Friday, November 28, 2008

Give Us This Day Our Daily Banana

In English, "bread" can be a synonym for "meal" or "food" (and for "money", though that's a later innovation), as evidenced by the line from the Lord's Prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread."

In Japanese, "gohan" is both (cooked) "rice" and "meal": "Gohan wo tabeta?" "[Have you] eaten a meal?" (Transliterated; a more natural rendering would be "Have you eaten?")

An article in a recent issue of Science, talking about bananas, informs me that in Uganda the word for "banana" is the same as the word for "food". Sadly, the article didn't give the word for it, or even name the language (presumably Swahili).

I read the article on the train on the way home yesterday, and when I got home I was dying for a banana. Fortunately, Mayumi had bought bananas. Unfortunately, my girls managed eat all of them before I got home :-).

That's perhaps an allegory for what's happening worldwide: the Cavendish banana, the most common around the world, is under attack by a fungus all over the planet. The plant can be grown only by cloning (it's sterile) and since all the plants are genetically identical, they are all equally susceptible.

Other strains of bananas might be less vulnerable, but are suffering from neglect. (The most fragrant bananas I've ever had were in Nepal, some small variety that smelled of cinnamon.) Let's not let the world's fourth-most-important staple crop (behind rice, wheat and corn) get away from us, people!


"To google" is now a verb in English (at least, the American (correct) form of the language, not sure about other parts of the diaspora). "He googled it," "I'm googling it now...," "Why don't you google it?" and more.

The same thing is true in Japanese. "Google" in Japanese is "GUUguru" (or "GU-guru"), written in katakana, the syllabary used for "loan" (imported) words, with a long "uu" and the unfortunate but necessary mangling of the pronunciation. (Not that Americans can come close to pronouncing Chinese or even French correctly, but that's not the point here.)

By fortunate coincidence, "-ru" is the common ending for verbs in Japanese, so conjugating it is natural and trivial, but the emphasized syllable changes: "guGUrimasu", "guGUrimashita". You almost never hear the formal form of it, though, you usually hear the informal form "guGUtta" ("googled") or "guGUtte iru" ("am googling/is googling"). Japanese has a verb form (not sure of the technical name in either Japanese or English) for "why don't you..." or "if you...", which usually ends in "-ttara".

And if you don't believe me, guguttara?

Monday, November 24, 2008

ORF: QKD with IPsec

Our campus (Keio's Shonan Fujisawa Campus) just finished our Open Research Forum, the annual two-day big exhibit of students' work. It was a blast, a lot of interesting people show up (including, if I understood him right, the director of "Godzilla versus Hedora", and it's great to see the work being done by students in other "kenkyuukai" (research groups), as well.

At our campus, undergrads, usually, starting in their second year, join the "lab" or kenkyuukai of a professor, and by the end of their four years, I would say that many students have done a third to a half of their total learning in the context of the kenykyuukai. Classes provide breadth and theory, the kenkyuukai provides depth.

My students in the AQUA group integrated IKE, the Internet Key Exchange protocol, with QKD (quantum key distribution), so that traffic between two networks can be encrypted using a key created via QKD. I'll post more about the technical work on it a little later, but thanks to Satoh and especially Nagayama for the hard work on both the implementation and the display.

Thanks to NEC for the loan of the QKD devices! We look forward to continuing to work with you.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Keio: Astronauts, Princes, Emperors, and Postage Stamps!

So, Saturday was the Keio University 150th anniversary ceremony. I didn't get to attend (there were only a few thousand tickets), and I found out about the live webcast after it was over. Oh, well.

I'm told that the Emperor made very nice remarks about the history of Keio.

Prince Charles also dropped by the Mita Campus on his visit to Japan a couple of weeks ago. There is a good photo of him examining a bamboo sword during a kendo demonstration. I heard that his talk was nice, as well.

Just as exciting, to me, was the talk that Akihiko Hoshide gave a few weeks ago. He was on the team that delivered the Kibo Laboratory module to the International Space Station this summer. He also took an aluminum soroban with him, made for him by our engineering department. Oh, Hoshide is a Keio grad -- at least the second to fly in space, after Chiaki Mukai. Hoshide-san gave a great, inspirational talk targeted at kids, and accessible to all ages. It was broadcast over the Internet, and translated into several languages in real time.

More to my surprise, the Japan Post Office has issued a commemorative stamp set. Now I know what I'm getting my great-aunt, the stamp collector, for Christmas.