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Monday, June 27, 2016

The Most Dangerous Food In Japan

Mochi… a sticky, soft and sweet rice treat that is not only one of the most dangerous Japanese foods to eat, it is also one of the most dangerous Japanese foods to prepare.

I have done both… eaten and prepared… and both nearly killed me.

Mochi (餅, もち) is a Japanese rice cake made from a hammering/pounding a short-grained Japanese glutinous rice known as mochigome.

The rice is soaked over night and steamed… and then it is pounded and pounded and pounded by a kine (wooden mallet) in a mortar (large wooden bowl called a usu), until it becomes soft and stretchy like Silly Putty… or even like taffy.

While one can eat mochi at any point in the year, I have pretty much only had it around New Year’s Day… and went to my boss’, Kanemaru-san, home in Kurobane to spend the day.

The mochi-making actually took place in a neighbor’s backyard in this rustic, rural town near Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken… and after watching a husband and wife team make it—he hammered at  the mass with a very large wooden mallet, while his wife timed her insertion of hands (and head) into the bowl to twist and turn the mass to allow continued and even beating of the rice mass into a proper soft consistency.

Because it is hard work to heft that hammer, men from around the farm/village each took turns pounding the rice, while their wife took turns mixing the rice mass.

When it was my time, we could find no wife willing to risk her life with the untrained, but powerful-looking gaijin (foreigner), so I got one of the brave men who had had pulled the short straw.

Surprisingly, I wasn’t that bad. 

As I hefted and brought down and up the 10 kilogram (25lb) wooden mallet, my partner would occasionally dip his hands in water and thrust the digits into the rice mass twisting it and turning it.

(Actually, I no longer have any concept at how heavy that mallet was... so let's make it 20kg in an effort to make me seem as strong as possible.) 

After about one minute of driving work - I began to sweat in the 0C (30F) January 1 weather - I was relieved… but only for another minute… at which time I was asked if I wanted to use my quick hands to mix the rice.

In for a penny, in for a pound.

So… what the heck, right? I went to Japan on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme to help teach people English, but it was (being part of the second-wave of JETs to Japan) more about internationalizing the Japanese… showing them the foreigners weren’t sooooo different from them.

I did everything that was asked of me: from newspaper and radio interviews, eating lunch with the mayor, visiting primary schools, to home stays (also known as spending the night at a Japanese person’s home - so I can get a handle on what Japanese home life is like… it’s pretty much like western life… kids do homework, wife cooks a meal, family eats, talks, and then sleep time - yes, I know that sounds sexist, but most western homes have the wife/woman preparing meals. Mine does… but in my defense, I do the laundry, dishes, gardening).

Anyhow… slowly my hammer buddy began… and he was smart enough to not come down with the mallet until he knew I was clear… but after about 20 pounds, my speed was getting pretty good (not up to par with my Japanese female counterparts, however - but getting up there)… so I was moving my hands in and out - almost daring the mallet man to smash my fingers… and then it happened.

A small child standing near me dropped a bracelet into the bowl. I instinctively leaned in to get it… but my MC Hammer didn’t know I had broken rhythm and continued to bring that mallet down towards my head.

Kanemaru-san… I don’t know how he did it… because it was already 10AM, and we all (the guys) had already had multiple shots of sake (rice wine) and a beer to help combat the cold (which in reality probably makes one just not feel the cold, even though it’s cold effects still affect you - you just don’t know it… how did I get frostbite??!!)… anyhow… in a move that belied his soberness… he yanked me back by grabbing my shoulders so only my hands were in the way of the hammer…

And… the hammerhead… he had slowed down enough so that I only got a light rap on the back of my left hand.

Surprised that no one was dead, that little girl grabbed her bracelet from my right hand and gave me a hug and then got dragged away by a screaming mother (I assume it was hers) to be yelled at some more. I never saw her again.


So… having nearly had my head smashed in by a wooden mallet to save a child’s ¥100 ($1) plastic bracelet…. I was replaced by someone more competent… and the mochi making went on without much of a hitch… though the men continued to drink alcohol more heavily and I could hear more feminine screams of pain followed by male chortling.

