24 October 2016

How to learn Japanese using Google Translate

Learn Japanese with Innovative Language's Proven Language System - Level 1: Introduction to Japanese
I was able to download the Google Translate app in iPad last week. The app is free, but the catch is that the images are sent to Google, so Google knows how you are using the app. Well, I am not using it for highly classified information that would bring down the whole country if they are released in Wikileaks. I am just taking a picture of what is written in a soy sauce or magazine or flyer. So I clicked ok. This is the price of free apps: you become the product, i.e. how you use the app will help make the app smarter, because image-to-text translation apps rely on neural networks and deep learning technologies which need to be trained and trained by giving them more and more data to chew and churn. As the the Google Translate app becomes better, Google can then use this expertise to make its search advertising business smarter.

At the start, I was just taking pictures of Japanese characters in Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Kanji are traditional Chinese characters. But a friend told me that in China, they have simplified the Chinese characters that it is impossible for the Japanese to read them. Katakana are simplifications of some Chinese characters, with a preponderance of angular strokes. Katakana is for the translation of foreign-derived words into Japanese syllabary. Finally, Hiragana is the Japanese syllabary with a preponderance of curved strokes. You may think of Hiragana as snails and Katakana as starfishes with different numbers of arms.

Taking pictures may not be polite when riding trains, so I learned to draw the characters with my hand in my iPad and let Google Translate translate the sequence of Japanese characters to English. Right now, I am still learning my hiragana and katakana, so I remember only one character at a time when looking at some posters and signs in the train or bus. Google Translate does an excellent job of knowing the characters that I have written. For the case of kanji, I had trouble with Google Translate. Well, actually it's my fault: I have to remember what the kanji character looks like and draw it in my iPad. This really exercises my imagination. I am an artist. I can draw faces. But Google Translate allows you only a second or two to draw the character before it translate it into a well-written Japanese character which Google then translates to English. So with complicated kanjis that are compounds of different basic characters, I cannot write fast enough, because my mind still has to pause to recall the next set of strokes. We humans can only remember seven chunks of information in our short-term memory. A kanji with 20 strokes is difficult to remember. But if you can remember the basic characters within a compound kanji character, you can bring down those 20 strokes into just 2 to 3 word-characters, which is easier to remember.

The good thing with Google translate is that it keeps a record of all characters that you have written and suggests some of them if it sees a similar pattern. It also gives suggestions of other related characters to see if there is something there that you intended. It's something like a thesaurus on the fly. You can also use the microphone too, and speak the speech as you pronounce it trippingly on your tongue. I have used this feature once when we were having lunch in the office. To show off the capabilities of Google Translate, I touched the microphone icon and spoke, "My name is Quirino." And the voice of a lovely lady translated them in Japanese: "Watashinonamaeha karinadesu" My friends laughed. This boy has turned into a woman. But hey, I can now have a sensible dialogue with another person if we have Google Translate in our phones or iPads.


23 October 2016

How to turn on an Apple aluminum wireless keyboard with Bluetooth for iPad

Apple Wireless Keyboard with Bluetooth - Silver (Certified Refurbished)
Last Friday, I bought an Apple aluminum wireless keyboard at our university's bookstore. When I got back to my office, I paired it with my iPad and begun to type. Click, click, click. Nothing's happening on the screen. It should be Bluetooth. What's wrong? Oh, perhaps I did not turn on the Keyboard in the Settings. I went to the settings and clicked on the Keyboard. There's no keyboard detected. Weird.

I gazed at my keyboard. I recalled the memories of seeing it several times when I passed by the bookstore and wondered how life would be easier with that keyboard and my iPad. I remembered how the cashier wrapped it in plastic bag. I remembered how I carried it back to my office, passing through the great courtyards of Autumn trees, through the traffic lights and highways, through the long walks with crickets chirping in the trees. I remembered how I opened the box along the width when I should have opened it along the length. I remembered how I marveled at the smooth grey aluminum and white keys.  Click, click, click. Perhaps, it would be a great collection for Modern Art to be hung on the walls, gazed by onlookers, and passed by.

Ah, a thought occurred to me. I rushed upstairs and went to the office of my friend. He's staring at a screen about 2 ft x 3ft x 1.5 in. He's the master of the internet networks. Surely, he would know how to turn on the Apple keyboard.

"Sumimasen," I said. "I need help with my Apple keyboard."

"Ah, Apple keyboard!" He went to a nearby shelf and gave me an Apple keyboard that looks exactly like the one I bought.

"No," I said. "I already bought an Apple keyboard, but I don't know how to pair it with my iPad."

"Sorry," he said. "I am not an expert with iPads." And he asked me to ask our other friend in the opposite room. So off I went.

When I entered the room, I saw a man before a desk with a large Apple monitor on his side. The man who loves Apple! Surely he must know how to fix my keyboard.

"Good morning," I said. "I need help how to turn on my Apple keyboard with my iPad."

He checked my keyboard. On the keyboard's cylindrical stand, he turned what looks like a disk with a line through the center.

"Is that the battery?" I asked. I have seen a battery something like that in Game and Watch several  decades ago, while playing Popeye vs Brutus.

"No, it's just a screw," he said. And pop! The screw came out. There's a plastic strip--and the batteries! Ah, the plastic was meant to prevent the batteries from getting used up. It's a genius design.

He removed the plastic, placed the batteries back, and screwed them back. He then checked the opposite side of the cylinder: it's actually switch. Fascinating.

I opened my iPad, pressed my passkeys, and went to the Keyboard settings. Round and round the circle of time goes and then there: the Apple keyboard is now visible on the iPad's screen. Click, click, click. Oh, my keyboard works!

