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Monday, December 18, 2017

Starfish Robot Adapts To Lost Appendages

FYI… a ray is what they call a starfish “arm”. In this case, because I am unsure if the arm of a Brittle Star is still called a "ray", I'll be using the term "appendage(s)".

You know, as I write this, I have Patrick Starfish’s voice laughing in my head (he’s from Spongebob Squarepants)!

Japanese universities of Tohoku (University) and (University of) Hokkaido have recently completed a joint project, designing and building a robot with a starfish inspired look to it that they believe will enable it to better maneuver through hazardous environments.

Based on the sea creature the "brittle star", the robot has been designed to continue moving even if one or more of its arms are damaged.

Previously, having a robot that was unable to move properly would spell the end of an exploration, the star robot, however alleviates that concern.

The universities observed how a brittle star was able to self-amputate a ray/arm, in case it was damaged, or if it was in the grip of a predator... knowing that it could re-grow the appendage later. Even if it's multiple rays/arms.

Self-amputation? Doesn't that hurt?

I'm no genius, but isn't Spongebob's buddy Patrick Starfish made out to be one of the stupidest creatures under the sea?

While a starfish lacks a centralized brain, it has a complex nervous system with a nerve ring around the mouth and a radial nerve running along the ambulacral region of each arm parallel to the radial canal.

The Brittle Star - a close relative of a starfish, but actually a different creature, lacks a central nervous system... so it does not appear to feel pain.

The Brittle Star has five rays, and so the scientists--led by Tohuku's professor Ishiguro Akio (surname first)--made sure to create their robot with five appendages.

Did you know that the Brittle Star's mouth is ringed with five jaws which also acts as its anuses... or is it anusii? Wait... it eats with that mouth(s)?

Each of the robot's arms contain sensors that measure reactive force during movement, as that arm kicks against the ground.

If that force moves it in the desired direction, that arm continues to kick.

But, if the arm is damaged and is self-amputated--meaning the robot can't move correctly--the robot stops kicking with that arm.

Then, with its remaining appendages, the robot re-coordinates its movements to allow the robot to move in the direction it was going before.

Apparently the Brittle Star robot can make the adjustments in mere seconds.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Royal Society Open Science. You can see the robot in action, in the following YouTube video:.

The robot, it is hoped, will be used in disaster areas where conventional robotics are unable to perform. 

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
Andrew Joseph!
PS: Why does Spongebob Squarepants wear rectangular pants?
PPS: More importantly, how has years of watching Spongebob not damaged my brain to the point of where I can't understand this science? Isn't nature wonderful?
PPPS: I'm asking... I really don't know.
PPPPS: By the way... the voice of Patrick Starfish is by Bill Fagerbakke, the actor best known as Dauber from the television show Coach.
Bill Fagerbakke - Dauber - is on the right. Craig T. Nelson (Coach) is on the left.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Four Japanese Buildings Up For Best In The World 2018

Four Japanese buildings are on the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) list of 62 buildings in the running for world’s best building.

The complete list of the buildings (HERE) consist of low-budget social housing all the way up to super-ego architectural masterpieces costing a billion dollars.

You know me… I love architecture even though I have no idea why. I have no knowledge about what makes a building cool, have any aptitude in construction (I failed two year’s worth of “shop” in elementary school because I was afraid to use the tools less I end up like my shop teacher minus a finger or two)(Really… stereotypes are based a bit on reality) … I just know what I like and don’t like.

The 2018 RIBA International Prize will be awarded to a building which exemplifies design excellence, architectural ambition and delivers meaningful social impact. The RIBA International Prize winner and RIBA Awards for International Excellence winners will be selected from the RIBA International List 2018 – a selection of the world’s best new buildings compiled from the entries to the awards.

The list does include four buildings from Japan.

In no particular order except in locale from west to east:

1) ROKI Global Innovation Centre - by Tetsuo Kobori Architects

Situated in Shizuoka, and constructed in 2013, the ROKI Global Innovation Centre is designed by the Tetsuo Kobori Architects.

The laboratory building is constructed of reinforced concrete and partial steel reinforced concrete.

The birds-eye view is meant to foster ideas and creativity.

