called it the Hokusai wave, long before I had even contemplated going to Japan.

And while the sheer ferociousness of the wave is all-encompassing, one could and should also point to Hokusai’s use of color, as an important means of delivery the image’s impact.

While affectionately called Hokusai Blue by his fans, the color is actually known as Prussian Blue…

Prussia? What’s a Prussia? Well… founded in 1525, and dissolved in 1947, Wikipedia says that “Prussia was a prominent historical German state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg, and centered on the region of Prussia.”

Okay… does it help if I say that its capital was Berlin, and that Prussia is nowadays in parts of Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Denmark, Belgium and the Czech Republic. In other words, it was a pretty big deal.

Hokusai’s blue aka Prussian Blue, aka Berlin blue, Parisian and/or Paris blue.

It has a chemical formula of  chemical formula Fe
. or… it can be written as Fe
· xH

I know… more about color than most people would ever think they would need on a Wednesday.

And why would I bother to tell you about a chemical formula? It’s true… I failed Grade 12 chemistry… apparently you are supposed to study… but never did anyone teach me HOW to study or even what studying was… but that’s a whine for another day.

So what the heck does the paint color with too many damn names have to do with helping to clean up after 21st century nuclear disasters?

Wellllll… if we take the Hokusai Blue pigment, and combine it with cellulose nanofiber (a raw material of paper), one can create a sponge that is highly successful in absorbing radioactive cesium.
Hokusai Blue Cesium Absorption Sponges

So, while useless in cleaning up after such disasters as a forest fire, mudslide, earthquake, volcano or tsunami, the next time there’s a radioactive spill of cesium, Japan’s got a sponge for you.

Developed by a University of Tokyo research team, they have succeeded in synthesizing compound nanoparticles, comprising organic and inorganic substances. This new class of organic/inorganic composite nanoparticles is able to selectively adsorb, or collect on the surface, radioactive cesium.

I was just going to present their research paper here, but I do feel I owe you a shot at turning it into something less scientific.

Now… because the combines Hokusai Blue pigment/ nanofiber was an absorber, they developed sponges from these nano particles… which actually was highly effective in decontaminating water and soil that was exposed to radiation during the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear accident in 2011.

Apparently removing the radioactive elements cesium-134 and -137 (and others) from contaminated seawater or soil is quite difficult.

Fortunately, the Prussian blue (ferric hexacyanoferrate) pigment has a jungle gym-like colloidal structure, and the size of its single cubic opening, is a near-perfect match to the size of cesium ions.

That means it, by itself, is part of a medicine for any human being exposed to radiation, with the express purpose of absorbing cesium radiation.

But, since Prussian blue is highly attracted to water—removing it from the natural environment is extremely difficult.

If you were to take one of Hokusai’s prints where the Hokusai /Prussian Blue pigment is in play, and expose it to water, the color will not fade.

As such, the research team—led by professor Sakata Ichiro  (everyone is surname first)and project professor Fugetsu Bunshi at the University of Tokyo’s Nanotechnology Innovation Research Unit at the Policy Alternatives Research Institute, and project researcher Adavan Kiliyankil Vipin at the Graduate School of Engineering—were able to develop an insoluble nanoparticle obtained from combining cellulose and Hokusai/Prussian blue—when they formed a chemical bond between the pigment and the paper (IE cellulose).

The combined nanoparticle was created by preparing cellulose nanofibers using a process called TEMPO oxidization and securing ferric ions (III) onto them.

They then introduced a bit of hexacyanoferrate (part of the pigment), which adhered to the Prussian blue nanoparticles with a diameter ranging from 5–10 nanometers.

These nanoparticles were very resistant to water and were capable of adsorbing 139 mg of radioactive cesium ion per gram.

Field studies on soil decontamination in Fukushima have been underway since 2016.

A highly effective approach has been to sow and allow plant seeds to germinate inside the sponge made from the nanoparticles, then getting the plants' roots to take up cesium ions from the soil to the sponge.

Water can significantly shorten decontamination times compared to soil, which usually requires extracting cesium from it with a solvent.

Says Vipin: ”The amount of research on cesium decontamination increased after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, but a lot of the studies were limited to being academic and insufficient for practical application in Fukushima. Our research offers practical applications and has high potential for decontamination on an industrial scale not only in Fukushima but also in other cesium-contaminated areas."

