Doug Lerner reports from Tokyo and St. Louis, and points beyond…

Archive for July, 2007

Edo no koku – Edo era time keeping

A friend recently gave me a fascinating pocket watch that keeps Edo era time (Edo no Koku). Take a look at the photo. It is really amazingly intricate and complicated and interesting. Click on the thumbnail to see the full-size image! 



The way time in the Edo era (1603 – 1868) was kept is so convoluted and bizarre, to our modern way of thinking, it took me a couple of days just to figure it out.

Take a look at the attached photo and try to follow along and let’s keep Edo time together!

First, for convenience, the watch also keeps modern time, which was introduced in Japan in Meiji 5 (1872). The inner ring of numbers is a 24 hour modern era clock number 1 through 12 in kanji, and then 1 through 12 again. The left hand side is AM and the right-hand side is PM. The long hand in the photo shows just after 6 am (just past the 5 and 6 border). The smaller thick hand is the minute hand and it is just a standard reading of 60 minutes around the clock – each small black circle marks off 15 minutes, each dark black tick mark is 5 minutes and the light tick marks are 1 minute each.

The thin hand is the second hand. The next circle out is a ring showing the juunishi (the 12 characters of the oriental zodiac) and for each character there is a number, also in kanji. This is where is gets interesting.

The way time was kept in the Edo era was that the day was divided into daylight and nighttime and the hours were counted from dawn (yoake) and then from sunset (higure). The definition of dawn was “from when the stars faded” and the definition of sunset was “from when the stars appeared”.

Day and night were divided into 6 intervals, or hours, each. It is an oversimplification, as some do, to say that because we have 24 hours and in Edo they had 12 hours that each Edo era hour was about 2 of our current hours. That is oversimplified because, of course, daylight and nighttime depend on the season. So the length of the hours change depending on the season and whether it is daytime or nighttime. This is called futeijihou in Japanese. futei means “non-fixed” and jihou means “time method”. The fu in futei is an “opposite” or “negation”, so modern time is called teijihou, or the “fixed time method”.

In the photo, daylight hours are in white and nighttime hours are in black. Because the amount of daylight, and thus the length of the hours themeselves, changes with the seasons, the outer ring must actually be replaced on the 7th day of each month. The watch comes with a set of 12 replacement rings for this purpose.

And now for some more fun! The way the hours themselves are counted is even stranger. Let’s start around the clock, from the first daylight hour, on the left. The big character shown half in black and white on the left side of the outer-most ring is “u”, which is rabbit in old kanji. So this hour is called u no koku – hour of the rabbit.

koku is a word for time. The word “no” is just a particle, like the possessive apostrophe in English. Thus u no koku is rabbit’s hour, or hour of the rabbit.

The number below the u chacter is the kanji for the number 6. The 6 represents 6 bells that a shrine might chime to mark the hour. So the first hour of daylight is called either u no koku (hour of the rabbit) or yoake mutsu (number 6 since dawn, or 6 bells from dawn, or just “dawn 6”).

The word yoake, remember, means “dawn” (literally “day opening”) and the word mutsu is the ordinal number 6 (the counting number without a counter word). So dawn, this time of year, occurs about half way in the middle of yoake mutsu, the hour of the rabbit.

Looking at the inner modern clock, you can see this is about 4:45 am or so, which is correct. (The sunrise and sunset times are in Hyogo prefecture standard.)

Is everybody still with me? If so… The next hour after u no koku is tatsu no koku – the hour of the dragon. Since u no koku was yoake mutsu – dawn 6, tatsu no koku is …. yoake itsutu – dawn 5! Yes, that is right. Instead of going up, the next hour goes down! The next hour is mi no koku – hour of the snake. Numerically it is yoake yotsu, or dawn 4, meaning 4 bells would be chimed to mark the hour.

And here it gets weird again! The next outermost character, at the top of the clock, is the character for horse – uma. So it is uma no koku, hour of the hourse. It is yoake kokonotsu which means….. Dawn 9. Yes, nine. Not 3. There is no 3. In other words, the hours start at dawn and the daytime hours are 6, 5, 4 then 9, 8, 7. Then at night – higure (sunset) – they start counting from 6 again! Don’t you just love it!

