Efficiency revisited

In an old post, I wrote about efficiency. A person with terrible personality persistently told me to use electric coffee “grinder”, which is actually a coffee chopper, instead of my manual coffee grinder because electric one is “efficient”. She mixed up efficient and quick (and dirty), and ignored quality. You might think “is electric coffee grinder dirty?” Yes, it is. The quality of “grinding” is low and it generates nasty noise. On the other hand, using a manual coffee grinder itself is fun. She does not understand people have different preference and different standard, and always tries to force other people to do things in her way.

There is difference between efficient and quick. There is also difference between efficient and effective. According to Longman, effective meas “producing the result that was wanted or intended” [1], and efficient means “a person, machine, or organization that is efficient works well and effectively without wasting time, money, or energy” [1]. If people mix them up, it could result in something awkward.

According to an internet article, Rights groups challenge U.S. on drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, many innocent people in those countries have been killed by the U.S. government using remotely piloted aircraft, or drones. I originally found an article about this in Japanese, and I was very shocked. The Japanese internet article says that the U.S. presidential press secretary said “the U.S. anti-terrorism operations are accurate, legal, and efficient” (translated by me). Is killing terrorists involving innocent people’s death efficient??? I looked for an article that describes this issue in English, and found the CNN article. According to CNN, the U.S. government “said drones would be deployed only when there is an imminent threat, no hope of capturing the targeted terrorist, ‘near certainty’ that civilians wouldn’t be harmed and ‘no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat.'” [2] This still does not justify their killing innocent people (first of all, even killing terrorists is still debatable), but at least they did not mention efficiency in killing people.

Why did this mistranslation happen? I sent a message to the Japanese newspaper publisher a few days ago and still waiting for their reply (and do not expect their reply). For now, let’s put their mistranslation aside and talk about something general. The person with terrible personality mentioned above is obviously extreme, but many other people may not clearly distinguish between efficient and quick, or efficient and effective in some degree. It may happen because they do not clarify “intended result”; in the former case, whether the intended result is whatever coffee or enjoyable coffee; in the latter case, whether the result is killing terrorism anyway or establishing the peace. We may need to take a moment to sit back and think what we really need.

[1] Longman Group Ltd, Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, Harlow, England: Pearson Education Limited, 1995.
[2] CNN, “CNN.com,” 22 10 2013. [Online]. Available: http://edition.cnn.com/2013/10/22/world/asia/us-drone-strikes-reports/index.html?iref=allsearch. [Accessed 23 10 2013].

October 31, 2013Permalink


Among many of my Canadian friends, even those from the engineering program, I am known as a designer. In fact, however, I do not have work experience as a designer, and I cannot call myself a professional designer. Having said that, I call myself designer since I have design skills, designer’s way of thinking, and designer’s spirit.

I am not particularly interested in genetic issues, but some internet articles about genetic engineering caught my attention thanks to its title: designer baby. According to some of those internet articles, a U.S. company has developed a technology to predict features of a person, such as eye colour and muscle performance, based on the parent’s genetic information before making a baby. Now the company is under fire due to this controversial technology. If this technology is applied, people can choose an ideal partner among candidates to get a preferable baby, and this is called “designer baby”.

I don’t want people to use the term “designer” in this context. Anyways. And I’m skeptical about this technology: I know many brothers and sisters who have very different features. For example, my elder brother is shorter than I am and he has shorter legs than mine. Anyways.

This issue reminds me of a Japanese internet article about a young Japanese actor. According to the article, a young actor joined an event to introduce a film in which he played one of the leading roles, and confessed that he is a son of a famous actor. He joined the event with the director of the film and another leading actress. The director used to be an actor, and the actress is a daughter of the director. The young actor said “I admire my father as an actor, and I am proud of being his son. I believe in my father’s DNA.” The actress then said “I admire my father too.” And then the director said “DNA is not a big deal. It’s not about who are your parents. It’s how you spend time with your parents.”

In fact, many celebrity’s children are known for their immature behavior. They have been overly spoiled, and this may be why the young actor had not stated that he is a son of a celebrity. It’s not about DNA, but how people live.

Now, I tell myself: it’s not about occupation, but how I live as a designer. Of course I have not given up becoming a professional designer. But whatever my occupation is, I retain my designer’s spirit.