“By constructing a new building on land blessed with nature, we aimed to create a place where pleasant emotions and the changes of nature can be The researchers can freely choose where to work while gazing down at earth spreading out in front of their eyes felt, allowing the people who worked to create a studio under a single roof.”

The building consists of one studio with one roof, with internal splits to create levels in this open concept.

Skylights open as one with sliding doors, allowing a relaxing wind to enter from the nearby Tenryu River.

2) Sayama Forest Chapel - by Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP
Built in 2013, the Sayama Forest Chapel is indeed a small chapel located on the edge of a forest, and is part of the non-denominational Sayama Lakeside Cemetery in Japan's Saitama Prefecture.

The chapel sits on a small triangular piece of land—that’s all the architectural firm of Hiroshi Nakamura his Tokyo studio NAP were given—next to a quiet road built just for the chapel’s parishioners.
"I envisioned an architecture that reflects on the life as it lives by the water conserved by the forest, and eventually returns to this place after death," said studio founder Hiroshi Nakamura.

Instead of cutting back the surrounding trees to make space for the 110-square-meter building, Nakamura chose to tilt one side of the building away from the foliage.

The main structure is formed from a series of excessively pointed gables constructed using larch wood beams. These meet the ground and are arranged in a snowflake-like formation.

The shapes reference traditional Japanese gassho structures, where two pillars support one another, and is meant to represent two hands held upright as in prayer.

The exterior is clad in 21,000, four-millimeter-thick cast-aluminum shingles, with a ripple texture created by hand. These were bent by hand to fit flush to the curved walls of the structure.

Inside, the curved walls are lined with domed strips of wood to create the effect of flaring columns. A series of benches are arranged in front of a small alter.

The slate floor inclines by one centimetre across the space to "guide people towards the departed and the forward-bending posture for prayer."

3) YKK80 Building - by Nikken Sekkei Ltd.

Located in Chiyoda-ku part of Tokyo, the new YKK Fudosan (Real Estate) Co., Ltd. headquarters building is named “YKK 80” because it was completed in 2014, which marked the 80th year since the company was founded.

About one month after an initial design was completed, the March 11, 2011 earthquake struck, which gave YKK pause to rethink the design, having architectural firm Nikken Sekkei Ltd. to reassess the energy, comfort, sustainability, and seismic design requirements for this project—ultimately leading to a much more innovative, integrated, comfortable, healthy, and resilient design solution.

While the facility on the outset might appear unremarkable… take a look at that frontage. 

It is made of one single sheet of aluminum fabric, measuring 60 meters (197 feet) wide by 40 meters (131 feet) high.

Key innovations include: the multi-functional façade design; the “under-the-tree” breeze radiant cooling system; the design, mock-up, and lab comfort verification process; and the enhanced commissioning and ongoing measurement and verification. Today, YKK80 is one of the lowest energy consuming offices in Japan.

Using a passive first approach, an exterior “sudare screen,” or Japanese traditional blind (Photo below), was used over the entire west-facing façade to block and filter direct solar gain while maintaining daylight and views.

The screen is made of “Y”-shaped aluminum bars, providing a delicate filtering of light. Daylighting is maximized by controlling the light coming through the windows with automatic solar adjustment of the angle of the blind slats every 10 minutes.
Oh my Buddha… the open concept. I hate the open concept. You can hear everyone. There’s no privacy should you need to make a phone call, and even still when you are doing an interview over the phone… I should know… I’ve got a biiiiiig voice.
The YKK80 Building Becomes the First Office Building in Japan to Obtain Top LEED-BD+C (Core and Shell)Certification (Platinum)

4) Toho Gakuen School of Music - by Nikken Sekkei Ltd.

Founded April 1, 1961, the Toho Gakuen School of Music looks at first blush like a child’s connection of dull-colored LEGO bricks made to look like concrete.

Designed by Japanese architecture studio Nikken Sekkei, it is a a concrete campus lined with oak wood to house Tokyo’s Toho Gakuen School of Music.

First and foremost to its needs, was to create acoustic quality everywhere, based on the belief that its students could could meet up and jam at anytime and anyplace on campus… like an old television episode of Fame.

The common areas built to encourage students to practice in a lively, communal setting. In the basement, independent lesson rooms allow students a more discreet space to practice in. The architects describe the layout of the college as “aligned along a central corridor in a jail-like manner”.

