Archive for February, 2007

Technological Advances at Sheffield University

That uni of ours in the UK seems to be undergoing a technological revolution this year.

In 2004, the housing application process was fairly slow, full of forms to sign and useless bumph I didn’t really want.

This year, it has taken the form of two online forms, and two confirmation emails. I’ve paid my deposit, and set up my direct debit.


I’m very happy in that I got my first choice of accommodation – Broad Lane Court, the very place I lived in my first year. I also spent quite a bit of time there last year, as that’s where *Twinkle* was based. Judging by the flat and room number, I’m in the room directly below hers. This means that thankfully I’m not on the ground floor, so a repeat of 2005′s burglary is unlikely. It does, however, mean that my window opens onto prostitute alley. Last year we could clearly hear negotiations taking place on the street below.

The location is great, being just minutes from the Arts Tower, and, once it’s opened (next month) the new library, or rather “Information Commons” (which I note from the webcam is actually looking quite complete, unlike on the map below where it’s still a car park!)


Note the Arts Tower, which contains the School of East Asian Studies, has now been modelled in 3D and added to Google Earth. Great stuff!

Speaking of the Information Commons takes me onto my next surprise re. Sheffield Uni and technology – the new CILASS enterprise, which has been awarded government funding to further Inquiry Based Learning – including what I consider to be a fairly decent grant to my department to enable it to buy a bit of technology which will help it hop out of the 18th century. It also (hopefully) means the end to everyone fighting over the single OHP, and might even result in a heater for the teacher’s office. The newspapers soaked in animal fat that they currently use really stink our classrooms out.

Despite my being in Japan, I too am being brought into this project – we’re going to use the latest Wiggy Wiggy Software to enable me to be present at a symposium held in the brand new Information Commons next month. I think I have to talk about podcasts and Mumbles or something (the quality of which will have to increase significantly if I’m not to be too embarrassed to talk about it on the day). Basically, the idea is, is that you can’t get more Inquiry Based Learning than through a Year Abroad! Also, despite the technology having been around for donkeys years, symposiums at which people are present via live Wiggy Wiggy link from the other side of the world still sound quite exciting for us mere mortals.

Ah, but there’s more! Look what they have in store for future Year Abroad students!

Another amazing happening for the School of East Asian Studies this year has been the successful bid for £4 million of government funding, which has resulted in the establishment of the White Rose East Asia Centre in partnership with Leeds Uni. And there was me getting the impression that our department was suffering from a lack of investment. Ok, so from what I understand the WREAC is a separate entity from SEAS itself, but no doubt SEAS will benefit from the golden glow of its rich sister. Who knows, the lecturers might even be able to stop having to work in bars at weekends to supplement their incomes.

Oh, one other bit of news from Sheffield which I may have already mentioned, *Twinkle* and I put in a successful bid for a bit of money to help us start up a little business. It’s not much, but it’ll pay our basic expenses for the first year, which is great! Thank you Sheffield University!

Anyway, best get on.

xxx love joseph

Taxpayer’s money spent on stoned panda

Yesterday, whilst out cycling behind a convoy of dumper-trucks which were equipped with special pro-dust tyres, Jon and I came across a little zoo. It was rather an odd zoo, being as it was situated in the middle of nowhere, I mean, really, nowhere, like a place where no-one would even go even if they were completely in search of nowhere.

Amongst the inmates, all of whom were somewhat stationary in their approach towards life, was this panda. He was obviously completely stoned, as when I asked him why he was rubbing his tummy and patting his head he said:


“yeah man, it’s unreal, innit. I was like, sitting here, and then the local council came along and gave me this bad of leaves. They said it was like, called bamboo man… yeah, bamboo…, but I know it’s marijuana…”

(at this point Panda started to drift away, so I threw a bucket of water over his head).

“Ah, thanks man, I was really spacing out there. So, yeah, they gave me these leaves, and I started eating them, and hey, I just feel so mellow. They come every day. They’re like, council people. Hats. They wear hats and say hi and give me leaves man…”


I could see that asking him about his opinion on zoos in general, you know, Conservation or Cruelty etc, wouldn’t provide me with any great insights, so I decided to talk to the elephant instead.

