The right to recline

In recent years, there have been countless incidents on airplanes in which passengers get into fights about space: Who gets the armrest? Is it ok to recline? This article talks about ways to prevent such arguments:

“How to Resolve Fights over Reclining Airplane Seats: Use Behavioral Economics” (Evonomics, May 12)

Reading this reminded me of a bus ride I was on in Cambodia. Across the aisle, I saw a man reclined in his seat, sleeping peacefully, while the mother and child behind him looked less than comfortable.

What do you think? Should the man have checked first before he reclined fully? Or is it the responsiblity of the bus manufacturer to design better buses, trains and plances, to make sure kids-on-laps aren’t squished?

Four years of trash in a Mason jar

It’s an idea for a 30 Day Challenge. See how little trash you can produce in one month and how many of the changes you make to your daily life are sustainable for you.

It’s also a good research project theme: how much trash and food waste do Japanese businesses produce, and how easy would it be to change policy in ways to encourage them to produce less waste? A lot of supermarkets now charge ¥2 or ¥5 or ¥10 for plastic bags, but convenience stores don’t. Should they?

A, B, O, AB

In the first week of class I asked students to come up with 3 adjectives describing their personality, using a thesaurus to experiment with new vocabulary.

How about your blood type?

This is a detailed explanation of the role of “blood type personality theory” which used to be so popular in Japanese society (from Tofugu).

When I first came to Japan, one of the first questions people asked me as I got to know them was, “What’s your blood type?” I thought it was an odd question, asked as casually as “Where are you from?” or “What do you do?” (or maybe the often asked in Japan but less commonly asked by native speakers, “What’s your hobby?”). In fact, at the time I didn’t know what my blood type was because to me it was one of those things only doctors cared about.

Here’s a chart that uses lots of adjectives for personality. Can you guess which blood type this is?

These days, people don’t seem to care about blood type as much. Maybe it was the realization that, like horoscopes, trying to explain a person’s character through blood type is, at best, a good conversation starter. At worst, it can lead to what the article calls “blood harassment”.

Do you and your peers care about blood type? Is it something you ask about when you meet someone new? Have you heard any stories about blood type affecting a relationship? What about horoscopes — do you read them or believe them?

The grass is always greener…

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”

This is a saying that means we often are dissatisfied with what we have, and we want what other people have. I think the Japanese saying is almost the same (the grammar is a little different). Can you imagine what it is without using your dictionary or googling it?

This short video is about how many women in Ghana go to great lengths to whiten their skin, sometimes at great personal risk.

I think more people are concerned about protecting their skin from UV rays these days, but it’s true that many fair-skinned people wish they had tanned skin.

Discussion/writing/research questions:

  • Is there anything about yourself that you’d like to change?
  • Why do you think the Japanese saying uses 青 instead of 緑? How would you explain to an English speaker why 青 is both blue and green (think 青信号, too …)?
  • Make some example sentences from your own life or books/movies/currents events you know about, in which “the grass is greener.”
  • Why do you think many people (women only?) in Japan and other parts of Asia think that fairer skin is more beautiful? OTOH, tanning salons exist in Japan, too. What kind of people do you think use them?
  • Do you think tanning salons are safe? What about skin whiteners or self tanners? Hair bleach or hair dye? If you’re interested, do a little research and find out.
  • What famous people can you think of who use some methods to lighten or darken their hair or skin color?
  • One news story this week focused on Princess Aiko’s entrance into high school, but some of the media has focused more on her tan than anything else. Apparently, she went skiing.  Here’s a short article about her from the Japan Times. Try summarizing it and noticing some language.