October 20, 2013Permalink

Apparently, what did not kill me made me a little bit stronger, but…

I have experienced being unemployed several times. Technically speaking, I am currently “self employed” because I do freelance jobs, but I don’t count it as “being employed”. I need a better full-time job. As I wrote in a previous post, being unemployed is very depressing. But, though I am still not happy, now I’m coming to think differently. Apparently, what did not kill me makes me a little bit stronger.

According to a Japanese internet article, 70% of job-seeking university students in Japan are frustrated. According to another Japanese internet article, 21% of those university students have thought “I want to die, want to disappear”. If I was at their mental level, I must have killed myself several times to completely disappear. However, in fact, this seems a serious matter in Japan. According to another Japanese internet article that addresses the same issue, the number of young Japanese who committed suicide due to unemployment has been doubled in last five years. What has changed in last years? Economy is probably one of the factors. Young Japanese people may be more sensitive, may feel more pressure.

Japan has experiences rapid change in mentality in last couple of centuries. During Edo era, Samurai spirit prevailed. Since Japan was opened to foreign countries around 150 years ago and the Samurai society came to an end, people suddenly realized that they were way less developed than Western countries, and decided to make Japan a “strong” country. This gradually formed extreme mentality in a different way from Samurai spirit, and eventually led to WWII. Some tragedies happened during this era due to the extreme mentality as I wrote in an old post. And then, Japan was defeated, and people suddenly lost mentality. However, it was not the end. In 1956, Japanese government stated “it is no longer a post-war period”, and Japan experienced rapid economic growth. As I wrote in another old post, Tokyo Olympic was held in this era. If I understand correctly, economy has influenced, or even formed people’s mentality since that period. People came to think that working for a big good company and making money is good. And then we experienced so-called bubble economy from late 80s to early 90s, and it eventually burst. Now what characterizes Japanese mentality? It seems most complex ever.

There used to be good old days. We cannot go back, but we can remember the mentality. During the rapid economic growth period when people faced many social problems that they had never thought of, a famous comedian, Hitoshi Ueki sang many funny songs. One of his songs is だまって俺について来い (Don’t say anything and follow me). Well, it’s like Don’t Worry Be Happy, and he sang the song in the 60s. It goes like this.

Those who don’t have a job, come to me. I don’t have either, but don’t worry. Look at that burning sunset. It’ll work out someday.

We cannot go back to that era, but we can still think in that way, right?

October 19, 2013Permalink


Reproducibility is one of the principles of scientific method. Another scientific method is hypothesis.

Think of this scenario. One day, you saw your dog facing west and barking three times, and then it started raining. A few days later, you saw your dog facing west and barking three times again, and it started raining again. Then you concluded that your dog’s barking three times toward west causes rain. Now, saying “that’s ridiculous” is not scientific argument. Your dog might have sensed the gradual decrease in atmospheric pressure, noticed slight change of the western heavens, and reacted to it. You may need to consider what is the cause and what is the result, and review the reasoning and the logic behind it to relate or separate two sequential events before arguing unscientifically.

As I wrote in the previous post, I like visiting a museum and went to ROM lats weekend. Another weird habit that I do at a museum but did not mention in the previous post is to worship before a statue of Buddha. If you see some of my facebook photo albums like this one, this one, this one, or this one, you can tell how I like visiting Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Since there are few places like them in North America, I visit museums to meet Buddha. By the way, those statues of Buddha are usually called “Buddhism art”, but I do not call them “art” because it is more like religious practice, something people “needed for their daily life of the time”. Anyways, when I visited ROM last weekend, I worshiped before statues of Buddha and read a short Buddhism sutra carved on a temple bell twice.

As I often mention, I do freelance translation jobs now while looking for a full-time job, and as I wrote in another previous post, some clients disappear in the middle of negotiation and I often have to wait passively. In last couple of days after visiting ROM, I’ve got positive messages from some of my clients and got some freelance jobs.

Now you may be thinking “that’s ridiculous, it’s only coincidence”. But think one second. I have not concluded anything. I just wrote about two sequential events in last few days. For now I dare not to attempt any reasoning.

October 8, 2013Permalink

Seven hours was not enough to indulge my passion for culture.