I think my near-braining had scared Kanemaru-san near to death.

Can you imagine the next day at the Ohtawara Board of Education?

“So… Kanemaru-san… Andoryu-no-sensei… kzzzzzzt.
“Hai. So desu.”
“You know this will affect one of your two yearly bonuses, neh?”

Careful, Granny! That was the same mochi the gaijin-san was choking on!
Let’s just say that it would have been bad for him if something had happened to me. The bosses (Kanemaru-san and Hanazaki-san) were charged with keeping me safe, and looked after during my stay in Ohtawara-shi…. and they, even if I had been hurt while traveling outside their domain, would have felt a level of responsibility for it. I always told them where I was going, if I left the town… out of courtesy. They wouldn’t stop me… but did want to ensure that I was with someone who spoke English, as I had a habit of getting horribly lost whenever I traveled. It also rained every time I traveled. You can ask Matthew… he’s the one, I think, who dubbed me Ame Otoko (Rain Man). He made sure never to travel in the same area of Japan as I did.

Anyhow… after rice was pounded, it can be eaten right away… and everyone DID got a small sample… but in this case it was then taken to the kitchen to be shaped into a sphere… and then handed out to everyone to eat.

My first mistake was taking a huge bite out of my rice ball…

It was chewy… and chewy… and chewy… and holy crap… it doesn’t appear to be dissolving at all in my mouth… so I managed to break away what I thought was a small piece within my mouth and tried to swallow that.

That was mistake number two. Three, if you count almost being brained by a wooden mallet. Four, if think it’s me being so gung-ho in joining their mochi-making.

It almost immediately got stuck in my windpipe…. it didn’t want to go down because it was so effing stick it coated my throat… and stretched and would not break as I tried and tried to swallow it.

That’s when the little girl whose bracelet I had earlier saved saw me struggling and told her mother, who shouted to her husband outside who shouted for Kanemaru-san to come and help his gaijin no sensei because he was probably going to die.

I was turning a shade of red I had no name for… and as Kanemaru-san began thumping me on the back to try and dislodge the mochi, I stuck my own hand in my mouth and pulled out the still large main part of my mochi ball.

I then coughed out the smaller mochi killing mass from throat… held it up… looked at it… and then took a small bite… and swallowed it.

“Oishii! (Delicious!)” I yelled and there was much grunting and smiling from the crowd of men and women, respectively.

Kanemaru-san came over a minute later to ask if I was okay… I smiled and kept eating my mochi.

I wasn’t going to let them see me suffer… and I didn’t want to make Kanemaru-san feel bad.

Next year… and the year after… I didn’t get invited back to Kanemaru-san’s house for any mochi-making… but I think that was just for my own safety. He did invite me out to his place many a time… and once… once I actually cooked my famous chilli con carne for him and Hanazaki-san.

Now… I make a really good chilli… but the Japanese are so adept at lying in a nice way that I have no idea if they really did like it.

Matthew and I… we were once paid to demonstrate our cooking skills—He an Ice Cream Cake, Me, my chili con carne—making us if not professional chefs, then at least semi-professional chefs.

Anyhow… Julien sent me this video below, that shows how one superstar mochi maker uses an incredible amount of speed and skill and luck to produce the killer Japanese snack.

By the way… every year in Japan, 10s of not 100s of very old and very young Japanese die from having mochi stuck in their throat. So it's not just stupid foreigners.

Saved by my age. Banzai,
Andrew Joseph

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Go On - Take Another Little Piece Of My Heart

I’ve had my heart broken four times in my life.

Yup… drawn and quartered… leaving me with naught but my head and part of my brain.

Two of those heart breaks occurred in Japan: with Ashley the first woman to allow me to sleep with her, and Noboko whom I wanted to marry, but her dad got in the way of that.

In between, I had a very interesting relationship with Junko… who I assume had mental health issues.

Why else would she drop out of university to be with me?

Why else would she begin to stalk me day and night… well… during the day. She would come over to my apartment each night after she was sure the last visitor had left and would then engage me in some raucous sexcapades.