Good luck to the architects and their architectural firms, and to the inanimate buildings themselves.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The Marumaru Chinbun - Political Satire In 1877 Up

As the farmer said to the horse, “Why the long face?”

There, I just thought I’d get things off with a joke.

Back in March 24, 1877, the first issue of the periodical magazine Marumaru Chinbun (團團珍聞) was published. The cover of that monumental issue is presented above.

It was Nomura Fumio (surname first) who was the brains behind the magazine. At its height, the Marumaru Chinbun had a circulation of 150,000 - which is pretty damn good. 

Marumaru” is a Japanese term meaning “round-round”… which then actually refers to “circular” .

In the context of the magazine, it was a swipe at the well-rounded and fat-cats of society… as well as a knock at the empty circles used in newspapers and elsewhere to “self-censor” the materials by redacting names or other information.

Chinbun is a wordplay on the Japanese word “shinbun”, which means “newspaper”. In this context, “Chinbun means "strange/curious news."

It certainly was.

In this satirical magazine similar in scope to Punch or a bit like the National Lampoon (the 1969 Harvard University mag), the very first issue published the first example in Japanese print of a facial likeness of a public figure done to lampoon them.

The magazine visually, and “verbally” lampoons educator Fukuzawa Yukichi, showing him as a frog or a toad hopping up the social ladder while croaking out complaints.

Not sure who that guy is? He’s on the Japanese ¥10,000 bill…

As you can see here, he does have a bit of a froggy look to him thanks to that downward smile of his - so at least the lampoon aspect wasn’t far off.

The Marumaru Chinbun would include the latest gossip from the prostitution areas, the entertainment wards, and also include the what’s what and what’s hot in around the big city.

And because things non-Japanese were still hot, news from around the world would be included.

It would be kind of like a National Enquirer/Hustler (just the news)/National Lampoon-type of magazine.

The Marumaru Chinbun was originally published weekly on Saturdays beginning 1877.

It began a twice-weekly publication on Wednesdays and Saturdays beginning July 2, 1884, before reverting to the Saturday-only publication on Saturdays with July 19, 1884.

Yeah, boys… twice weekly means twice the work… even if you cut the page count in half - which they didn’t.

The Marumaru Chinbun was a satirical magazine… though not highbrow… hmm… maybe more like Mad Magazine… though to be honest, sometimes the satirical swipes by Mad Magazine over these past 60 years are incredibly poignant and witty.

Maybe it’s like the brilliant Daily Show or This Hour Has 22 Minutes … or comedy news programs of that ilk?

The articles within the Marumaru Chinbun were often bilingual in Japanese and English… proving that then, as now, the Japanese sure do love their gaijin language.

In fact, readership was encouraged to create and send in their own witty verses—in English or Japanese, which helped create a bond between publication and reader. 

The periodical’s first cartoonist was Honda Kinkichirô (surname first), who combined symbolism on the cover of the first issue: drawing a horse and a deer…the word for hose in Japanese is ba and the word for deer in Japanese is ka in Japanese, which when combined as baka, somehow becomes the word for “stupid”.

By the way, if you reverse the kanji and combine it as kaba (deer-horse), it becomes the Japanese word for hippopotamus. How is a horse-deer a hippo?

It’s true, and the kaba and baka manner in which Japanese kanji would nonsensically connect to form words is one of the main reasons why I couldn’t learn Japanese.

Actually, along with suddenly learning that I was now attractive to women in Japan, after learning that whole ba and ka thing, I gave up trying to learn kanji. I had learned 500 of the damn things - the first 500 one should learn in Japan… I learned how to write it, how to pronounce it, and what each kanji meant. But… it was the combining of the kanji that made absolutely no sense to me.

Honda would also use catfish in his drawings, as catfish had whiskers, and government officials usually had whiskers, as they tried to look more “western”. The catfish has the double meaning as a symbol of being the cause of earthquakes (see HERE for my story on that)… but in this case, it was meant to symbolize an unstoppable force.

Because the Marumaru Chinbun catered to both Japanese and foreign readership (with its bilingual writing), it quite naturally would pick on the west, as well as Japanese desire to emulate the west.It was an equal-opportunity lampoonist.

