Local Children's Book Author, Greg R. Fishbone, says...

Archive for the ‘Japan’ Category

Bid it up for Japan!

In Japan on March 24, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Now there’s a way to help earthquake and tsunami victims in Japan and at the same time also pick up a good book, have your own good book critiqued, or have a character in an upcoming good book named after you. Check out one or more of these book-themed online benefit auctions!

  • Authors for Japan: This British-based auction ended recently, raising £10,962.25 for British Red Cross. Much congratulations is due to Keris Stainton for organizing this very successful effort. Even though it is over, it is still being used as a model and inspiration for others.
  • Kidlit4Japan: This one’s mine! I didn’t have a chance to get into Authors for Japan because they organized and filled up their roster of items so quickly, so I started my own auction for the children’s and YA literature community to benefit UNICEF’s efforts to help children affected by the quake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis. It’s planned to go for three weeks and the donors and bidders have all been very generous. Among the 120 items rotating into the auction over a three week period is my own item, a chance to name a minor character in an upcoming Galaxy Games novel. Bid, bid, bid!
  • Write Hope: Another auction that organized and started at the same time as mine, with lots of great items, benefiting Save the Children’s efforts in Japan. I am offering a signed copy of The Penguins of Doom along with some sketches of the characters. Bid it up!
  • Genre for Japan: This one, like Authors for Japan, is also British-based, but you can bid from the United States or elsewhere as long as you realize the bidding is being done in British pounds. It hasn’t started yet but the focus is on speculative fiction and there will be some awesome items up for bid! Edit: I’m donating the opportunity to name a minor character in my upcoming Dungeons & Dragons book. Bid here!
  • Writers for the Red Cross: This auction was organized and started before the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, so it’s targeted more generally for people affected by disasters in the United States and around the world.

It’s been great to see the generous members of the various book communities pull together to help the victims of the Sendai disaster. Thanks for bidding, and for helping to get the word out!

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Thoughts on a Japanese Earthquake

In Japan on March 12, 2011 at 11:47 pm

My thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Japan this week. For me, the horrible scenes of devastation coming from the Sendai area have brought back a queasy feeling that was one part of my Japan experience I’ve tried for years to forget.

During my first week in Tokyo, I was shaken from a sound sleep by a light vibration and the sound of rattling dishes that lasted for about ten seconds. “Was that an earthquake or a big truck?” my roommate asked. “That was an earthquake,” I replied. Then I yawned and immediately fell back asleep.

I wasn’t able to process the event until the next morning. The entire city had experienced an expression of the same force that, over time, bounces entire continents around–and I’d just been annoyed that it had woken me up! I’d never lived near a fault zone before, so I wasn’t used to thinking that the ground could be anything other than absolutely solid. The idea made me anxious. When you live in a place where you can’t rely on the ground beneath your feet, what else is left to hold onto?

The imminent threat of another earthquake stayed in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t ready for the earthquake that actually happened a few weeks later while I was in the shower. By then I’d memorized all the exits from my apartment building and the route to the community assembly area, but I hadn’t factored in the best earthquake survival advice that Douglas Adams ever wrote: “Always know where your towel is.” Thankfully, Earthquake Number Two was another ten-second trembler that didn’t quite knock me off my feet, so there was no need for me to run for cover with only a rectangle of terrycloth wrapped around my waist.

Earthquake Number Three was just barely perceptible to human senses, and I actually laughed it off. I figured it was nothing to worry about. I even felt pretty good about the thick skin I’d developed and my newfound ability to accept tiny tremblers as just another aspect of Tokyo life–until I learned that this third tiny earthquake was only tiny in Tokyo. At its epicenter near Kobe, it was one of the worst earthquakes in the history of Japan. The Great Hanshin Earthquake, as they called it, toppled buildings, destroyed wharves, and claimed over 6,000 lives.

From the distance I had been, the Great Hanshin Earthquake had felt no different from the annoying shaker that woke me up or the one that ruined my shower. To put that another way, I now realized that any little vibration might have been an underground hiccup, a fatal jolt of unimaginable horror, or anything in between.

People who live in earthquake-prone areas do so with the knowledge that a major quake could occur without warning at any time. Of course, the alternative might be to live in an earthquake-free place that’s prone to floods instead. Or hurricanes. Or tornadoes. Or wildfires, mudslides, Nor’easters, monsoons, tsunamis, heatwaves, droughts, volcanoes, plagues, or animal attacks. Or even if you did find a place on Earth where none of those things could happen, you might still get conked on the head by a falling meteor.

Basically, as individuals, we are small and humble in the face of natural forces–but as a collective, we have the power of heart and caring on our side. Every time there’s a major natural disaster, we see an outpouring of international support and aid to the survivors. We pull together like one big planetary team. There may be some con artists who try to take advantage of the situation, but the overwhelming majority of us care about other people, even people we don’t know, who live in parts of the world we’ve never visited, facing dangers that may be very different from those in our own home towns.