At first, that was pretty damn awesome… as we performed for each other all night long… and I mean… all night… so much so that after the first couple of work days without sleep I didn’t mind as much… until I did.

The only thing that didn’t suffer from my physical exhaustion from no sleep was the sex… as we continued to push each other to new and exciting highs… until I just couldn’t do it anymore. Actually… I could do it… I just no longer wanted to.

I was hallucinating at the school’s where I taught… and was there, but I wasn’t there… and that’s not fair to anyone… teachers, students, my board of education…

Anyhow… I eventually had to get my Board of Education guys to help drag Junko away from me and get her the mental health help she required.

I didn’t want her to waste her time hanging out watching me. I wanted her to finish her university schooling.

Look… I wouldn’t have minded if Junko wasn’t sneaking around. She refused to go out with me to dinner or work… we never even ate at my place… maybe just ice cream or Coca-Cola or juice after some marathon bout of stickiness…

But even with Ashley previous … and certainly with Noboko afterwards, the sex was great, but I wanted more.

I have no idea why Ashley and I really broke up—we weren’t good for each other… but I don’t know WHY that happened… you know how they say you never forget your first? She was mine… and rightly or wrongly… losing her destroyed a piece of my heart. I don’t miss her, but I did, at one time, love her.

Noboko… despite her loving me… her father essentially got in the way… she refused to disobey him to be with me… and I lost a large piece of my heart… as she obviously did not love me as much as I loved her… or she would have stopped being Japanese long enough to just be a woman… I have no idea if things would have worked out long term… but I’ll never know if they could have.

Those were my three years in Japan: Ashley, Junko and Noboko. Each different… each helped define me… each helped shape me… two helped break me.

I have no idea why I decided to write this crap out, suffice to say that I heard a similar line on a television program recently… and like I am wont to do, sought introspection.

Somewhere beyond the sea,
Andrew Joseph
The solution? No expectations. You can only be pleasantly surprised or realize it's par for the course. No bogeys.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Japanese Scientist Creates Hologram You Can Touch

Despite us all knowing about the holograms in Star Wars (Help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you're my only hope) or the Star Trek holograms of The Doctor from Voyager or the holodeck creations like Professor Moriarty from The Next Generation et al, there's no such thing as a hologram that can speak, let alone a hologram you can touch… until now.

A team of Japanese scientists say they have created a three-dimensional hologram that is safe to touch...

Doctor Ochiai Yoichi (surname first) of the Tsukuba University works within the digital medium... a guy who once was the frontman of a one-man band that featured himself, an electric guitar and a computer.

Ochiai and his team (Kumagai Kota, Hasegawa Satoshi and Hayasaki Yoshio from Utsunomiya University; Hoshi Takayuki from the Nagoya Institute of Technology, and; Rekimoto Jun from The University of Tokyo) use femosecond laser technology that uses laser speeds that whiz by at one millionth of one billionth of a second.

The technology is called "Fairy  Lights" and was created at Tochigi-ken's Utsumoniya University Center for Optical Research and Education.

Check out the hologram below:

In his research paper called “Fairy Lights in Femtoseconds: Aerial and Volumetric Graphics Rendered by Focused Femtosecond Laser Combined with Computational Holographic Fields”, Ochiai says they used high-speed, high-intensity lasers, cameras and mirrors to direct tiny points of light called voxels to create images with resolutions of up to 200,000 dots per second.

But don't lasers burn? Every James Bond movie and Hank Scorpio television show I ever saw says that a laser burns hot!

Actually... a slower laser can burn skin... but these hyper fast bursts of laser light generated by the team didn't burn the leather used in their experiments.

So... what does the laser hologram feel like?

Sandpaper... Hunh... no fooling.

“It is possible to make anything float, as long as the object is no more than eight millimeters wide,” Ochiai says, noting that it can be controlled from about one meter away.

Cool... now all we have to do is find a legitimate use for it...

By the way... if you were to create a tractor beam (I just watched Independence Day for the 8th time), what do you suppose the beam would be made of to be able to attract metal? Magnets?  I guess once they solve that question, we'll have tractor beams to go along with our touchable 3D laser holograms.

