Favourite TED talks: #1: Kevin Slavin on algorithms that shape our world

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WTF Japan? Commercial #1: Clap Your Hands, Hair!

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My reaction to the attack in Copenhagen

Waking up in Tokyo to the news that someone fired what is believed to be up to 40 shots into a meeting of innocent people – all in the hope to kill a Swedish cartoonist.
The cartoonist was attending a meeting about the limits of the freedom of expression in the heart of one of the most peaceful areas of Copenhagen. I guess the point was to exchange views and arguments about what the limits of free expression should be. The Cartoonist’s crime seems to be that he has drawn an image of the prophet. Some of the people there were probably there to argue that the Swedish cartoonist had been wrong to draw the image.
Later shots were fired at the main synagogue in Copenhagen.
The person or persons who have been shooting at a meeting about freedom of expression and a place of worship are making their arguments with a gun, firing indiscriminately at people.
To me it screams one thing above all else: this is someone who cannot accept the fact that he or she has no real arguments against yours.
That their truth must be based on the twisted circular logic that if you do not share my point of view, you are not only wrong, but also a worthless human being due to your lack of sharing my views.
This sadly desperate argument is not in anyway owned by extremists who call themselves Muslims, it is not the property of anti-abortionists blowing up clinics in America, who think of themselves as good Christians.
It is passed around freely amongst extremists of all creeds, colours and religions and used as the central justification for so much senseless violence, destruction and death.
This morning I have woken up to it happening in Copenhagen, a place that I called home for almost ten years.
Having something like this happen close to home, close to people you love, is incredibly uncomfortable. My first reaction is one of anger and indignation, mixed with some degree of helplessness of not being able to affect the situation, and of wanting to ensure that it never happens again – by whatever means necessary.
These are, however, the exact feelings that I think have fuelled the person or persons who carried out this deed of destruction.
For them it led to the conclusion that shooting indiscriminately at buildings full of innocent men, women and children – children so young they have no real understanding of why they are where they are, except that they are with their parents and that means everything is right and that they are supposed to be safe – was a fully justifiable thing to do. Something that in their closed, twisted logic was actually laudable.
While it is one of the most difficult things to do, this is the time to take a step back and take a broader look at what is happening.
If we do this, I believe that – as Caitlin Moran recently expressed in The Times much more elegantly than I can ever hope to – we will see that this pathetic act of violence in its own way shows how the arguments supporting democracy are so much stronger than those of extremists.
That the right to a continuous, free and open discussion and debate on right and wrong leads to a stronger foundation for society than a closed, static adherence to one authoritative principle handed down from ancient times ever will. That it breeds arguments that no extremist has an answer to.
That, as Bertrand Russell put it many years ago, there is an incredible strength in the argument: “I would never die for my beliefs, because I might be wrong.”; let alone kill because of them.
My heart goes out to all those I know in Copenhagen, and I hope and believe that the coming weeks will show that the Danish response to an attack such as this one will be guided by these arguments.

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Hard to decide who won the battle between Google Translate and my local Japanese swimming pool


I was looking for more information about my local Japanese swimming pool (not the one pictured above, I hasten to add), and ended up clicking on the page for rules and regulations. Now I love Google Translate, and I have to say that I think it almost, almost, almost got things right when I asked it to translate the Japanese rules and regulations to English.

However, being ever so slightly off target does make a trip to Yamato Swimming Pool sound like something of a surreal road trip, and includes advice such as ‘Hazardous materials, dog, cat, bring in pets, please refrain.’ and ‘Beat plate usable, usable under the helpers guardian of monitoring. Diving is a total ban.’

Below are the rules in all their ‘huh????’ glory. Enjoy :-)

Wear a swimsuit, swimming cap always please. It is not possible to admission in the clothes.
Elementary School third grade the following children and infants requires attendant of guardian.
(You can admission up to two people to protect one person) The guardian, is called a person 16 years of age or older with parents or supervising capacity.
Use of the only elementary school children with no parents, is up to 16:45.
(16:45 or later, use of primary school children in the pool will require attendance of more than 16-year-old guardian.)
infant diapers and training pants are not completely take, you can not enter.
(In our pool, “swim diaper” does not offer, thank you for your cooperation.)
Watch, rings that appeared and necklaces, with the danger, earrings, bracelets, mobile phone, bring glass products such as hazardous materials is prohibited.
Nostoc verrucosum float, I can use from October 1, 2002. In addition, you can not use the float of more than one meter in diameter. Paddle, snorkel, use and bring such as flippers, please refrain.
(Beat plate usable, usable under the helpers guardian of monitoring)
Diving is a total ban.
Glasses, you can use at the pool side, but it can not enter into the water while wearing glasses. (Infant pool Todan-shitsu jacuzzi excluded) or in water remove the glasses, please use the prescription goggles.
Soap, you can not use the shampoo, etc.. In addition, cosmetic, please drop hair dressing always. (Oil, lotion, etc. prohibited)
Locker room is unisex. Please change of clothes in the locker room.
Use time of the pool, after you pass through the entrance gate, it is time to exit.
Follow the lifeguards instructions in the pool.
It is not possible to bring in newspapers and magazines and food and drink. It is not possible to admission of under the influence of alcohol.
I will not assume any responsibility for theft. (For theft prevention, please be sure to put the key in the coin lockers (100 yen / once / return type).
Without permission marketing and sales activities, etc. in the pool within the facility I is prohibited. (Especially ban doing business such as swimming classroom)
People with disabilities notebook, If you have a rehabilitation notebook, you can be available for free (Please present to accept guidance). Please contact us at the reception for caregivers necessary to notebook holder.
Photography and video shooting, etc. in the pool I is prohibited.
First Aid for the accident in the facility is done, but it does not take subsequent responsibility.
People who are sick, such as colds and infectious diseases, people with diarrhea symptoms can not enter.
Hazardous materials, dog, cat, bring in pets, please refrain. However, handicapped assistance dogs are excluded.
If to be in the swimming pool facility was found to be dangerous, will then exit with prohibits or restricts use.
So you do not bother to others in the facility, also fixtures please carefully use.
Other, questions or questions regard to facility use, please contact the reception guidance If you have any physical inconvenience.

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Local house is…see for yourself

I quite like is, but it does have a very, very, very clear difference in design of one floor compared to the other:


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The reason why going the toilet in Japan will have you humming poodle rock


You’ve probably heard your fair bit of stories about Japanese toilets. And yes, some of them have more buttons and functions than your average fighter jet. And yes, when visiting public restrooms, some Japanese people will continually flush the toilet in order to hide the sound of what they’re doing. It’s a weird custom that has cost so much water that the government actually ran an educational campaign to make people stop doing it – to little effect.

More effective was the mass deployment in public loos of the little gizmo below, which is basically a toilet sound generator. Press the button and it makes the sound of a toilet being flushed – I shit you not (pun intended).


Now you might have notice the brand name on both the space age toilet and sound generator. Yes, one of the biggest toilet manufacturers in Japan shares its name with this band from the 80’s:

Personally, this fact has had two consequences:

One, I have freaked out/confused a fair share of Japanese people who have walked into a public restroom to find a gaijin involuntarily humming ‘Hold the Line’.

Two, five-year-old me has been smirking over the fact that I’m finally able to pay adequate homage to the band.

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When you need a little Dartmoor in your life

I’ve been thoroughly blessed by having two places in the world that I call home. One is Denmark and the other is the South West of England. Devon, to be specific. My two favourite parts of Devon are the beaches and the Dartmoor National Park. For an idea about what the national park is like, check out this stunning time-lapse video.

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