"Thank you very much," I said to him and made a slight bow. "Arigatou gozaimashita!"

18 October 2016

How create a journal notebook with date-time indexing system

AT-A-GLANCE Planning Notebook with Reference Calendars, Plan.Write.Remember., 9.19 x 11 Inches, Black (70-6209-05)
For the past few days, I experimented with a new research notebook: Kokuyo's B5 size Campus notebook. Its binding is flat, not spring. It has 60 pages. Each page has 35 lines spaced 6 mm. I chose the flat binding with glue because the notebook may be used as evidence for prior discovery in patent court proceedings. Loose leaf sheets are difficult to consolidate and present as evidence.

Unlike normal logbooks with vertical red margins on the left side, I made my margins on the side opposite to the binding. The style is similar to that of a Tufte-style book, except that the margins are not too large, but only about 3.5 cm.

So here's my system:
  • There are no page numbers, but only dates starting at the upper corner on top of the margin column. The dates are in year.month.day notation, e.g. 20161017. But you may use the standard form, e.g. 17 Oct 2017.
  • Each paragraph entry is preceded by a title in black ink and underlined with red ink. Another option is to write in red ink.
  • The paragraph title and the paragraph are separated by a line space
  • The paragraph is marked by time stamp in four digits, e.g. 1427. You may also use the ordinary time stamp of 2:27 pm or 14:27.
  • Whenever I start a new paragraph, I put a time stamp, even if it is just a continuation of the previous paragraph under the same title.
  • Whenever I start a new day, I write the day stamp about beneath the last line of the previous day's entry, separated by a line space. Then I write the hour stamp of the first paragraph of the day beneath the day stamp. In this way, I fill up empty spaces. 
  • At the back of the notebook, I use the same margin width and I place the date on the margin in black ink underlined with red. Below the date, I place the time stamp in black. Along the line of the time stamp, I write the title of the paragraph in the body text. I repeat the process for the different paragraph titles.
  • If I write a paragraph which is related to a paragraph that is not the preceding paragraph, I note in red ink "from date-time", e.g. 20161017-1427. If the paragraph referred to belongs in the same day, I simply write "from -time", e.g. from -1427.  And the paragraph referred to I mark in red ink by "next date-time", e.g. next 20161020-1913.
The date-time indexing system allows me to work on different research projects in one notebook, even if the notebook is not sorted with filler tabs. This is really useful for me, since I'm juggling different research projects.

This system may also be used by writers who are drafting out different story elements: describe a scenery in one paragraph, make character sketch in the next paragraph, or change the "from" and "next" date-time marks to find where each paragraph logically connects to in the past or in the future. Note that the "from" stamp may also be from the future paragraph and the "next" stamp may be from a past paragraph, so that when stitched together, the paragraphs in succession create a coherent piece.

 Bloggers may also use the system to jot down paragraph ideas for different blog posts. Once you can get three of four related paragraphs and connect them with "from" and "next" date-time stamps, you may already type them out in your blog, edit a bit, and click publish. 


08 October 2016

Multilingual self-service printers at Japanese convenience stores

Lexmark 22Z0021 (X954DHE) Color Laser Printer with Scanner, Copier & Fax
A few days ago, I needed to make 6 photocopies of a 10-page document. Printing them all in the office would take a long time, so I decided to take an adventure by going to a convenience store here in Fukuoka. I saw people printing their documents in 7-11 and Family Mart before, so perhaps I may be able to do so even with my limited Japanese.

Before going to the convenience store, I prepared some Japanese phrases to use from Google Translate and copied them in my notebook:

  • I would like to have 6 copies of this document. 私は、このドキュメントの6コピーを持っていると思います。(Watashi wa, kono dokyumento no 6 kopī o motte iru to omoimasu.)
  • I don't know how to use the photocopying machine. 私はコピー機を使用する方法がわかりません。(Watashi wa kopī-ki o shiyō suru hōhō ga wakarimasen.)
  • I don't know. 知りません。 (Shirimasen.)
  • What button do I press? 私は何ボタンを押していますか?(Watashi wa nan botan o oshite imasu ka?)
  • Where is the copy? コピーはどこにありますか?(Kopī wa doko ni arimasu ka?)
When I was on my way home, I dropped by at the Family Mart in Kyudai Gakkentoshi station. There was a man ahead of me in the printer. "Clink, clink, clink." He dropped some coins on a white rectangular stand that sticks out from the ground at about 1.5 feet high. After he finished printing, he pushed a button. "Cli-li-ling-li-link," and he got his change back. Looks simple, I said to myself.

My turn came. I approached the printer. I was expecting Kanji and hiragana splattered all over the user interface screen. But lo and behold! It was not so. The printer asked me what language do I wish to use. There are about 9 major languages and one of them is Tagalog! But I clicked English. If I am not mistaken there are four paper sizes available: A4, A3, B4, and B5.  These papers are stored at the different drawers at the base of the printer. You have different printing options: photocopying, fax, printing from usb, and if I am not mistaken, you can also do web printing.  I am sure about the usb printing, because I saw the usb slot. For the web printing, I only know it because I read it somewhere that it can be done. 

And so there I was, holding my umbrella, my knapsack, and my documents, thinking what to do next. I laid my bag and umbrella on the floor and touched some buttons to print 6 copies. "Wommm. Wommm." The printer scanned and printed with the sound of light saber being swung in the air. When I saw my account balance is getting used up. I placed more coins. After using up all my coins, I realized I still have 6 copies to print! So I bought a banana for about 100 yen to get a change for my 1,000 yen bill, and I printed the last copies.

Whew! I survived the Japanese printer! My next stop is the Japanese Post Office.


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