Andrew Joseph
PS: I'm out at a baseball tournament for a couple of days...

Friday, June 24, 2016

NHL Team Drafted Japanese Hockey Player In 1974 - Sorta

In honor of my Toronto Maple Leafs selecting first in the 2016 NHL Amateur Hockey Draft later this evening of June 24, 2016… an honor bestowed upon it by not only being the worst team of 30 this past hockey season, but then also having to win a lottery to get said pick… let me tell you about the time the Buffalo Sabres drafted a Japanese hockey player back in 1974.

Or did they?

George “Punch” Imlach was known as a lot of things by players who played for him back in the 1960s through 1970s - most of them not very flattering… but the man knew how to win.... a sense of humor... not so much.

As the General Manager of the Buffalo Sabres National Hockey League ice hockey team in 1974, Imlach decided to have some fun with the media… and actually declared that the Buffalo Sabres were drafting in the 11th round of the 1974 Amateur Draft with the 183rd pick: star centerman Taro Tsujimoto of the Japanese Hockey League’s Tokyo Katanas.

This was the real-deal draft choice of the Buffalo Sabres.

Media in Buffalo and everywhere else that cared (probably just Toronto and Montreal) went scrambling to make phone calls to see if they could find out just who the heck this Tsujimoto kid was and if he was going to be the next Gilbert Perreault (Forward), Bobby Orr (Defenseman) or the reincarnation of Terry Sawchuk (Goaltender).

Anyhow… Punch had his fun.

There was no Taro Tsujimoto on the Tokyo Katanas because there was no Tokyo Katanas hockey team. Neither was there a real Taro Tsujimoto... at least not in this context.

Imlach was fed up with this year’s slow selection process done via telephone… as a way to keep picks secret from the rival WHA (World Hockey association), so they couldn't try and steal their players for their league. As well, NHL president Clarence Campbell phoned each team, then read and spelled out the names of the round's previous picks. Ugh.

Imlach came up with the plan, and had Sabres PR Director Paul Wieland create the fictional player.

To make it astounding, Wieland wanted to create a player of Asian background - and knew pretty quickly what he wanted the name to be.

Apparently, when Wieland was a college student driving down Route 16 from Buffalo to St. Bonaventure, he would pass the Tsujimoto Oriental Arts and Gifts in Elmira, New York.

Imlach actually contacted Joshua Tsujimoto who owned the store and asked him if he could use his family’s name… needless to say, Imlach did not say why.

Because even I don’t know what the answer would be, Imlach asked Joshua what might be some popular first names for boys. Taro ended up being the Sabres' choice, of course.

To me… the best part of the joke was Imlach NOT letting anyone in on the joke until just before the start of the Buffalo Sabres training camp in September of that year - some two months later.

Tsujimoto even made it into the Buffalo Sabres 1974-75 Media Guide:

Name: Taro Tsujimoto
Born: November 18, 1954, Osaka, Japan
Height: 5’-9” (1.75 meters)
Weight: 165 lbs (75 kilograms)
Position: Center
Shoots: Left
NHL Team (P): Buffalo Sabres
Cur. team: Tokyo Katanas (JIHL)
National Team: Japan
NHL Draft: 183rd overall, 1974 Buffalo Sabres
Playing career: 1974 - present

Official Sabres 1974-75 roster - look at the Forwards, listing. (Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame)
Brilliant! I love that they included statistics from his imaginary 1973-74 hockey season, where he compiled 15 goals, 10 assists for 25 total points. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Why did this work?

At this time, very few hockey players were from outside of North America, but things were beginning to open up with Swedes… so why not someplace as far out as Japan?

Also… with no Internet or home computers, any interested media would actually have to contact Japan to get more information on Tsujimoto… and if any did try, they would have had either language barriers or the fact that Japanese professional hockey isn’t really that popular and it would have been highly likely that no one knew who he was anyway.

As for the Tokyo Katanas hockey team in the JIHL. The JIHL existed, but not so the Tokyo Katanas. Think about it… KatanasSabres… a pointy joke!