Now with Ellie, I had exactly the opposite problem. It seems that in a bid to make her more animated, the local council had decided to get her addicted to coffee – as can be seen in this photo in which she’s sucking the dregs from a can of Cafe au Lait. She was so frisky, possibly in the sexual sense although I didn’t hang around long enough to find out whether or not that actually was the case, that it was impossible to have a decent conversation.


The way she was galloping around the place suggested that she was completely oblivious to the fact that she was secured to the grass by a huge lump of concrete.

Mind over Matter I thought, what a great lesson for us all there.

My first book – Not on sale now!

Here’s the first glimpse of Book One in the Tame & Twinkle series – 20 pages of pure unadulterated raw photos of nice things. And mightily happy with it I am.

Unfortunately it’s not available for you to buy just yet. Unless you pay me lots of money. Like, £15. Plus postage.

And it was all done on a Mac. And on a press somewhere in Holland.


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The Cherry Forecast

Yes, this week saw the publication of the official Cherry Forecast, a report that is compiled every year by Japan’s top meteorologists in conjunction with a highly trained pack of wild dogs whose noses can sense the oncoming of the annual bloom, up to 2 months in advance.


The Cherry Forecast has a huge impact upon the Japanese economy, as it tells the breweries (who make up Japan’s biggest industry) when they need to airlift extra supplies of alcohol into thousands of public parks all around the country. 80% of the revenue generated by these sales is taken by the government and put into the Bridge Fund, a huge pot of money that is used to construct the many bridges seen all over Japan that neither cross rivers nor have roads joined to them. (Their sole purpose is to provide employment opportunities for local construction companies, and to line the pockets of various politicians through approved methods of bribery.)

It is estimated that up to 78% of the population take part in ‘Ohanami’ (cherry blossom viewing parties) ever year, with prime spots in Ueno Park (Tokyo) being reserved by people sitting on blue tarpaulins up to 2 weeks in advance.


(all facts and figures in this report are courtesy of the TGW fountain of knowledge. The accurateness of which is open to question).

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My old bedroom makes it into Gran Turismo

I was in Bic Camera with Tom the other day checking out mics, headphones and, er, Macs, when I saw something on a Windows PC that nearly made me fall over and behave like an armadillo – that’s how shocked I was.

The screen was showing a demo of Gran Turismo, the world’s most popular racing game. It wasn’t so much the car’s performance that I was surprised by – I don’t care much for cars – it was more the fact that MY BEDROOM WAS IN THE BACKGROUND!

I did a double-take, surely, it couldn’t be? No, it WAS! The car was on a road right outside my home of 2.5 years – the hotel Bellevue Des-Alpes of Kleine Scheidegg, Switzerland!

You can imagine how surprised I was – I mean, usually these racing games have made-up backgrounds which are loosely based on some race track somewhere, right? But this, this was something else. Examining it closely, I could see it was a perfect 3D reproduction of my old home. I mean, perfect, so detailed. The only difference between it and reality was that you couldn’t see my socks hanging out of the window to dry.

Oh, and the road the car was on – doesn’t actually exist! (I had to check the Kleine Scheidegg live webcam to make sure that they hadn’t built one whilst I’ve been away, for the cows to practice skateboarding on).


A poor-quality photo of the screen of the computer in Bic Camera, showing my ex-home in the background!

Oh, and a Wikipedia Search reveals this about the ‘new mode’ in Gran Turismo:

So far, a new track in the series has been revealed for this mode: The Eiger Nordwand, based at the real-world location of Kleine Scheidegg in the Swiss Alps. GTHD Premium will feature around 30 cars and two tracks that have been built up from scratch which will make use of PS3′s next generation gaming capabilities.

Exciting stuff. I guess I’ll just have to buy a Sony Playstation now.

(Actually, I’m allergic to computer games, being far too weak-willed to stop having played them for 45 days non-stop, without sleep. I discovered that about myself when Sonic the hedgehog came in the 18th century.) (although I did recently try 2nd Life, but found it to be even more full of dysfunctional weirdos than 1st life…)

Edit

Spooky! There I was just checking that this entry had uploaded OK, when scrolling down I noticed that the random picture – one of over 6000 in the library, was that of one of the buildings in the picture on the Gran Turismo screen shot!

It’s difficult to make out here, but the building in the random photo is the building that can be seen in the shadow of my head in the computer-screen shot!

That random photo thing has been known for throwing up such surprises in the past – Must be the pixies!