You can see on the watch that higure (sunset) is on the right side, down from the horizontal – where white turns to black again. That outermost character is tori, meaning bird. So sunset occurs during the hour of the bird, higure mutsu (sunset 6).

Looking at the inner ring, day becomes night around 6:30 pm in modern time, which is correct for this time of year (it gets darker earlier here than in the U.S.). The complete list of times, starting from dawn and working around are:

* yoake mutsu (dawn 6), u no koku (hour of the rabbit)

* yoake itsutsu (dawn 5), tatsu no koku (hour of the dragon)

* yoake yotsu (dawn 4), mi no koku (hour of the snake)

* yoake kokonotsu (dawn 9), uma no koku (hour of the horse)

By the by, the kanji in uma no koku (hour of the horse) is the 2nd kanji used in syougo – the kanji for noon. Noon occurs in the hour of the horse, which is half-way in the middle of the daylight hours.


* yoake yatsu (dawn 8), hitsuji no koku (hour of the sheep)

Another aside: For those of you who like Japanese snacks, you will know these are called “oyatsu”. Many Japanese people even do not realize that the word oyatsu comes from this Edo era time of the day – about 3 pm in the middle of yoake yatsu – when it is common to have tea-time and snacks.


* yoake nanatsu (dawn 7), saru no koku (hour of the monkey)

The next hour marks the end of daytime and the beginning of the hours after sunset (higure, literally “the coming to the end of the day”), and the counting starts over with 6:

* higure mutsu (sunset 6), tori no koku (hour of the bird)

* higure itsutsu (sunset 5), inu no koku (hour of the dog)

* higure yotsu (sunset 4), i no koku (hour of the boar)

* higure kokonotsu (sunset 9), ne no koku (hour of the rat)

* higure yatsu (sunset 8), ushi no koku (hour of the ox)

* higure nanatsu (sunset 7), tora no koku (hour of the tiger)

Then it starts over again with yoake mutsu – dawn 6, which is, as you know by now, u no koku – hour of the rabbit.

Cool huh!


Hao-can comes when called

When I whistle for Hao-chan he always comes and lands in my hand.


Hao-chan’s new cage

He has possibly the largest cage for a single Java Sparrow in all of Japan. I can’t believe I got it home from the airport!

(click on the thumbnails to see full size)



Hao-chan checking for phone messages

Click on the thumbnail to see the photo in full size…



Four Great Hao-chan Poses

You can see a lot of Hao-chan’s personality in these 4 great shots. Click on the thumbnails to get the full-sized photos.



Hao-chan beak-in-action shot

And look how long his claws have gotten!



Hao-chan happy that Doug is home

Hao-chan seemed to remember me just fine. And look how white he has gotten. And larger too!



Impeach Gonzales – for starters

Gonzales loses ground on the Hill
His explanations leave senators questioning his candor and honesty.
By Richard B. Schmitt
LA Times Staff Writer

July 25, 2007

WASHINGTON — Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday accused Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales of repeatedly misleading Congress and suggested that he had perjured himself in connection with statements to lawmakers about an anti-terrorism program.

One after another, Democrats — and some Republicans — accused Gonzales of a pattern of deceit in addressing issues from his role in last year’s firing of top prosecutors to his 2004 participation in an unusual late-night visit to the hospital room of his ailing predecessor, John Ashcroft.

“You’ve come here seeking our trust,” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, told Gonzales. “Frankly, Mr. Attorney General, you’ve lost mine. And this is something I’ve never said to any Cabinet member before.”

The hearing was Gonzales’ first opportunity to describe under oath his version of a March 10, 2004, standoff in Ashcroft’s hospital room over recertifying President Bush’s wiretapping program.

But his explanation again was met with skepticism.

The attorney general’s appearance was designed in part for Gonzales to repair fractured relations with members of Congress; his credibility has suffered under the weight of multiple controversies. But if anything, he lost ground — as his explanations of missteps and statements raised even more questions from senators about his candor and truthfulness.

“I do not find your testimony credible, candidly,” Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said.

“The chairman’s already said that the committee’s going to review your testimony very carefully to see if your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable.”