Fun fact: The Kokudo Keikaku Ice Hockey Club in Karuizawa, Nagano (formed in 1972) relocated to Tokyo in 1984… eventually producing Japanese hockey talent Yutaka Fukufuji (surname’s last all through article) who would be drafted 238th overall in the 2004 NHL Amateur Draft by the Los Angeles Kings… playing nine years professionally mostly in the minor leagues as a goaltender…

He did play a total of 96 minutes over four NHL games letting in seven goals for a 4.37 Goals Against Average. He had 36 saves over those games but ended up with a horrible 0.837 Save Percentage and a 0-3-0 (won-lost-tie) NHL record…

But he was the first Japanese player… real one, anyway.

As for Tsujimoto? He still shows up from time to time!

Along with the Buffalo Sabres 1974-75 Media Guide, he also appeared in several publications, such as The Hockey News (a publication I subscribe to - a magazine now, it was a newspaper then).

For kicks, the Buffalo Sabres still list Taro Tsujimoto in their annual media guide.

Not-So-Fun fact: NHL President Clarence Campbell wasn’t very happy with Punch Imlach and the Buffalo Sabres.

The pick was eventually stricken from the NHL’s record books.

When Sabres fans found out about the trick, they began to chant “We want Taro” at games. Or banners would be hung by knowledgeable fans saying: “Taro says:…" with a disparaging remark against an opponent.

Lastly… Panini America via the Score brand issued an official unofficial professional hockey card for Taro Tsujimoto as part of its 2010-11 Score Rookie & Traded box set.

That’s it at the very top and just above.

Needless to say, the card depicts an unidentified Asian man wearing hockey colors similar to the Buffalo Sabres blue and gold uniform.

The description on the reverse of the card is even more fantastic, as nowhere does it let on that the player is fictitious. It reads (in case you can see it properly):

In Buffalo, it's not Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio?, it's Where Have You Been, Taro Tsujimoto? The first Japanese player ever selected in the NHL draft, the Sabres tabbed the mysterious prospect in the 11th round back in 1974. The Canadiens (Montreal), who had hoped to steal him later in the draft, were rumored to have worked out a deal for the diminutive center that would have sent Jacques Lemaire to Buffalo. Instead, the Sabres held on to his rights and continue to anticipate his arrival. To this day, whispers of his exploits with the Tokyo Katanas stir up the fans at the HSBC Arena, where the faithful often are heard to chant "We Want Taro!"

I love it... the Sabres "continue to anticipate his arrival." This was a 2010-11 card... 35 years after he was drafted.

By the way... this card was a tough one to find in the 99-card set... as it was a special 100th Mystery Card that was kept hidden until the time of the set's release, and was available as a 1:20 ratio of all the cards.

Taro Tsujimoto... if you are still out there, a lonely city turns its eyes to you. He will be 63 years old later this year.

As for Montreal Canadiens player Jacques Lemaire... perhaps he was spurred on by the trade rumors surrounding him for the mysterious Japanese player.

In 1974-75, Lemaire had a fantastic season: playing in all 80 games, scoring 36 times, assisting on 56 others for 92 points. Lemaire ended up winning eight Stanley Cups as a player and as a coach. He currently works as a Special Assignments Coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Let’s go Taro!
Andrew Joseph
I love how it all bookends nicely back to the Toronto Maple Leafs... not only did I not know about the Taro for Lemaire stuff, but I was unaware (or forgot) that Lemaire was working for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Apparently I couldn't have planned the article better myself.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Supercomputers: China No. 1 & 2 - Japan No. 5

China’s Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer has just been crowned the fastest supercomputer in the world, nearly tripling its nearest competitor, another Chinese machine, and beating the fifth-place Japanese supercomputer with speeds over nine times faster.

The Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer (see image above) has 10,649,600 computing cores and has a top computing speed of just over 93 quadrillion calculations per second.

Along with its speed, the Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer is also hailed as being three times more efficient than No. 2.

Designed and created by the Chinese National Research Center of Parallel Computer Engineering & Technology, the supercomputer was brought on line at the National Supercomputing Center, Wuxi, in east China's Jiangsu province.

