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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Big Brother is… oh wait, never mind

The Daily Mail got the nation’s teacups rattling yesterday by reporting on a new CCTV camera that can supposedly scan 36 million faces per second. Although the rest of their article gets the facts a little bit straighter, their headline is totally misleading. How on earth would any camera be able to take a picture of 36 million people in one second, let alone recognise every single one of them? That’s more than the population of Canada. Here’s the original video from which the Mail published (uncredited) screenshots: First of all, they got the name of the company behind this technology wrong. It’s Hitachi Kokusai Electric (日立国際電気), not Hitachi Hokusai Electric. For the record, Kokusai (国際) means “international”. Hokusai (北斎) is the name of a Japanese artist who died in 1849. His most famous work was probably The Great Wave. What Hitachi have actually developed is a system that looks for and analyses human faces in the video pictures it receives, and then stores the resulting biometric records along with the CCTV footage. Operators can then search for a particular [More…]

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Converting zenkaku to hankaku

For historical reasons, Chinese, Japanese and Korean word processors allow certain characters (including the Roman alphabet and Arabic numerals) to be entered using wide variants called fullwidth (zenkaku; 全角) characters instead of — or rather, in addition to — the ordinary halfwidth (hankaku; 半角) characters used by everyone else. When preparing Japanese text for translation in CAT tools like OmegaT, it often helps to convert zenkaku characters to their hankaku equivalents. The Japanese version of Microsoft Word has a built-in feature that will do this, but it’s a little bit annoying because it also converts katakana characters. All I really want to do is convert the non-Japanese characters. Here’s a Perl script I’ve been using to do this inside TextWrangler: #!/usr/bin/perl -w # File: ZtoH.pl # Author: Phil Ronan, japanesetranslator.co.uk # Convert zenkaku to hankaku # Prepare Japanese UTF-8 plain-text files for translation by # converting full-width (zenkaku) characters to their half-width # (hankaku) counterparts. Katakana characters are not converted. # This script was written for use as a TextWrangler plugin, but # can also be used as a command line tool — [More…]

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Son et lumière

Here’s a cool idea from NEC Lighting — a ceiling light with a built-in Bluetooth speaker that can be operated via an Android app. They’re not on sale yet, but should be available later this year (in Japan, at least).

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Sukiyaki

The song Ue o muite arukō (上を向いて歩こう) by Kyū Sakamoto (坂本 九) was given the rather cheerful title of “Sukiyaki” when released in the West back in the early 1960s. The title actually means “I’ll look up as I walk”, and the song explains that this is because the singer doesn’t want to let his tears of sorrow fall to the ground. This stoical attitude to misfortune resonated strongly with the Japanese as they came to terms with last year’s disastrous earthquake and the events that followed. For example, in April the drinks manufacturer Suntory bought up advertising time on TV to lift people’s spirits with recordings of two Sakamoto songs sung by various celebrities who had appeared in Suntory adverts in the past. A rendering of Ue o muite arukō by artists including Tommy Lee Jones can still be seen on YouTube. But here’s the original version: Japanese Pronunciation Translation 上を向いて歩こう Ue o muite arukō I’ll look up as I walk 涙がこぼれないように Namida ga koborenai yō ni So the tears won’t fall 思い出す春の日 Omoidasu haru no hi As I remember those days in spring [More…]

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Header image: The three wise monkeys (三匹の猿) at Tōshō-gū shrine in Nikkō (日光東照宮), said to be the origin of the saying “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”. Photo: Frank Gualtieri.

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