D-Day +1

June 6th was the 71st anniversary of D-Day and the Normandy landings of 1944., dubbed the largest amphibian military assault in history. 156,000 troops landed on a 50-mile stretch of the French Normandy coastline on the morning of June 6th.  A large complex deception plan was enacted to deceive the Germans about exactly where and when the invasion would take place. This plan included fake equipment, a phantom army and fake radio transmissions. (Read more here.)

How much do you know about D-Day? Take a quiz here (I got 60%. How about you?)

I  recently read some excellent children’s stories about the European theatre of WWII, but first, here’s a remarkable video of statistics about military and civilian deaths in WWII:

I recommend the following books about WWII:

  • Ian Serrailler’s “The Silver Sword”, a fictional story but based on real accounts, this tells the tale of 4 children from Warsaw, Poland, whose parents are suddenly arrested by the Nazis, leaving the children to fend for themselves. The father is sent to a prison camp in the south of the country, but he escapes and makes his way back to Warsaw where he hears that his wife was packed off to work as a slave in Germany, and his house was blown up by the Nazis. And the children? Nobody knows anything about them, but while visiting the site of his home, the father  finds a small silver sword, a paper knife he’d given to his wife, and then he meets a strange wild boy named Jan who picks his pockets of food and demands the silver sword. On a hunch, the father gives the sword to Jan on condition that if ever Jan meets his children, he will tell them to go to Switzerland where his wife’s parents live, and where they had agreed to meet should the family be separated. Jan later does meet the 3 children and gains their trust by showing them the sword. The four of them decide to go to Switzerland. The rest of the book is about their extraordinary journey. Written for children, it avoids over-graphic descriptions, yet remains grim and realistic and does not sugar-coat anything. As such, it makes a moving and enjoyable read for adults as well. Serrailler was a school teacher, and during the war was a conscientious objector, yet his descriptions of war-torn Poland are remarkably detailed and convincing. I first read this story when I was 11, and never forgot it.
  • Parallel Journeys, by Eleanor Ayer. The personal experience of WWII, told by a German teenager who joined the Hitler Youth then the Luftwaffe, and a German Jew who “escaped” to Holland in 1939. Author Eleanor Ayer ties the two stories together and acts as an editorial voice connecting quotes from the original books by each participant, Alfons Heck and Helen Waterford, in their own words. Each chapter recounts the events in one of the two’s lives. The chapters alternate between the two characters and are in chronological order.Points that struck me: the fatal hesitation on the part of so many Jews even after the writing was on the wall; the shock when Helen realises this talk of “labor camps” must be a lie; the sickening yet totally believable naivety and fanatic enthusiasm for Hitler and his mad plans on the part of teenaged German youths; the angry good-sense from… (read the rest of my review on Amazon Japan).
  • Resistance 1, a graphic novel by Carla Jablonski (story) and Leland Purvis (illustrations), about some children living in “Free” France who hide a neighbouring Jewish boy when his parents are arrested by the Nazis. Realizing they can’t keep him hidden forever, they decide to contact the Resistance to see if they can help get him to Paris where he learns his parents are in hiding. The book is a light read for adults, but may be a good introduction to this period of French history for younger English readers. There is just one death – a Resistance fighter is killed right in front of the children – but the brooding menace of the times is felt, and the difficulties of getting children to understand the situation.
  • There’s No Escape, by Ian Serrailler. This is more of an adventure story than a war story, and everything is fictional, although the countries’ are obviously similar to European countries in the time of WWII. I inlcude it here because it is a thoroughly enjoyable read and showcases Serrailler’s extraordinary powers as a story-teller. The story is a string of upsets and unexpected twists (more or less believable). A British scientist is persuaded to rescue another scientist from behind enemy lines in Europe. He is trained in parachute-jumping and given false papers and a rendez-vous in 10 days. Everything goes wrong: he lands in a tree and wastes valuable time extricating himself. He buries his parachutist’s clothes, only to discover that he has left his map in them by mistake. He hurries back, but his clothes have disappeared! He is given refuge by a local farmer and tells them of his plans, hoping for their aid, only to fall ill and be laid up in bed for a week! One day, a “doctor” pays a visit; the doctor turns out to be the scientist our hero was supposed to look for! The farmer’s son found him. The rest of the story describes how the two manage to get themselves to the rendez-vous, only to be arrested there and miss the plane that comes to pick them up. There is another way out of the country, but it involves a high mountain pass, and the two must bring along the farmer’s wife and children or leave them to certain death.