While Gonzales still enjoys the support of Bush, the confrontation was remarkable for the ridicule heaped upon the nation’s top law-enforcement officer.

Gonzales said he wanted to stay at the Justice Department to fix problems that have surfaced during his tenure, including evidence that politics has infected hiring practices at the department.

But lawmakers said Gonzales was the principal problem, and they questioned whether the steps he was taking would make a difference.

The attorney general’s performance Tuesday reinforced the impression of some who believe he is out of touch with Justice Department policy issues.

Gonzales was confronted with a May 2006 memo in which he authorized expanded communications with White House officials, including the office of Vice President Dick Cheney, regarding pending investigations.

“What on Earth business does the office of the vice president have in the internal workings of the Department of Justice with respect to criminal investigations, civil investigations, ongoing matters?” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) asked.

Gonzales acknowledged that he did not have a good answer. “As a general matter, I would say that that’s a good question,” he said, eliciting laughter from the dozen or so protesters in the audience.

James B. Comey, a former Ashcroft deputy, told the committee this spring that he believed Gonzales — along with then-White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. — had tried to strong-arm Ashcroft into overriding objections Comey had to an administration anti-terrorism program.

Ashcroft had named Comey acting attorney general while he was recovering from gallbladder surgery.

Gonzales, who at the time was White House counsel, defended his actions Tuesday, saying that he decided to involve Ashcroft only after an emergency meeting with senior congressional leaders in the White House Situation Room. He said “the consensus” was the program should be continued, even though Comey objected.

Gonzales said he knew that Ashcroft was seriously ill; the encounter took place a day after surgery, while he was in intensive care. But Gonzales denied trying to take advantage of a sick man: “We never had any intent to ask anything of him if we did not feel that he was competent.”

Gonzales also said the disagreement was not about the Terrorist Surveillance Program that Bush ordered after Sept. 11 that authorized warrantless monitoring of domestic phone calls and e-mails with suspected terrorists overseas. Rather, he said, the disagreement was over “other intelligence activities,” which he declined to describe.

The distinction is important because Gonzales told the committee last year that he was aware of no serious dissent within the administration over the warrantless wiretap program.

Democrats and Republicans alike questioned whether Gonzales was being truthful in attempting to explain his earlier testimony.

Whitehouse, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, accused Gonzales of obfuscation. “The path to that kernel of truth is so convoluted and is so contrary to the plain import of what you said, that I, really, at this point have no choice but to believe that you intended to deceive us,” he said.

John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee and was among the congressional leaders Gonzales said was briefed before the Ashcroft hospital visit, accused Gonzales of fabricating the account.

“He is making up something to protect himself,” Rockefeller said in a briefing with reporters after the judiciary committee hearing. Asked if Gonzales had deliberately misled Congress, Rockefeller said: “Based on what I know about it, I’d have to say yes.”

Rockefeller said lawmakers had received briefings on only one intelligence operation, the warrantless wiretapping. The program was confirmed by Bush after it was disclosed in media reports in December 2005.

Responding to those comments, the Justice Department issued a statement saying the attorney general stood by his testimony. “We find Chairman Rockefeller’s statements about his lack of familiarity with this issue puzzling, since the chairman’s committee has been conducting oversight on this very specific issue,” said spokesman Brian Roehrkasse.

Gonzales also was questioned Tuesday about an allegation that he had attempted to shape the testimony of a former top aide who was about to appear before Congress. Monica Goodling told the House Judiciary Committee this spring that Gonzales had tried discuss with her the events leading up to the U.S. attorneys’ firings and that the encounter made her “uncomfortable.”

Leahy noted that Gonzales previously had told the committee that he was not speaking with anyone about the firings because he did not want to interfere with the investigation.

“So your earlier testimony was wrong?” Leahy asked Tuesday.

“I wouldn’t say that it was wrong,” Gonzales replied.

“My conversation with her was not to shape her testimony. My conversation with her was to simply reassure her that as far as I knew, no one had done anything intentionally wrong here. I think she was confused and I think needed reassurance.”

Gonzales also was asked about the decision of the White House, based on a Justice Department legal opinion, to assert executive privilege and decline to turn over documents and testimony to congressional investigators examining the firings of the U.S. attorneys.

