木曜日, 3月 03, 2005

The Inventor of Information

    The English-version Wikipedia article on Mori Ogai contains an interesting antecdote, if true:

As a physician, Mori specialized in beriberi, an ailment caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1. His questionable decisions involving the contents of soldiers' rations during the Russo-Japanese War might have cost the lives of thousands of Japanese soldiers (ironically, to the beriberi disease that Mori specialized in).

    Curious, I went to the Japanese Mori Ogai page. I didn't find the story repeated there, but the Japanese page did credit Mori with the invention of the word 情報, "information". It explains that the word is a combination of "passion" 情熱 and "report" 報告. The word currently enjoys the same status in modern life as the English word "information," which we think of as consisting of objective facts; yet perhaps there is a bit of "passion" in it too, for us nerds at least.

    In my personal life, some problems with my apartment have been solved, but others remain. A synopsis.

SOLVED: I had a problem with tiny gnats in my apartment. I found where they were hiding out and got rid of them. Once destroying their hidden lair, the best way to kill them is simply to vacuum them up.

SOLVED: I didn't have a computer or Internet in my apartment for a year and a half. This caused me to spend an alarming amount of time at a certain Internet cafe. However, my friend Sophia kindly gave me a computer (Mac i-Book), and yesterday I took the day off work in order to have the Internet connected (Yahoo BB).

NEW PROBLEM: My bathtub's gas-powered hot-water heater, which has always been a pain anyway, completely gave up the ghost the other day. I had a repairman to my house (since I was already home yesterday waiting for the Yahoo BB people), and he said he couldn't take off the cover to fix it because it's rusted shut. He pointed out that it's twenty years old. My apartment is truly ancient and decrepit. Let me also point out that the kitchen hot water heater has never worked since I moved in. What scared me most was that my neighbor-across-the-way had the same problem last summer, and he couldn't take a hot bath or shower for a month! Which he said was still tolerable in the summer, but it's chilly now, and I don't think I could face cold showers - for a month, or ever.

    My neighbor eventually had his whole bathtub replaced, which is probably what I'll have to do. The company that owns my apartment is sending someone to take a look at it today (I told them to come sometime after 5), so I'm going to hurry home from school.

    I had to make do with a shower at the gym last night. In a way it's almost okay, because I've been going to Step Aerobics and other classes at the gym almost every day anyway, and I don't even mind getting in the public bath with the other women, but I still hope I can bathe in my own bathtub soon. I was looking forward to using my citron-flavored bath salts. More importantly, what will I do if there's a string of holidays and the gym is closed...?

    I'll leave you with this. The other day when I bought tofu okonomiyaki at a tofu shop near my house, the tofu vendor gave me a big smile and asked if I wanted "ohashi stick". I must have looked confused, because he said, "Aren't ohashi called ohashi stick in English?"
   No, but it's a cute guess.
    I told him "chopsticks." My English teacher instinct kicked in, and I repeated it again a couple times until his pronunciation improved marginally. Meanwhile his coworker could hardly control her giggling.
   By the way, tofu okonomiyaki is kind of gross.