Signing up for Amazon fulfillment for our new Mightyverse card game, I found that I needed a Universal Product Code (UPC) or European Article Number (EAN). Amazon referred me to GS1US which sells 1-10 bar codes for $250, with an annual renewal fee of $50. Wow. That’s an expensive number, and a hefty fee for them to maintain a row in a database table for me.
A quick google search later, I found dozens of companies offering cheap barcodes for UPC and EAN numbers. A $5 one-time fee for someone to generate a number for me seemed much more reasonable. However, it turns out that many of these are scams — selling invalid codes or ones they don’t own or don’t have license to re-sell.
… if a company joined the Uniform Code Council (now GS1-US) prior to August 28, 2002, the Uniform Code Council’s membership and licence agreement did not contain any prohibition against subdividing the numbers… This appears to have been a side consequence of the class action settlement. The product numbers from these companies are legitimate, however they will only be valid for as long as the companies are in business.
— BarCode1 FAQ
After looking at a few sites I picked Legal Barcodes which sent me an email with UPC numbers. It turns out Amazon does everything in EANs these days, but magically transformed my UPC into an EAN by adding a zero to the beginning of it.
Last week I spoke at Ruby World Conference and in my presentation, I talked about what the United States and other governments were doing to transform how we create services for our people using technology.
Today I learned about いろは (iroha) a different way to learn Hiragana than the gojūon (五十音) ordering I learned in my Japanese class, where the characters are displayed in a grid. It makes sense to teach that way since it is easy to see which share same beginning (consonant) sound or ending (vowel) sound.
However, I knew the characters once and wanted to make my study session more interesting. I had forgotten about half the characters since first studying Japanese four years ago and wanted to review using actual words. If I could learn the characters with the context of real language then I could learn vocabulary at the same time. I wondered if there were a “quick brown fox” (pangram) for Hiragana.
I quickly found いろは (iroha) an ancient Japanese poem:
This poem not just an arcane bit of trivia, but a real ABCs of Japanese, where the ordering from the poem is still used today. I found a wonderful video What is “いろは iroha”? that tells the story of this word which means “basic” or “fundamental” in Japanese. I learned that the first 7 characters are used for musical notes (the way we use A-G, in Japanese they use いろはにほへと. I read elsewhere that theater seats are often ordered this way.
I realized that if I could learn this poem, I would also learn other useful aspects of the Japanese language and a glimpse of the culture as well. I wanted to hear it while I studied, and found answers via my new twitter friend Charelle Collett (@Charcol1900)
Here’s someone singing it in a child-like ABCs — no idea what the words on the right are, but this is the very clear to follow along and practice reading while hearing the characters pronounced:
and here’s Hatsune Miku (Vocal software) singing it:
This second one is really interesting since it also shows the evolution of early Japanese script into modern Hiragana and then shows some more variants — here’s some detail on the first three.
Man’yōgana: an ancient writing system that employs Chinese characters to represent the Japanese language