Using a Chinese-developed computer core chip just 25 square centimeters (3.8 square inches) in size, the new computer achieved a Rmax rating on the LPACK (Linear PACKage of algebra routines – the benchmark against which supercomputers are measured) of 93,014,594 megaflops per second.

I’m no computer genius, but I have been called a rocket scientist, but 93 petaflops is equal to 93 quadrillion flops per second - which is how many calculations it can make in a second. One second. 

As for Japan… I’m pretty sure there’s no shame in having the fifth fastest supercomputer, but what do I know… I was first on the pre-Internet back in the late 1970s with my dial-in computer modem, message boarding with profs and university students in the U.S. and Europe.

Japan’s Top Supercomputer
K computer, SPARC64 VIIIfx 2.0GHz, Tofu interconnect
Site: RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science (AICS)
Manufacturer: Fujitsu
Cores: 705,024
Linpack Performance (Rmax): 10,510 TFlop/s
Theoretical Peak (Rpeak): 11,280.4 TFlop/s
Nmax: 11,870,208
Power: 12,659.89 kW
Memory: 1,410,048 GB
Processor: SPARC64 VIIIfx 8C 2GHz
Interconnect: Custom Interconnect
Operating System: Linux

For your viewing pleasure, here are the positions of Japan’s super computers within the Top 100 around the world.




For a list of the Top 500 global supercomputers, click HERE.

Andrew Joseph

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Construction By Robots On Mars

JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) is looking to take automated construction technologies aka robotics into space to build on the surfaces of our moon (our moon is named Luna) and Mars.

Why robotics? Well… it’s the next step in evolution for Japan, as its population continues to grow older implying that its workforce will continue to shrink as physically quickly as its aging population (people shrink as they get older)…

Also…  it’s not like we’ve even come close to putting a human being on Mars (Matt Damon excluded  - The Martian is a great movie)… and we haven’t even set foot on Earth’s moon since Apollo 17 in December 14, 1972. That’s 44 years ago… and I’m sure a few of you readers weren’t even born then!

Yes… Vietnam costs, SkyLab as the next best thing, followed by recessions, the Space Shuttle Program, terrorism battles and wars to fight which also took time, effort and money away from space exploration…

While SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Corporation and even NASA’s 2014 launch of an Orion spacecraft atop a Delta IV Heavy rocket might seem like we are taking a giant leap forward… if we have learned anything from watching movies about space travel, is that FUBARs and SNAFUs (you can look those terms up yourself) can happen… you can also point to the two Space Shuttle disasters, if you are looking for real-life crap. 

With a once-again fledgling space concept hopefully in the fold, the last thing one needs is a failure.

Or… maybe JAXA just thinks it would be cool to see what its high-tech robotics package could do in anticipation of human arrival on Luna or Mars.

The concept of constructing semi-permanent or permanent human colonies on another planet has been fuel for thought for sci-fi writers since the early 1950s… and perhaps even earlier.

In 1959, NASA - 10 years before it even landed Apollo 11 on the moon’s surface - had created studies to discuss the likelihood of erecting a military moon base. The USSR also thought that would be a good idea.

With the Cold War over and a new one chilling between the same and different combatants, NASA (US), the Russian Space Agency, European Space Agency and even some forward-thinking private architects have created plans for space bases.

In 2015, NASA even had a 3D Printed Habitat Challenge focused on creating a base on Mars, offered US$2.25 million to push along the 3D printing technology… saying: "needed to create sustainable housing solutions for Earth and beyond."

The Ice House.
The winner, Ice House, sought to use Mars' predicted abundance (PREDICTED!!) of sub-surface water ice to form a translucent and radiation-protective skin inside an inflatable membrane.

If JAXA has plans for what it could construct on Luna or Mars, it ain’t saying, but the space agency has contracted with Kajima Corporation (鹿島建設株式会社, Kajima Kensetsu Kabushiki-gaisha), a Japanese construction company to help plan the possible future extra-terrestrial construction. See HERE for company information.