It’s kind of ironic, to say the least, considering Marumaru Chinbun was emulating British satire re: Punch magazine. 

Still, when it came to presenting a political front, Marumaru Chinbun did like to support the people especially against the government, whom publisher Nomura felt were self-indulgent and corrupt.

Yeah! Stick it to the man!

As mentioned, Marumaru Chinbun had gained a large weekly following… so why did it peak at 150,000, and then decline? 

It occurred in 1883 after Marumaru Chinbun switched from political to social satire. Don't pick on people wanting to be more European...  but keep picking on the greedy fat-cat politicians.

But why did it switch content?

The government. Yup... the government put pressure on the Marumaru Chinbun... threatening them...

All the more reason to lampoon the politicos! But no... they caved under the pressure.

Finally, when publisher Nomura died in 1892, the rest of the editorial board stated that they would no longer poke the political bear, and would simply just be an entertaining magazine.

Just like all the other periodical magazines out there.

It is rare for a magazine to switch gears and offer up a different type of satire... and succeed.

Mad Magazine did. Initially it was just parodies of comic strips and television shows and movies, such as Superduperman (Superman) and Ping Pong (King Kong), or Shermlock Shomes (Sherlock Holmes)... for the first 23 issues, it was akin to a color comic book, before altering its image to a black and white magazine (with color covers)... and it then began doing lampooning as well as satire... becoming more of a political poison if you were the one being spoofed.     

The Japanese sure do like comedy... but do they enjoy lampoon? Did they still enjoy it in the 1890s? 

Obviously they didn't enjoy it enough to keep the Marumaru Chinbun going.

The Marumaru Chinbun ceased publication in July of 1907 with issue No. 1654.

It has been revived twice since, in the 1970s and again in the 1980s, but without success, dying both times.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Brief History of Japan—A Book Review

The fine folks at Tuttle Publishing asked to present a review on the book: A Brief History Of Japan, written by Jonathan Clements.

A paperback selling for US$15.95, excluding the Further Reading, Bibliography, and Index sections, the book comes in at a moderate 265 pages.

Now… less one think that only having 265 pages for the supposed 5,000 year history of Japan isn’t enough, let me state that Clements has presented the history book in an easy-to-read format, doing away with superfluous wording.

IE: It’s easy to read, and more importantly, easy to understand.

You could still do with at least a high school education to understand the words, but A Brief History Of Japan is just as its title suggests.

I’ve read much longer and much more complex historical references on Japan… and holy cow, unless one is committed to earning a PhD in Japanese history, most of what is presented is done so in that typical “OMG! History” exasperation” most of us have experienced.

Maybe I like Clements’ writing because it reminds me of my own. He presents the facts, and does so in a way that ensures the reader actually “gets” what it’s about.

Not quite all thriller no filler—because we are still talking about the history of a country—as opposed to a singular aspect of said history, A Brief History Of Japan will enable enthusiasts of Japan to actually take in and learn and spew facts about the country.

I love history. I do. It’s why I look at it so often within this blog. But dammit, the toughest part of my writing about Japanese historical events, is cutting through the crap to get to the actual meat and potatoes…. or for you vegetarians, tofu and chick peas. I like both of those very much, by the way.

The biggest complaint I have about the book is that it could have used a summary on the initial section of the book that looks at the history of Japan’s emperors and empresses.

By that I mean there should have been a chart listing in order every single such leader, and denoting when each ruled.

Yeah, yeah… Clements takes great pains to ensure us that the earliest part of Japanese history is based on lore and myth, but since historical records of Japan still insist such deity/emperors existed and ruled Japan from a time long before the Japanese were called Japanese… well… at least tell us who “ruled” and when.

That’s my biggest complaint.

A Brief History Of Japan does a nice job of separating the main eras of historical concern that the average person might be concerned with:
  • The Earliest pre-history of Japan;
  • Medieval Japan;
  • The 200-year isolationist era known as the Edo period when it was ruled by a shogun;
  • The restoration and modernization of the mid-1800s;
  • The road to World War II;
  • Occupation and recovery after World War II;
  • My era and how it lead to a bubble economy;
  • The current Cool Japan concept.
What more could you want? Maybe instead of so much on samurai, shogun and zen, maybe more on geisha, Godzilla and its interesting religions and philosophies… but, yes, this is a BRIEF history of Japan.

