Monthly Archives: March 2012

Is Drinking Now Part of the University/College Experience?

Just what is being taught at school? The Western post-secondary education is supposed to be a place of intellectual discourse and personal exploration. However, new research is shining light on the exploration that people engage in as university or college students. It’s sad that something as unproductive as drinking is such a major part of the student culture, but it’s considered to be just another normal part of the bigger picture of education. But here’s the really surprising fact: Students at post-secondary institutes drink more than their non-student peers.

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How 3/11 Changed the People of Japan – Part 2: Love and Unity

March 11 was the worst day of many people’s lives in Japan, and most of the news coverage was understandably focused on destruction. It was important to know what was happening, and how bad it got; but now it’s time to look at the other things that happened since then – the positive things. For one, there were hundreds of anecdotes in the news of Japanese people patiently waiting in lines, giving food to strangers and looking out for one another. In contrast to most disaster zones – such as New Zealand’s Christchurch earthquake a month prior – Japan did not see widespread looting or other such crime, and there seemed to be more unity than anyone expected. So here’s what else happened.

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How 3/11 Changed the People of Japan – Part 1: Fear, Trust, and Death

The March 11 tsunami left a scar on Japan last year. The confusion was widespread, and depression and suicides were imminent. But not enough people talked about how the tsunami has changed regular Japanese people since the tragedy. A while back, I looked at how Japan kept such strong national unity in the weeks and months after the crisis. However, I didn’t talk about the changes to the everyday Japanese lifestyle, or to the opinions and psychology of the people who were affected. Some of it is certainly surprising.

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Will Encyclopaedia Britannica Live On Only in the History Books?

Maybe if it’s an e-book.

After almost two and a half centuries of publication, Britannica is no more. Between Google and Wikipedia, it took less than two decades to render the well-respected encyclopaedia useless. However, the Britannica website is still going to stay active, so it’s not as if we have lost a resource all together. But e-books readers and smartphones are the way of the future, and carrying around gigantic books is quickly becoming the way of the past. Why did this happen, and is it a good thing or a bad thing?

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The Science of Mobile Phone Usage While Driving, in Today’s Social World

A sad story out of Canada made the news rounds recently, after Montrealer Mathieu Fortin created a new facebook page for his girlfriend. “I love you too and I will do all I can to make you happy, Mr. Fortin,” said Emy Brochu, in a text message that was reproduced on the new page. “Me too, bb,” Fortin replied, after a series of XXXXs, denoting kisses. The next set of messages, straight out of a heart-wrenching TV drama, involve a nervous Fortin asking her to contact him because he wants to “hear her beautiful voice.” After almost a day without receiving any message, he said “Is everything ok, my love? I’m a bit worried.” Unfortunately, the facebook page was dedicated to her memory, because she died that night by smashing into the back of a transport truck. A police investigation consequently showed that she was probably distracted by her mobile phone.

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Models are Getting Smaller but Everyone Else is Getting Bigger

When it comes to fashion marketing, manipulating the waistline isn’t exactly magic, but it sure is a vanishing act nowadays. Exhibit A: Cindy Crawford (above). Yikes! Just look at her. Today’s advertisers would tell her to come back after losing 10 pounds. She must have “let herself go,” they would say. That’s because the models of today are much smaller than the models of a generation ago. By the looks of the current state of the fashion industry, the meaning of “plus-size” should be “normal,” whereas the meaning of “normal” is essentially “anorexic” for models. Many people are worried about the message this sends to girls who aspire to have what our culture unfailingly insists on attaining – beauty.

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Tsunami Survival Guide: Japanese Culture is Not Conducive to Staying Alive

If you have Japanese values, you shouldn’t expect to survive a devastating tsunami – let me explain. After Principal Michiko Kishima of Nobiru Elementary School felt the magnitude 9 earthquake on March 11, she immediately started following protocol. She ushered around 350 students and teachers into the gymnasium, located about five kilometres from the Miyagi coast, instead of leading them to higher ground up the hills behind the campus. “We didn’t think about fleeing up the mountain,” she said, in an interview a month after the incident. “We were prepared for aftershocks, not a tsunami.” With internet connections and cellphone networks disrupted, there was no way to know that a tsunami was heading towards them. “We would have gone up the mountain road; but there was no information, so I had to follow official policy.” The thunderous tsunami drowned many, and more froze to death by the end of the night. Could this have been avoided? It’s easy to say yes in hindsight, but the truth is that there are places that had the foresight to prevent such casualties. And surprisingly, such survivors went against everything the Japanese culture stands for.

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What Does English Sound Like to Foreigners?

With most of the world vying to learn English, some native English speakers are beginning to believe that English is the most valuable language. When one surrounds themselves around the same language, and only that single language, they stop getting a sense of what it’s like for someone on the outside to learn the language. Below are two fantastic videos that give a sense of what it’s like for foreign people to hear native English speakers – specifically in an American/Canadian accent. For the North American native English speakers, this should help you appreciate the ESL experience.

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Everybody Hates Toby

The current and longstanding governor of Tokyo, who I affectionately call Toby, despite his birth certificate reading “Shintaro Ishihara,” is truly incredible. This controversial 79-year-old governor has publicly expressed his discontent with foreigners, gay people, and pretty much any other minority that overly conservative zealots tend to persecute. For the American audience, he’s quite like the Japanese version of Rick SantorumI wrote about his impressive ability to alienate and discriminate against individuals, but now I’ll take the opportunity to show how he manages to disgust the locals as well.

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