The House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote today on a resolution holding White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former Bush counsel Harriet E. Miers in contempt for their refusal to cooperate with the investigation.

The White House has indicated that it will not permit the Justice Department to prosecute people for congressional contempt because of the belief that the law does not apply to cases where presidential aides are invoking executive privilege.

Saying the administration’s positions on executive privilege and prosecuting contempt cases were effectively preventing Congress from exercising its oversight responsibility of the executive branch, Specter asked Gonzales whether he thought “you can have a constitutional government” under those circumstances.

Gonzales observed that Congress and the president have separate powers under the U.S. Constitution, and that “in very rare instances, they sometimes litigate it in the courts.”

“Would you focus on my question for just a minute, please?” Specter said.

Gonzales said he could not comment because he said the question related to “an ongoing controversy in which I am recused.”

“I’m not going to pursue that question, Mr. Attorney General,” Specter concluded, “because I see it’s hopeless.”

Bush puts politics over science – one of the main reasons I loathe the Bush administration

From the NY Times

July 10, 2007

White House Is Accused of Putting Politics Over Science

WASHINGTON, July 10 — Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional committee today that top officials in the Bush administration repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.

Dr. Carmona, who served as surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, said White House officials would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues because of political concerns. Top administration officials delayed for years and attempted to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand tobacco smoke, he said in sworn testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

He was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of every speech he gave, Dr. Carmona said. He was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings, at least one of which included Karl Rove, the president’s senior political adviser, he said.

And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization’s longtime ties to the Kennedy family.

“I was specifically told by a senior person, ‘Why would you want to help those people?’ ” Dr. Carmona said.

The Special Olympics is one of the nation’s premier charitable organizations to benefit disabled people.

Dr. Carmona joins a list of present and former Bush administration officials who assert that politics often trumped science within what had previously been nonpartisan government health and scientific agencies.

His testimony comes two days before the Senate confirmation hearings of his designated successor, Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr., who was nominated this year by President Bush. Two members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions have already declared their opposition to Dr. Holsinger’s nomination because of a 1991 report he wrote that concluded that homosexual sex is unnatural and unhealthy. Dr. Carmona’s testimony may further complicate Dr. Holsinger’s nomination.

Bill Hall, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the Bush administration disagreed with Dr. Carmona’s statements about political pressure. “It has always been this administration’s position that public health policy should be rooted in sound science,” Mr. Hall said.

But Representative Henry A. Waxman, the chairman of the House oversight committee, sharply criticized the Bush administration, saying it was putting politics above health issues.

“Political interference with the work of the surgeon general appears to have reached a new level in this administration,” Mr. Waxman said in his opening statement, adding, “The public expects that a surgeon general will be immune from political pressure and be allowed to express his or her professional views based on the best available science.”

In his testimony, Dr. Carmona said that at first he was so politically naïve that he had little idea how inappropriate the Bush administration’s actions were. He eventually consulted six previous surgeons general — Republican and Democrat — and all agreed, he said, that he faced more political interference than they did.

On issue after issue, Dr. Carmona asserted, the Bush administration made decisions about important public health issues based solely on political considerations, not scientific ones.

“I was told to stay away from those because we’ve already decided which way we want to go,” Dr. Carmona said.

He described attending a meeting of top officials in which the subject of global warming was discussed. The other officials concluded that global warming was a liberal cause and dismissed it, he said.

“And I said to myself: ‘I realize why I’ve been invited. They want me to discuss the science because they obviously don’t understand the science,’ ” he said. “I was never invited back.”

He said the science is clear that effective sexual education efforts must offer what he called a “comprehensive approach.”

“However, there was already a policy in place to only support sexual education efforts that discussed only abstinence, he said.

After serving one full term as surgeon general, Dr. Carmona was not asked by the White House to serve another. Before becoming surgeon general, he was in the Army Special Forces, earned two purple hearts in the Vietnam War, was a trauma surgeon and a leader of the Pima County, Ariz., SWAT team. He is now vice chairman of Canyon Ranch, a resort and residential development company.

From this morning’s iChat with Hao-chan

Hao-chan loves to iChat!


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