I heartily recommend visiting the Tuttle Publishing website HERE and ordering a copy of the book.

Oh… and to better avoid losing the reader, add in more charts, images, photos. Yeah… I know why you stick all the photos in the middle of the book—it’s a cost-effective gesture for publishing when glossy, heavier paper is required—but page after page of words can blow a reader’s mind when it doesn’t relate to Game of Thrones.

For example, a photo of an atomic bombs devastation (before and after) is frightening and absorbing at the same time. Or an image of something representative of Cool Japan, such as an AstroBoy image, or a factory making automobiles with robotics…

Minor points to be sure, as I still thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. I think I learned something, too.

You know nothing,
Andrew Joseph
PS: My apologies to Tuttle Publishing for not doing the review sooner... I was caught up in reading the five Game of Thrones books. Hmmm... maybe that's why I want to see a list of Japan's emperors and empresses.     

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Tōnoharu - A Book Review

Recently, my far too kind friend Vinnie sent me a box of presents... including a three-part graphic novel (comic book) called Tōnoharu.

It's not a manga (Japanese comic book)... but rather a comic book graphic novel done in the classical North American style.

Written and drawn by Lars Martinson, and brought to you in stunning black and white and every shade of grey I can think of... which isn't that many... I had no idea what it was about when I began reading it.

I didn't even read the summary on the OBC (outside back cover), prepared by publisher Pliant Press.

I just dove right in... no expectations...

And so, artwork aside, I began reading about Daniel Wells, who appears to be a junior high school assistant English teacher (AET) in a rural village called Tōnoharu.

It sounds like a real place, and it is... Tōnoharu, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka-shi in Fukuoka-ken (Fukuoka Prefecture).

Because I didn't read any of the notes accompanying this hardcover comic book, I thought it was yet another story about yet another AET who had some fantastic adventure in Japan.

I read 50+ pages of it and thought "Holy crap! This Daniel Wells dude is the most boring person in the world!"

I should know, because when it comes to adventure time in Japan, if I wasn't the king, I was the queen... er, I mean right up there.

But holy crap... the story of this guy Daniel Wells was completely dull and boring... and the only thing that made it bearable were the few interesting characters he met along the way in Tōnoharu - both Japanese and foreigner.

And then it hit me... this wasn't autobiographical at all... because who would create three graphic novels about themselves if it was just one big snorefest? Well... I didn't know who Pliant Press was, so maybe they would... but no... they have to make money on this, too.

Book 2
So... after looking at the front cover and realizing that the author and the protagonist were different people--I really recommend you read the book's backspiece before you read a novel--I began to enjoy the story more... except that protagonist was still pretty damn boring.

Because I always finish what I begin, and because I never look a gift comic book in the mouth (thanks Rob and Vinnie - both of whom have bought comics for me!), and because it's a comic book and it only took about 70 minutes to read all three graphic novels, I was soon finished.

At just under US$35 for the three books, it was a lot of money. And... a lot of money for a whole lotta of nothing to have occurred... I didn't care for the overall plot.

The art was well-done.

But I kept looking at the whole Japanese experience of protagonist Daniel Wells as one huge waste of time.

For him, Japan is all about isolation.

I know all about isolation in Japan... and let me tell you, it takes work to be isolated in Japan.

Maybe it's just me, and my personality that I made up upon arriving on the shores of Japan, but I always had people around me... the Japanese locals in my small, rural city, the other AETs and foreigners living in this city, and even those from other cities and prefectures calling me up.

That's not a complaint... but I would have to unplug my phone, turn off the lights and ignore the doorbell if I truly wanted the isolation that Daniel Wells seems to find everywhere in Tōnoharu.

I think what I found upsetting, was that Daniel didn't seem to try very hard to make friends... and it all seemed like an indictment of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme... pick smart people rather than smart people who can communicate effectively with the rest of humanity.

Like I said... I thought this was an autobiographical story.

But it was, in some degree, as author/artist Lars Martinson lived in Japan for three years and then traveled back to Japan to get a feel for how the Japanese people act... and quite frankly,it didn't register for me.

Obviously... for everyone going to Japan, their experience will vary... and I suppose I have come to realize that my experience was at the high end of the positive extreme.