“Let’s plant some s***!”

Gardens – most people like them. They exist in every culture. And now, they might be saving lives. Check out this short video, then grab a shovel and “let’s plant some s***!” (Click here to see on YouTube if the player won’t play.)

UK’s election results in one picture

L to R: David Cameron, Nick Clegg, the head of Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon . (The severed head on a plate is of course an allusion to this biblical story).

I get all my news these days without the “benefit” of newspapers or television:

https://tinyurl.com/q99mcbl (where I found the above cartoon)

and

https://tinyurl.com/nkw3nct in which the writer points out that now there will be fight within Cameron’s party about the referendum on Britain remaining in the EU, which Cameron promised and which UKIP campaigned on (UKIP ended up in 3rd position in numbers of votes, although they only one a single seat), and another fight will be about Scottish independence. Although last year’s referendum resulted in a defeat for independence, the 50 seats won by the SNP in this election mean that this issue is very much alive.

For an irreverent take on elections generally, read this: https://tinyurl.com/pp6k27p

Happy Cherry Blossom viewing

This year, it was wet and windy and cold for much of the cherry-blossom season. I managed to get a few photos towards the end. Help yourself. (Click on image to see larger version.)

Please check out Nara resident Stardust English Talk’s photo blog whose photos are much better than mine.

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John Adorney’s new CD Kickstarted!

Kickstart_JAdorney_campaign_Reached

Coming Soon! Paperless Document Organization Guide revised edition

Brooks Duncan will soon pubilsh his 2015 version of his popular Paperless Document Organization Guide, which I promote on this site (I’m an affiliate). I found his Guide enormously helpful when I was first thinking about going paperless, then once I had made the plunge (and discovered there was more to it than just throwing every bit of paper into the scanner).

As a customer of his, I’ve already downloaded the new Guide. The videos have been re-done and updated, e.g. for Windows 8. You can download the entire package as one giant zip file or as individual items (there are a lot of them, but if you prefer that method, it’s an option).

Check out his website and blog while you’re waiting.

If you’re thinking of going paperless but haven’t quite decided yet, I suggest signing up for Brooks’ free 7-step email course (you get one email a day for a week).

If you already have an earlier version of the Guide, here are a few highlights from the new Edition:

  • It goes much more in-depth on most topics. The PDF itself has been redone with 2.5x the material.
  • All the interviews have been re-done with a great selection of paperless enthusiasts, experts, professionals, and Professional Organizers.
  • All videos have been re-done, including my workflow where you can watch over my shoulder (so to speak) as I process my documents.
  • Each section provides Action Items to help you decide what exactly you need to do, so you can actually take action with confidence.
  • There are more examples.
  • The software section has been updated and expanded with my favorite applications for 2015.
  • The cloud section has been updated and expanded. The various cloud services are compared and contrasted.
  • The automation section is expanded.
  • There is a new section on mobile organization.
  • The paperless workflow section has been redone and integrated into the main Guide.
  • My Workflow has been completely redone.
  • There is an all new de-uglified design.

There is more, but those are the highlights.

Kickstart John Adorney’s new CD

I’m a fan of John Adorney’s music, and I highlighted one song in my Christmas blog post last year.

Even if you don’t join the kickstarter campaign, I hope you enjoy the video and the music.

How to get your Kindle book notes into Evernote

Some 11 months ago, I wrote a long, involved post about how to get your Kindle notes and highlights into Evernote automatically, which was not automatic and very involved.

Here’s a better way. It’s also not automatic, but contains relatively few steps.

