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August 23, 2007

'Virtual Tokyo to be unveiled in cyberspace's Second Life'

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For the second consecutive day the most interesting article in the day's papers appears in the Financial Times — and nowhere else, at least among U.S. newspapers of record.

What's going on here?

Anyway, the headline up top appeared over Mariko Sanchanta's Financial Times piece about tomorrow's opening of Virtual Tokyo in Second Life.

Long story short: Dentsu, Japan's leading ad agency, spent $870,000 to acquire the 85 hectares which comprise Virtual Tokyo and aims to attract three million users within its first year, a formidable goal considering that global users of Second Life number around eight million, about 50,000 of whom are there at any given time.

Note that Virtual Tokyo will operate entirely in Japanese — gaijin go home.

Here's the newspaper story.

    Virtual Tokyo to be unveiled in cyberspace's Second Life

    A Japanese virtual megalopolis will open its doors on Friday in Second Life, the online virtual world created and owned by Linden Lab, the US company.

    Virtual Tokyo is funded entirely by Dentsu, Japan's leading advertising agency, and aims to attract 3m users within its first year, an aggressive target given that global users of Second Life total about 8m.

    Dentsu is hoping to glean valuable marketing information from the online universe and tap into its vast client base, which includes many of Japan's blue-chip companies, to create a virtual presence in the Japanese city.

    Ken Aihara, who leads the Virtual Tokyo team at Dentsu, said: "This will be an invaluable platform for marketing and advertising for Dentsu." Virtual Tokyo will operate entirely in Japanese.

    Dentsu, which spent about Y10m ($870,000) to acquire the 85 hectares in Virtual Tokyo, is aiming to recoup its investment by lining up 30 or so blue-chip companies to build a virtual presence within the first year.

    Mr Aihara said: "We're aiming to create a virtual Japanese Wall Street, where major Japanese financial institutions will have a presence.

    "For example, users would be able to negotiate a virtual home mortgage with a bank to then buy a virtual flat."

    Analysts said the marketing and advertising potential on the Japanese version of Second Life could be enormous. The monetary value of Second Life is expected to grow from Y135bn in 2007 to Y1,250bn in 2008, according to Mizuho Corporate Bank.

    Masaru Yamaguchi, manager in the industry research team at Mizuho Corporate Bank, aid: "For Dentsu, the Second Life venture makes sense. It doesn't require a huge investment on their part and the potential for reaping benefits from online marketing and advertising are huge. It is still a burgeoning market in Japan."

    Social networking sites and blogs have boomed in the country, but most Japanese still prefer to play games on consoles rather than on a PC.

    Large-scale multiplayer online role-playing games have enjoyed enormous success in South Korea and China but have yet to catch on in the Japanese market — the third biggest gaming market after the US and Europe.

    Second Life will also face competition when Sony launches Home, a virtual world that will run on its PlayStation, in the autumn.

    Mr Yamaguchi said: "Japanese gamers are accustomed to playing games on consoles due to the dominance of companies such as Nintendo, which came out with the Famicon console in the 1980s. It is a cultural difference.

    "The solution for Japan might be to introduce a console-type controller that can attach to a PC."

    More than $1m a day is spent in the Second Life universe through conversions of the in-world Linden dollar currency, enabling thousands of people to earn a living by selling goods and services through the site.

    The virtual world's great appeal has been the tools and land it provides for users to create their own avatars, buildings and communities.

    Increased appetite for networking feeds virtual world

    Second Life was launched in 2003 by Linden Lab and aimed to take advantage of the increasing appetite for social networking websites.

    It is a three-dimensional world and, to enter it, you must adopt an online avatar, or visual persona, which can be moulded to an almost ludicrous degree.

    Physical characteristics such as tint of skin, eye colour and length of hair can be tweaked to give you that winning look as you walk or fly around, interacting with others.

    The Second Life economy has its own currency, Linden dollars, which can be bought and sold on LindeX, the currency exchange, for real-world currency.

    More than $1m in real-world dollars are spent on Second Life assets every day.

    You can buy virtual clothes, land, build houses and businesses and get a job at one of the many organisations that have a presence. Occupations include tattooist, casino operator and private detective.

    Second Life claims to have 8.5m "residents" and real-world businesses such as ABN Amro, IBM and Toyota have set up shop.

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Maybe I'll mosey on over to Virtual Tokyo and have a look — can't be any harder than figuring out Second Life in English, at least for this TechnoDolt™.

August 23, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sony's new sugar-powered battery — sweet

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Above, a woman holding Sony's new glucose-operated battery in her right hand and a MP3 player powered by it in the other.

Sony successfully figured out how to generate power out of carbohydrates by breaking down enzymes that release active energy, which then can power small electronic devices.

Watch a video demo — warning, gaijin, it's in Japanese — here.

[via tokyomango]

August 23, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Funniest headline of the week: 'MTV, RealNetworks to Mount Challenge Against iTunes'

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It appeared over Jeff Leeds's story in yesterday's New York Times.