Everyone has unique habits, right? One of my weirdest habits is to spend a long time at a museum. When I travel and whenever I have enough time, I visit a museum of the place. When I visited Toronto for the first time in 2002, I went to ROM, Royal Ontario Museum, and loved it. Since then, I’ve visited there a few times, but I always don’t have enough time. Today I entered at 10:30 am and stayed until it closes at 5:30 pm, but seven hours was not enough to indulge my passion for culture.

I prefer museum to art gallery. Most pieces displayed in a museum were, unlike those in an art gallery, originally made because it was needed for something: for religious belief, politics, war, or most interestingly, for daily life of the time. Who imagined that a bowl that they used daily would be displayed in a museum thousands of years after? When I stand in front of a piece of ancient kitchenware, I imagine how artisans made it and how people used it. I visualize their life, and find I spent a long time at one place in the museum… I know this is a weird habit.

Another favorite thing to do at a museum is to see Japanese things. Many people suppose that I dislike Japan because I talk about lots of bad things about Japan. But it’s not true. Think in this way; how many people who have been married for decades talk about good things about their spouse? When I visit a museum outside of Japan and see Japanese things, I feel pride in it, and even feel encouraged. Today I found a piece of Ukiyoe (Japanese woodblock prints) made by my most favorite Ukiyoe artist, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, and stood in front of it for a few minutes. I was happy because I could tell it was his work before reading the description, and happy to see his work outside of Japan. Because I was watching it for so long time, some Canadians seemed to think it was something special, and looked at it curiously!

One thing that I am not very happy about in ROM is the collection of “the local”. Glenbow Museum is one of my favorite places in Calgary. It’s way smaller than ROM, but their collection of Native North America is, as far as I remember, more impressive than that in ROM. My most favorite museum in Japan is Tokyo National Museum. They have a huge collection of Japanese things. When I was in Japan and a Canadian friend of mine visited Japan, I brought her to Tokyo National Museum because she is interested in Japanese culture. Both of us were impressed, and I was proud of it. Another example of great collection of “the local” is Museum of Anthropology in the University of British Columbia where I spent a long time but needed more time. If ROM has something like that… I will need even more time to stay there!?

October 5, 2013Permalink

Technology, Reliability, and Behavior

One of some topics I write in this blog is about technology and human development. As I wrote in an old post, I suppose that engineers and designers in the old days developed new technologies to improve the quality of life. But I often wonder if engineers and designers today still have the same goal; they often seem to develop a new gadget because they can do it whether it will make a better life or not. According to a Japanese internet article, a Japanese cellphone company has developed “translation glasses”. It looks like Google Glass, and according to the article, if the user looks at a text in a foreign language through the glasses, it shows translated text in the user’s first language. How helpful will it be?

First of all, I do not trust machine translation. For example, I used Google Translate to translate one paragraph from the article. It goes like this.

By slip a ring on the finger of a dedicated, another feature with this glasses, available to change the touch screen a variety of flat surface. Ring will convey the position information in the translation glasses, “touch” to make tags visible only to a person wearing glasses. Such as the search of the Internet will be possible with this.

I guess the translation glasses will work at an equivalent level. Does it make sense to you? Is this reliable? If I translate manually, it should be like below.

The glasses have another feature; the user can use various flat surfaces as touch screen by using a special ring on his/her finger. The ring conveys location information to the glasses, which enables the user to “touch” tags that only the user can see. The user can do an internet search and so on with this feature.

Well, this is still not very clear, but this is what the article actually says. In other words, I guess, the glasses project user interface on a flat surface which only the user can see, and the user can control it by touching the surface with a special ring on his/her finger. This feature raises another question. I wonder how the developers of this product thought of human behavior.

Since hands-free cellphones ware introduced, many people have experienced, in some degree, something like a funny beer TV commercial in which a guy assumes a beautiful girl is talking to him while she is actually talking on blue tooth device. If someone uses “invisible” user interface, doesn’t it look like victims of Just for Laughs Gags “blind test”?

OK, maybe I’m a little too skeptical now. But the point here is that designers should think of reliability and human behavior when developing new gadgets, or even whether the gadget will be needed or not in the first place. Am I too cynical?

October 1, 2013Permalink