Adds Fugetsu: "I was pondering about how Prussian blue immediately gets dissolved in water when I happened upon a Hokusai woodblock print, and how the indigo color remained firmly set in the paper, without bleeding, even after all these years.

"That revelation provided a clue for a solution," he concludes.

And that, my friends, is how Hokusai’s wave… a drawing of water utilizing Hokusai/Prussian Blue pigment, led to a revolutionary way to decontaminate radioactive soil.

Hokusai’s artwork, nearly 200-years-old, continues to inspire.

Andrew Joseph

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Giant Robot Battle - Let’s Get Ready To Rummmm (copyright) lllllll!

It’s been two years in the making, but it’s finally on: MegaBot vs Kuratas, U.S.A. vs. Japan.

Back on July 9, 2015, I wrote about the initial events surrounding the patriotic robot battle…. and two-years later, after lots of hype within the fighting robot community—which means most people don’t hear anything about it—both company’s have completed building their war machines and are reading to take on each other.

Scheduled to take place on Tuesday, October 17, 2017, the giant robot battle will go on, with live streaming of the event planned.

In 2015 when America’s MegaBot laid down the challenge to Japan’s Suidobashi and its Kuratas robots, they only accepted the challenge if it involved hand-to-hand combat, fearing the America robots company would be “typically American” and just slap some guns on its robot, which would only prove that American robots are attune to the U.S. of America’s 2nd Amendment of the United States Constitution. Robots are people, too… right?

"Just building something huge and sticking guns on it. It's Super American ... If we're going to win this, I want to punch them to scrap and knock them down to do it," said Kuratas robot designer Kurata Kogoro  (surname first) Kurata, back in 2015.

Despite the desire for metallic hand-to-hand combat, both robots are expected to possess the ability to shoot/fire projectiles at each other.

MegaBot Specifications:
  • Height: 15 feet (4.57 meters);
  • Weight: 12,000 pounds (5,443.1 kilograms);
  • Movement: Caterpillar treads (2);
  • Cabin: Enclosed steel, but currently in a mesh format;
  • Humans: one pilot and one gunner;
  • Armament: high-powered cannons firing 1.3 kilogram paintballs or paint cans at 120 miles per hour (193.1 kilometers per hour;
  • Control: I'm guessing levers, buttons and pedals - akin to a car.
The paint can projectile could probably dent a car panel… but I wonder how much damage that would do to its robotic opponent. Of course, maybe the plan isn’t to damage it with the high-speed paint can, rather to damage it with the paint can contents… which I assume is paint, but who knows… paint getting into the gears or robotic relays… 

Kuratas Specifications:
  • Height: 13-feet (3.96 meters) - Japanese are shorter than the Americans, after all;
  • Weight: 9,000 pounds (4,082.3 kilograms);
  • Movement: One wheel each on four wide legs that raise robot up and down. It's quick;
  • Cabin: Enclosed roll cage with plexiglass covering providing better pilot protection;
  • Humans: One;
  • Armament: Two Gatling BB cannons, firing 6,000 BB pellets per minute; one water cannon (weak) that fires water-propelled missiles;
  • Control: Augmented reality display in cockpit; automated target acquisition; weapon tracking interface to ensure it continues to hit its target. Locked on is locked on.  
The event will be live-streamed on Twitch and starts at 7pm Pacific on Tuesday, October 17 in North America.

Please not that start time is 11AM in Tokyo, Japan on Wednesday, October 18, 2017.  

Andrew Joseph

Monday, October 16, 2017

Japanese Egg Roll

I’m sure we’ve all heard about a Chinese egg roll… well, how about a Japanese egg roll, as seen above.

To be honest, I’m not sure how the heck it’s made, except I assume it’s a whole bunch of separated hard-boiled egg yolks squished together with plastic wrap and elongated into the cylindrical shape, and then placed within an egg white version created the same.

The now stuffed egg monstrosity is again rolled tight with plastic wrap… perhaps rolled with a small bamboo sushi making roller, and voila! A Japanese egg roll.

Or… because I can’t read the Japanese on the label, it might just be something else all together… anyone out there confident in their Japanese language skills - please learn me. :)

Andrew Joseph