What's surprising rather than funny is that the suits at both MTV and RealNetworks responsible for both companies' failed entries into the world of online music sales have somehow managed to convince their bosses that the sum of two zeros is a positive integer.

Memo to the mathematically challenged: those numbers begin with 1 — not 0.

Billy Preston in his 1974 smash hit was spot on when he sang, "Nothin' from nothin' leaves nothin'."

In this case the difference = the sum.

What a joke.

Here's the Times article.

    MTV, RealNetworks to Mount Challenge Against iTunes

    MTV Networks said yesterday that it would fold its floundering digital music service into a venture with RealNetworks, owner of the Rhapsody music subscription service, as part of a renewed challenge to Apple’s market-leading iTunes store.

    MTV’s year-old Urge service, which gained little traction despite being packaged with Microsoft’s Windows Media Player software, will be combined with RealNetworks’ service in a partnership called Rhapsody America. The venture will be led by Urge’s manager, Michael Bloom.

    Urge’s troubles had been attributed to lackluster marketing and the fact that its paid downloads were not compatible with Apple’s popular iPod. The music unit’s poor showing came as a disappointment to MTV, which had also been criticized as responding too slowly to the appetite of young music fans for interacting on social networks like MySpace.

    Rhapsody’s songs cannot be played on an iPod either, but the new service will be carried on PCs and mobile phones under an exclusive pact with Verizon Wireless. As a result, Verizon will be able to market a digital music service to compete with AT&T, which is the service provider for the Apple iPhone.

    Details of the new service were scant yesterday. Urge’s Web site was made over to announce the new service yesterday, and a range of promotions for the service are expected to unfold as part of MTV’s annual Video Music Awards, scheduled for Sept. 9.

August 23, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Solar Powered Robotic Plant

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Solar powered plants are so passé — they're everywhere, always have been.

But not like this one.

"It's artificial?"

From the website:

    Flip Flap Plant

    Flip Flap is a solar-powered plastic plant that requires no batteries, no watering and, most importantly, no hassle.

    Just flip the switch and relax to the three modes of swaying movement the Flip Flap provides.

    4.75H x 3.25W x 3.5"D.

    Ages 8 and up.

$18.

August 23, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Meet Mike Flynt: The oldest player in the history of college football

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At 59, he's the only member of the AARP who's also on a varsity football roster.

With just six years to go until he qualifies for Medicare, Flynt (above) puts a whole new meaning into "take one for the team."

Here's the full story from today's USA Today.

    Senior citizen, senior year: 59-year-old returns to NCAA

    Mike Flynt was drinking beer and swapping stories with old football buddies a few months ago when he brought up the biggest regret of his life: Getting kicked off the college team before his senior year. So, one of his pals said, why not do something about it?

    Most 59-year-olds would have laughed. Flynt's only concern was if he was eligible.

    Finding out he was, Flynt returned to Sul Ross State this month, 37 years after he left and six years before he goes on Medicare. His comeback peaked Wednesday with coach Steve Wright saying he made the Division III team's roster. He could play as soon as Sept. 1.

    Flynt is giving new meaning to being a college senior. After all, he's a grandfather, a card-carrying member of AARP, eight years older than his coach and has two kids older than any of his teammates.

    "I think it was Carl Yastrzemski who used to say, 'How old would you be if you didn't know how old you were?' I'd be in my late 20s or early 30s, because that's how I feel," said Flynt, who has made a living out of physical fitness. "That's been my approach to this whole thing. I feel that good. I'm just going to find out if I can perform and make a contribution to the team."

    A longtime strength and conditioning coach at Nebraska, Oregon and Texas A&M, he's spent the last several years selling the Powerbase training system he invented. Clients include school systems and the military. His colorful life story includes being the son of a Battle of the Bulge survivor and having dabbled in gold mines and oil wells — successfully.

    Flynt's life was supposed to be slowing down this fall. With his youngest child starting at the University of Tennessee, he and Eileen, his wife of 35 years, are planning to take of advantage of being empty-nesters for the first time. Instead, they've moved to this remote patch of West Texas so Flynt can mend an old wound and, he hopes, inspire others.

    He became emotional discussing his goal of "helping a bunch of young men to make up for those guys that I let down." Then he laughed about the reality that fellow Baby Boomers are getting the most out of his comeback.

    "People are kind of in awe. They keep comparing me to themselves and where they are physically," he said. "If I can help anyone out by what I'm doing, then it's all worth it."

    Flynt's position is still being determined, but he used to play linebacker. Wherever he lines up, he'll probably become the oldest player in college football history. Neither the NCAA nor NAIA keeps such a statistic, but research hasn't turned up anyone older than their mid-40s. And even those are rare, for obvious reasons.

    "I told him he's an idiot," said Jerry Larned, who coached Flynt at Sul Ross in 1969 and counseled him at the start of his comeback. "I said, 'Gosh, dang, Mike, you're not 20 years old anymore. You're liable to cripple yourself.' He understands all of that. But he has a burning desire to play.... He is in great physical condition.... He's a specimen for 59 years old."

