Flynn Taggart Do people actually read this stuff?

24Jan/101

Gimmie a Break, Japan

Every once in a while, I like to import a few things from Japan. Let's face it: the Japanese have much cooler stuff than we get here in the US. They live on the bleeding edge of technology and have a real knack for presenting products. Take, for example, the KitKat candy bar I purchased. Here in America, we get one flavor of KitKat and the four breakable wafers come in a plain orange wrapper. That's it. No flash, frills, or funky flavors. Meanwhile, in Japan, there's a constant turnover of flavors. Some hang around a while, some are limited, and others simply fizzle out.

 

 

 

"Royal Milk Tea" is the flavor I purchased. It arrived as part of a ten-count case. Each candy bar comes in it's own little box. The end is perforated, with a little thumb indent. You shove your thumb into the perforation, pull up, and...

 

 

 

... the package reveals two pairs of individually wrapped KitKat bars. This is kind of nice, because I don't feel pressured to polish off an entire four-wafer candy bar in one sitting. I can grab one little packet and I only feel obligated to finish two wafers.

 

 

 

This type of packaging reminds me of the "unboxing" trend that so many people get a kick out of these days. Consumers like to feel that they're opening a present every time they buy something. Apple, Flip, and Aliph are all companies that abide by this concept, as they deliver their product in creative ways. Shiny boxes with concealed flaps and transparent plastic parts are fast becoming the norm, while the days of cutting open blister packaging is (hopefully) on the wane. Interestingly enough, something as simple as a candy bar seems to fall into this category in Japan. Who wants to tear open a piece of foil-coated plastic, when they could instead have their own unboxing ceremony each time they eat a snack?

All that aside, I know the burning question in your mind is, "How was the candy bar?" Well, I thought it was pretty good. It certainly tastes like milk tea, but has an underlying chocolate flavor too. In my mind, it seems like the wafer holds the tea portion of the flavor, while the outer chocolate-like substance provides the milk. I can't get too attached to these though. From what I hear, they're a limited edition release and will soon be removed from production.

Other currently available flavors include: Milk Coffee, Caramel, Raspberry & Passion Fruit, Strawberry, and Chili Powder (seriously).

19Jan/100

Wait, Let Me Think

Hello. Happy 2010. Yes, I know it's almost February.

The power of the human mind always impresses me. Our ability to retain information for long periods of time without actively tapping into it is amazing. For example, back in January 2008, I took the time to learn both the Japanese Hiragana and Katakana alphabets. I wouldn't say I knew them cold, but I knew them well enough where I could stumble through Japanese text and be able to sound out the words (visualize a toddler learning how to read). I worked on this for about a month, but ultimately got distracted and stopped studying.

A few days ago, I decided to pick up where I left off and give it another go. I initially spent my time re-learning basic Japanese words to refresh my memory - stuff like counting to ten, colors, animals, etc. Last night I decided to dive back into the Hiragana alphabet. I was expecting to remember almost nothing and have to start from scratch, but as it turns out, I didn't do half bad. I was able to remember 27 of the 46 basic Hiragana characters...

 

 

That's a picture of a basic drag-and-drop matching game. The purpose is to match the Hiragana characters up with their respective English-represented sounds. Now, after two years of not touching Hiragana, I managed to get 59% of them right on the first try. After I took this screenshot, I managed to match up another half-dozen through trial and error. The rest, I simply couldn't remember.

Now, the purpose of this blog post is not to brag. Most people have this ability to recall things. Riding a bike, hitting a baseball with a bat, and basic algebra are all good examples of things that are easy to pick back up if you've neglected them for a while. The brain is an amazing tool. We often deride ourselves if we fail to remember a word or fact during an everyday conversation. "I must be losing my mind," we say, but with the sheer amount of organic data floating around in our skulls, it's certainly excusable. Especially considering the complex tasks we execute and recall on a daily basis.