Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Book blog

Having been inspired by my father I've started a new blog about books

Both Ian and I will be contributing, but I can't say with what frequency. I feel very inspired to read at the moment, Ian having put up lots of shelving in the lounge. For the first time in a very long time the majority of my books are on a shelf. This has made me realise how many of them I haven't yet read and others that I want to reread. I suspect many will have to wait til winter though as it seems such a shame to stay indoors when the weather is good and the garden needs so much attention.

ga or wa?

Could someone who actually studied grammar at school (or anywhere else) please explain to me the difference between the topic and the subject of a sentence. I'm asking because my Japanese grammar book assumes that I know and I don't and I'm therefore unsure of when to use some particles...

'When the topic of the sentence is different to the grammatical subject, the grammatical subject is followed by ga (the topic is followed by wa)'

I have an example:

I don't understand English: Eigo ga wakaranai desu (literally, English ga don't understand)

I don't eat Japanese food: Nihonshoku wa tabenai desu (literally, Japanese food wa don't eat)

I'm sure I should be able to figure this out, but I can't seem to. Help please!

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

If you're feeling lonely...

There's an article on the BBC website today about talking to strangers - whether or not people consider it polite, are willing to strike up a conversation and if the weather is the best subject to start on.

Often I read the comments section at the bottom of BBC articles. I really liked this one...

'The other day someone gave me a helium balloon shaped like a panda, and I had to take it across London. If you want people to talk to you, take a panda! I simply couldn't believe how many people (guys, girls, groups, couples, individuals, young, old) stopped to talk to me, to ask the panda's name, to ask if he was dangerous, what he ate... In a city where usually no one speaks to anyone, an anthropomorphic balloon is an instant bond with - apparently - everyone!'

So now you know what to do if you're bored and have no one to talk to!

Thursday, 17 July 2008


I commented to Ian today that one of our sunflowers has a bud on it. That got me thinking about how much money we could save on bird food if we had room to grow a few sunflowers each year, which got us on to a conversation about sunflower oil and the fact that we weren't entirely sure which part of the sunflower the oil comes from. Of course it seemed sensible that it came from the seeds, but then as Ian pointed out, 'why is it not called sunflower seed oil'?

As you'll no doubt know the oil does indeed come from the seeds, or rather what we refer to as the seeds. In fact these are actually the fruit of the sunflower, the true seeds being encased in an inedible husk. I guess the fact that we call it olive oil and not olive fruit oil means that sunflower oil does follow the same pattern. In addition to the seed not being a seed, nor is the flower actually a flower - it is a head of numerous flowers crowded together.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008


I'm currently reading 'autumn bridge' by takashi matsuoka, the sequel to his excellent 'cloud of sparrows'. They are primarily books about Japan in the 19th Century, but autumn bridge actually jumps around from the 14th to the late 19th century. This may sound confusing, and it is (especially when your bookmark falls out), but I'm really enjoying it.

Through reading these two books I've learned lots of new Japanese words and lots of Japanese history. The trouble is that I've no idea what is and isn't history. Like the Bernard Cornwell books they contain information on a number of major events and characters and are very well researched. Unfortunately whilst it is generally easy to determine who is and isn't 'made up' in the Cornwell books my lack of knowledge of Japan makes this much more difficult.

The primary rivalries among the samurai in the 19th century result from the outcome of the battle of Sekigahara in 1600. This is commonly known as the Realm Divide and cleared the path to the shogunate for the Tokugawa clan, the last shogunate to control Japan.

James Clavell's Shogun is also a fictionalized account of the rise to fame of the first Tokugawa shogun (thinly disguised as "Toranaga"), culminating in the Battle of Sekigahara.

These days one of Sekigahara's few non-martial attractions is the profusion of fireflies in the area. Lake Mishima is home to a particularly famous firefly spot housing hundreds if not thousands on a good day. A Firefly Festival is held there in the early summer.