    In 1965, Flynt was on the first state title team at Odessa Permian, the high school featured in Friday Night Lights. He was offered a partial scholarship at Arkansas when the Razorbacks were among the top teams in the land but went to Ranger Junior College.

    He wound up at Sul Ross in 1969. An NAIA school then, the Lobos were in the Lone Star Conference with East Texas State, which at the time had future NFL stars Harvey Martin and Dwight White, and Texas A&I, which was starting a two-year run as the national champion.

    Flynt was going into his senior year in 1971 when he got into a fight that was far from his first. School officials decided they'd had enough and threw him out of school. He earned his degree from Sul Ross by taking his remaining classes elsewhere.

    "I actually grieved for more years than I can remember the loss of that senior year," said Flynt, who'd been a team captain and the leading tackler as a junior. "What really got me was I felt that was my football team and I had let them down.... I don't know if I ever got over it, but I finally learned to live with it."

    His wife, who has said she feels "like I'm married to Peter Pan," had to be convinced this was a good idea. They've sold their suburban Nashville home and are now living in Alpine.

    Said Flynt, "I told her, for me to know that I can do it and not do it would be worse than losing out the first time."

August 23, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Music Mug

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From the website:

    Music Mug

    Designed by Masato Tokuno.

    A new interpretation of the desktop coffee cup, this white ceramic mug holds an MP3 player and has a built-in speaker.

    Simply insert the mini plug into an MP3 player's earphone jack to serve up quality sound.

    The MP3 player provides the power source so no additional batteries are needed.

    Cannot be used for drinking.

    4.5H x 3.25"diam.

$36.

August 23, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

WalkScore.com — Episode 2: bookofjoe World Headquarters™ scores 9 (on a scale of 0-100)

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After I featured this nifty website last Sunday, I decided to give it a try myself.

That's the way we do things around here.

Anyway.

Turns out my neighborhood (above, with my little Monopoly-style house icon in the center) isn't very walkable at all.

Tell you what: I wouldn't want to live anywhere else I know of, even if given carte blanche.

Just goes to show that being a 9 isn't all that bad sometimes.

August 23, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

My Hold Right Pencil: For girly-boys — and the girls who love them

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I don't how else to describe a little boy who'd be happy to affix differently-colored stickers to three of his fingers (above) in order to correctly grip his new Dixon Ticonderoga My Hold Right pencil.

Full disclosure: I ordered mine the yoctosecond I espied this singular creation, the subject of a story by Bruce Horovitz in today's USA Today; the piece follows.

    Hold-Right pencil helps kids get a grip on writing

    Perhaps the toughest thing about entering kindergarten is learning how to hold that darned pencil.

    On Thursday, Dixon Ticonderoga, the nation's biggest pencil maker, will unveil a pencil that it says can help solve the problem for many kids: My Hold Right Pencil.

    With an eye on back-to-school, the color-coded, triangular-shaped pencil system — developed by a woman who taught elementary school for 35 years — has been tested on school kids and reviewed by teachers. The pencil could have a big market, since about 35% of kindergartners hold pencils wrong, says Don Currie, marketing chief at Ticonderoga.

    "We know pencils better than anyone," Currie says. "How legibly you write bears on future success."

    The pencil hits at a time when other familiar names are trying to cash in on the $18.4 billion back-to-school market that has shown some signs of softness. Crayola is rolling out a kid-friendly, staple-free stapler and a ruler that measures out loud.

    But Ticonderoga's pencil is raising eyebrows among educators and parents.

    How it works: The three sides of the thick pencil are red, yellow and green. These colors also appear on tiny stickers that students wear on three fingernails of their writing hand. Match the colors and you've got to be holding the pencil right. (Left-handers sharpen the eraser-less pencil from the other end.)

    The pencil was developed by retired New Jersey teacher Debbie Kaufman, who licensed the concept to Ticonderoga and will receive an undisclosed fee for every box sold. Currie expects it to be one of the company's best sellers in years.

    The pencils aren't cheap. A box of three — with stickers, poster and sharpener — costs $4.99. A teacher's box of 24 fetches $25.95 — about a buck a pencil.

    Office Depot is carrying it because of its "twist of innovation," spokeswoman Mindy Kramer says.

    But teachers with tiny budgets may hesitate, says Janet Petty, manager of Teaching World & Toys, a supply store in Laguna Niguel, Calif. Still, she will carry the pencils because she expects that "teachers may tell parents to buy them."

    One executive at the National Association for the Education of Young Children worries that the pencil won't help kids who aren't ready to hold a pencil.

    "The real goal should be to help kids develop their fine motor skills," says Barbara Willer, deputy executive director of the group. A broader approach that encourages kids to do everything from stringing beads to playing with Play-Doh is more effective, she says.

    But Hayley Ling, who has taught kindergarten and preschool in Irvine, Calif., and who is a mother of a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old, likes the concept a lot. "Tell me," she asks, "where do I get one?"

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Note to file: Send one to Governor Schwarzenegger.

Three for $5.49 — if you can get one.

Dixon Ticonderoga's already sold out.

August 23, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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