The earthquake relief efforts going on right now should shore up every skeptic’s faith in humanity and make us all proud to be residents of Planet Earth. Here are just a few ways to help the people of Sendai:

  • Donate to the International Medical Corps through Groupon.
  • Donate to the American Red Cross with every Facebook or Twitter update you make this month.
  • Text “JAPAN” to 20222 to donate $10 on behalf of Save the Children Federation, Inc.
  • Text “4JAPAN” to 20222 to donate $10 on behalf of World Vision, Inc.
  • or find another legitimate organization with members on the ground in the Sendai area.

Thanks for listening!

Cool Stuff from Japan: Wasabi

In Japan on June 22, 2010 at 1:45 am
From Snacks.com

Found in my local gas station!

Let’s talk about these chips I found in my local gas station mini-mart. The Asian dragon makes me think of China. The font looks like it was lifted from a Chinese restaurant menu. But aren’t those Japanese katakana characters up there, wedged between the “Chips” and the dragon’s nose? Yes, they are, and they say: “Wasabi!” It’s the only place you’ll find the word on this bag unless you take a magnifying glass to the ingredients.

You’ll find wasabi in the green paste you get with sushi, on rice crackers and chips from Japan, and coating some dried green pea snacks, as a distinctive medium-hot horseradishy flavoring. But if you don’t read Japanese, the marketing  department at Frito-Lay figures you don’t really need to know what you’re eating. The product development people, on the other hand, have done a great job of teaming wasabi up with corn chips. If you see these in your local gas station mini-mart, grab a few bags!

Cool Stuff From Japan: Holographic Sports!

In Japan, Sports on June 7, 2010 at 12:54 am

Interesting things happen at the intersection of sports and technology. First are incremental advances in equipment that help athletes reach their full potential. Ultrasonic bonding can eliminate the seams in a bathing suit, to let swimmers glide faster through the water. The upcoming World Cup will feature the roundest and most leak-proof soccer balls ever. And there’s always something new in sneakers to help athletes run faster or jump higher than before.

Other advances are meant to give fans a better viewing experience, like when first-goal lines are superimposed on a football field and move in real time with the TV cameras.

The Japan Football Association’s bid for the 2022 World Cup includes a genuine game-changer: holographic broadcasts. This technology doesn’t even exist yet, but should come online in the next ten years.

Imagine your team is playing for a world championship, but the game is taking place in Japan and you’re located in the United States. Luckily, it’s 2022 and your local stadium is equipped with holographic projectors! In Japan, up to 200 HD cameras film the action from every angle. Meanwhile, in your hometown, real-time, full-sized, holographic images of the players range all over the field. It’s almost like being there!

How much longer would it be until the home units came out, so we could watch the Celtics and Lakers battle it out on a holographic coffee table? What would it be like to play, or to watch, a game with even more advanced technology than that? I’m having fun working that out with Galaxy Games.

Cool Things About Japan: Space Kites!

In Japan, Real Space on May 31, 2010 at 4:50 am

Solar Sail

I’m also filing this one under “Real Space” because this kite is really out there.

Ordinary Earthbound kites use air currents and wind to stay aloft. There’s no air in space, but there is a kind of wind–solar wind, caused by a steady stream of charged particles shooting out of the Sun. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, JAXA, has just launched a craft that uses the solar wind to accelerate. They call it a solar-sailed “space yacht” but it sure looks like a space kite to me.

The kite is 66 feet (diagonally) across and only the width of a human hair. In addition to being a sail, it also uses thin-film solar cells to generate the electricity needed for ion-gas propulsion. It’s a hybrid vehicle! This system is supposed to allow the kite to reach the edge of the Solar System in about 5 years, compared to traditional rocket-propelled craft like Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, which took about 25 years to make the same trip.

This first test kite is named Ikaros after the mythological boy who flew too close to the Sun and got burned up, presumably because solar sails constantly accelerate away from the Sun out of fear for their lives. Then again, if sailboats can tack into the wind, can the same be done to navigate solar sails inward from the outer edge of the Solar System back to Earth? Like, say, if a ship of squidlike aliens needed to find their way to Earth from the orbit of Saturn? Hmm…

Cool Things About Japan: Violinist Robots!

In Japan on May 23, 2010 at 10:02 pm
toyota-robot-violinist

"Play Freebird!"

In the United States we have practical, puck-shaped, boring robots that vacuum floors. Well, not me personally, but some people have them. Meanwhile, in Japan, cute humanoid robots are tap-dancing and playing the violin. Now that’s the one I’d buy!

When it comes to creating violinist robots, isn’t just a matter of tech-savvy but also cultural willpower. You have to really want a violinist robot, and that’s where Japanese robot makers shine. They want to make cool stuff, and so they just do it.

I’ve given a lot of thought to the role of robots in the story world of Galaxy Games. If it becomes a series, maybe I’ll have the chance to show one playing the violin.