  1. Read your book on Kindle or a Kindle app.
  2. Highlight parts and (optionally) write notes about those highlighted sections.
    1. You can share your notes if you wish (on my iPad, the only options are Twitter or Facebook), but it’s not necessary for this procedure to work.
  3. Finish the book (I don’t mean it’s essential to read the whole book, but you’ll see why later).
  4. Head on to your Kindle page on Amazon (you may have to sign in): https://kindle.amazon.com/
  5. You’ll see all your books listed in some kind of order (I think it’s alphabetical), and probably your most recently read book is not visible (unless it begins with A).

    Amazon Kindle page

    Click on image to see a larger one.

  6. From here, there are 2 ways to get the highlights and/or notes of your most recently read book. One is the long, pretty way, two is the shortcut:
    1. Find your book in the list and click on the title. This will take you to this page where you (again) have 2 choices.
      My_book

      Click on image for a clearer version

      1. (Refers to the circle 1 in the image above). This will take you to your highlights.
      2. This will open your highlights in a pop-up window

        Click on image for a clearer version

        Click on image for a clearer version

  7. From your Amazon Kindle page (see first screenshot above), click on “Your Highlights”. This will take you to your highlights page, with the most recent ones at the top.
    1. I read books and make notes one book at a time, so all my highlights for any book are all in one uninterrupted list. If you are no so orderly and organized as I am, your highlights will be in chronological order you made them in, but may not be sorted by book title.
    2. Tough luck. In that case, follow the step in 6-1-1 above.
  8. If you’ve been obeying instructions, you should now have in front of you a page with all the highlighted passages from a single book that you read, and whose highlights you want to share or transfer to another medium or app.
  9. Assuming you want to copy all your highlights and notes from here to Evernote, just select all the ones you want then right-click and select “Evernote webclipper” and “clip selection” (mine’s in Japanese but trust me, that’s what it says).Rightclickhttpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9pfq9ubPMY

Best wishes for 2015 & blog stats 2014

IMG_0148The turning of the year is a natural point from which to look back and reflect on what has passed, and to look forward to the future and what we hope and wish for. I used to think that understanding the past is vital before planning the future. The name of this blog is an example of that belief. I am less certain of that now. I still believe that understanding the past is important, however; I just don’t think it is as paramount as I used to. More about that below.

This is by way of introducing a set of statistics about this blog. I’m publishing it here mainly for my own purpose – because I’m sure to lose the link or forget how to navigate to it – rather than because I know my readers are eager for such info.

I use a WordPress plugin called Jetpack, and every year they provide me with a collection of statistics from the past year. Here’s the link to the 2014 report for this blog: http://jetpack.me/annual-report/5479647/2014/

You’re welcome.

I wrote earlier that I no longer believe that understanding the past is vital to help us decide where we want to go or what we want to do or be in the future.  Just as important, if not more so, I now think, is being clear about what we really want. Where do I want to go? What do I want to see? What do I want to do? What kind of world or society do I want to live in? Because the past can also limit our vision of the future. We can become complacent and simply think of continuing in the future what we have done in the past.

Japan is a country with many long traditions (some are perhaps not as long as many believe or would like to believe – “bushido” being one example – but that is another matter). Tonight, millions of Japanese will visit a temple and ring the bell 108 times, and the next day visit a shrine, rubbing shoulders (and just about every other part of the body) with thousands of their fellow countrymen, packed together like Japanese in a New Year’s shrine,throw money in a box, buy some trinkets and go home. Why? Because it’s tradition. It has little to do with religion, as Mike Rogers pointed out in his hilarious piece on the Japanese KFChristmas. Just because that’s what people did last year and the year before that and the year before that.

But what was done in the past, however long the tradition may be, need not decide what we do in the future, unless we let it.

So, in 2015 what do you want to do, see, hear and feel? What kind of world do you want to live in?

Three thoughts:

1) “I would like the world to be such that children can grow up without losing their natural serenity. I would like this to become reality as soon as possible.”  – Haruchika Noguchi.

2) (In Japanese only) – The Future Times or 未来新聞 (mirai shimbun)  People post their visions of what the future will look like, complete with date.

3) The short video by Prem Rawat which prompted this blog entry: “No Need to Measure”

Decommissioning news from Fukushima

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Right on schedule and just in time for Christmas, TEPCO succeeded in transferring all the fuel out of the spent-fuel pool of Reactor 4. Much still remains to be done, but this is good news.