The graphic novels examine isolation, language barriers and cultural differences - but all for Daniel... the other foreigners seem to be getting along quite well in Japan.

I know not everyone has a great time in Japan, but Daniel didn't appear to be trying very hard, and that pissed me off.

Book 3
Anyhow, like I said... Daniel the character was dull and uninteresting, but the surrounding cast of characters had a bit more life to them.

I think the overall story needed more plot twists and more action... please, Lars, have Daniel get hit by a car! I was hit twice by cars in a one week period in Japan... the latter during a typhoon... and while I lay on the wet asphalt with 10s of my junior high school students gasping in fear from across the street(s), I want to say that no one came to help me or check on me. The assaulting car driver did, however... but he took his time... slowly getting out of his car... but only after getting his umbrella so he wouldn't get soaked by the hurricane's driving rains and winds. I'm still lying on the road, by the way... my bicycle tucked under a leg... and while I'm okay, I'm waiting to see what will happen next. The fact that it took 30 seconds for anyone to come over and say "Daijobu?" is telling... I didn't even know what "daijobu" meant. It means "Okay?", but anyone in Japan could ask in English "You okay?" I screwed up my face in confusion, and so he said "daijobu?" again as he helped me up.

Adding something like this to the story is inconsequential (he could be shown getting lost, or struggling to buy a bottle of coke or something), but perhaps pathos could have been generated... or it could have shown just how naive he was... or how scared the Japanese were should he have killed the local gaijin teacher who had just been in the city newspaper earlier that week.

Would you really have read my blog - specifically the blog about my life in Japan, if I just wrote about me waking up, eating cereal, walking to school and then telling you all about the teaching experience?

I've been there - done that. It ain't no big thang. It's why I rode a bicycle.

The point here, is that if something interesting had actually happened to Daniel... just three pages of something, Lars Martinson would have captured my attention.

I read the story hoping that the protagonist would have sort of epiphany.. but I don't think he's smart enough to understand what one is. Even when something happens within the secondary characters, because I cared little for them, I cared less when bad stuff happened. To care, one must feel a need to care.

I didn't care.

I wanted to care... but only because my friend Vinnie liked the book.

Unfortunately, we saw it through different eyes. Vinnie may know that feeling of isolation better than, or just as well as I do... but dammit... in Japan, I had to force myself to be isolated.

If Vinnie were to go to Japan, and meet the people he has sent books to, he wouldn't feel isolation at all.

Buy Tōnoharu if you must. It gets better and better with each succeeding book. And, like I said Martison's art is pretty good... but for $35 US there should be more "graphic" anything going on... talking heads was a concept popularized by Frank Miller in the Dark Knight comic book graphic novels in the 1980s... but this ain't no Batman as anti-hero.

This does not mean that I didn't care for Vinnie's gift... I love the gift, big brother...

I just didn't car two hoots at Daniel Wells in Tōnoharu.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

My Nissan Micra - That's Cold - Updated

For the record, I like my little Micra SV auto. It is indeed a car from Japanese automobile manufacturer Nissan.

It's cheap, good on gas, and I haven't had any problem in getting from point A to point B.

My problem, one that occurred earlier yesterday evening, happened when I heard a bit of whistling from my window.

As an inexpensive car, I assumed it was a crappy rubber seal around the driver side window... except I was feeling a bit of a draft in my ear.

I should add that it was around -10C, which is 14F... so brisk if you are from such wintery climes as most of Canada, Wisconsin, Minnesota et al. It was actually a bit colder with the wind blowing... but whatever.

The remedy is hair and fat and a good winter coat.

Despite being warm in my car thanks to hair, fat, a good winter coat and a fast-acting Micra heating system, that draft in my ear was annoying...

So I lowered the window 2.5cm (1-inch) and then attempted to raise it again... except the window didn't want to move.

So I lowered it again and tried to move it up. Nada.

So I lowered it yet again... and yes, it stayed where I had lowered it to.

Now... today, Wednesday, is supposed to be the coldest day of the year so far here in Toronto... going down to -13C (8.6F), with a wind chill that is supposed to make it feel like -17C (1.4F)... and I have my window down in my car.

I duct taped some garbage bags to the inside for the night - hoping no marauding polar bears try to break in looking for fish... I don't have fish in my car, but you never know with polar bears.

For those of you who thought I was serious, I am. You can't trust a polar bear, but I was only joking that we have those in Toronto. Just at the zoo.

So... I get to take the day off, go to Nissan and try and get them to fix my car asap, or else I'll start writing bad things about the car company every day until I get bored... and considering I've been writing a blog about Japan, a country I visited last in 1993, I may not get bored any time soon.

Of course, I will still write about other things... so twice-a-day blogs could be in the mix. Why? I don't know, but 3.3 million hits is like being on a best-seller list. Angry? No... I'm just rambling.

I do fully expect that my car will be fixed... I just hope it's something that doesn't cost me any money.

I'm not looking forward to removing the garbage bags and driving to the dealership so early in the morning when it will be at its coldest... and when that same ear of mine is even more annoyed by the large draft coming in at it.

Minus frickin' 17.

Andrew Joseph
PS:An update... Nissan was able to fix my window back in place, but says the part needed to make the window go up and down, was on back order, with no definitive date set for its arrival.
I was told that pressing the button up and down when it was frozen shut burnt out the "motor", and that it would not be covered by my warranty.
I'm sure we've all done that up and down on the window button to "break" the window from its frozen status, and this is the first time in 33 years I've had a receptor burn out.
Turns out it'll cost about $300 to replace the "motor" and another one hour's service time at $125/hour. That does not include the one hour of service time to inspect and "fix" the window yesterday. The window is up, but I can not use it until the "motor" comes in and is replaced. 
Turns out I should have been an auto mechanic where one can charge $125 an hour for labor. Holy fug. I have seven years of post-secondary education (graduating university and college) and don't get anywhere near that money. Momma's don't let your babies grow up to be smartass writers.   

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Earthquake-proof Bookshelf

What we have here, is an earthquake-proof bookshelf... a slanting bookshelf that should keep the books in place unless the wall itself collapses, or the earthquake is so violent that it shakes things up and down and side to side.

Uncle Scrooge fans might understand, if they have read the classic Land Beneath The Ground, pardner.

The house is named "House in Shinyoshida" and was designed by Japanese architect Fujii Shinsuke (surname first).

At first glance from the outside, the house does not appear to be anything special - yeah it has a slanting wall... why would it have a slanting wall?

Situated in Yokohama, the house is in a hillside part of the city, with its western-facing wall placed at an angle...

From the inside, you can see why (see images all over here), depicting a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf... that purports to be earthquake-proof.

Forget that... it is also fun to climb to reach books from those hard-to-reach places.

While it's true, I have always wanted to be rich enough to have my own library, replete with moving ladders, but now... even if I lack the money and lack a slanting wall, I could still build a slanting bookshelf in the interior... yeah, I'd lose valuable inside space, but I wouldn't need to invent time travel and go back to Victorian times, freeing me to have more time to climb and read.

In the case of House in Shinyoshida, it appears as though the concept of a slanting bookcase was the reason for building the house's exterior the way it is.

The house, in other words, was built around the family's desire for a cool-looking library... an interesting fact made all the more interesting in this digital age, when people seem to enjoy reading a book on a tablet or some other reading device.

Not to bite the hand that feeds me (I'm starving, by the way), but I am a fan of paper... that tactile feel... even the moldy smell of paper... or whatever it is that makes old paper smell the way it does (Vince?)

I'm not talking about paper that has become so acidic that it becomes brown and brittle, or stinks like last week's garbage (this week's isn't so bad)... certainly modern books are made from a higher quality paper stock - unlike the old days when it could have been low-level newspaper substrate... which browns and becomes weak easily enough. It makes me wonder just how newspapers survive any length of time.

I wouldn't mind having this slanting bookshelf/book case in my house - I do lack the room height, however.

But... I would need more shelf space for my books. I have a lot of books - not even including the 35,000 comic books I have... or the binders full of sports and non-sports trading cards.

It's a lot of paper ensconced in plastic.

I have books in every room of the house... I know... I checked... hundreds and hundreds of the things.

I am a newspaper collection away from being a hoarder.

It's glorious!

I feel like Burgess Meredith in that Twilight Zone episode before his glasses broke.

Andrew Joseph