I don’t know where Nikkei Asian Review got it’s estimate, but they seem to think that if things go as planned, JAXA could construct living quarters for four to six people on the Moon by 2030 and on Mars by 2040.
Kajima's A4CSEL automated system. Image from Kajima.
JAXA likes Kajima’s dam constructing equipment, the A4CSEL automated system (Automated Autonomous Advanced Accelerated Construction System for Safety, Efficiency, and Liability), and thinks it could be adapted to use off-planet.

Wait… Automated Autonomous Advanced Accelerated Construction System for Safety, Efficiency, and Liability… couldn’t they leave off the safety, efficiency and liability part and then just shorten the name to the more marketable A4CS… or get rid of the S and make it sound like A-Force.

Now… while one could remote-control the machine via slow radio waves… or… they could send a computerized pre-programmed machine (with the option to use radio-control, I hope… in case things go sideways).

To prove it is possible, Kajima already has pre-programmed bulldozers doing various laborious tasks.. but again… this is on Earth… what about on Luna or Mars… where red sand could flow between the electronic brain… or heck… a breakdown occurs because there’s a Murphy on Luna?  

But that’s the challenge moving forward, isn’t it?

The space machines will need to be more than a machine that blindly follows orders, it will need to have its own vision system and have it’s own AI (artificial intelligence) allowing it to alter its current path to avoid hitting something, or to use a different tool should a large boulder be found in its construction zone.

Kajima says it will use the A4CSEL to move dirt and level ground first… and then to continue its leap into forward-moving technology to have the A4CSEL attempt to build complex structures… I would assume like trying to ensure a pre-fab house can be erected.

So… the A4CSEL, as it stands right now, is a radio-controlled machine… that Kajima and JAXA feel can be updated to become a pre-programmed robotic machine… and eventually complex enough that it can perform conflict resolution and actual construction.

JAXA will begin indoor experiments to further these technologies sometime after April 2017.

I hope it works. I thought we were all supposed to have jetpacks by the beginning of the 21st century… but, I guess we are still too damn busy trying to bash each other’s brains in with a stick.

Hoping this space odyssey works,
Andrew Joseph
PS: Image at very top: Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Toyota Dies With 3 Minutes Left In Le Mans Handing Victory To Porsche

The Le Mans automobile race is the opposite of a sumo match.

Whereas two sumo wrestlers combat each other in an explosive barrage usually lasting no more than eight seconds, the 24 Hours Le Mans is the world’s oldest active sports car race in endurance racing, where, racers drive for 24 hours straight in an explosive barrage.

But… when Toyota’s TS050 Hybrid (Car #5) was all set to take the checkered flag with just over three minutes remaining in the endurance race… disaster struck… as it suffered a power failure.

The race began on Saturday, June 18, 2016 at the Circuit de la Sarthe at Le Mans, France with a deluge of rain… with the first 50 minutes of the race conducted under a safety car… which means no one was racing around the track at the usual break neck speeds.

Once the track had dried, Audi’s Car #7 in a R18 rook the lead… but after a couple of hours had to pit to have a new turbocharger installed.

A second Audi R18 sputtered out early, leaving the battle for supremacy to be fought between Toyota and Porsche.

Porsche’s Car #1 919 Hybrid also went out early, leaving Porsche Car #1 919 Hybrid, and Cars #5 & #6 for Toyota’s TS050 racers.

Both Toyota’s ran for 14 laps between fuel stops - one more than Audi and Porsche… which enabled the faster Toyota Car #5 (team: Sebastien Buemi, Anthony Davidson, and Kazuki Nakajima) to pull ahead of the Car #2 Porsche (team: Neel Jani, Romain Dumas, and Marc Lieb) and Toyota Car #6 (team: Mike Conway, Stéphane Sarrazin, and Kamui Kobayashi).

It was with two laps to go (supposed) in the 24-hour race, that Toyota Car #5 - leading by over 50-seconds - suddenly lost power with Najajima-san at the wheel as it was about one-third of the way down the Mulsanne Straight… coming to a dead stop just past the course’s Finish Line with three minutes still left on the clock.

So…  Porsche #2 won the 2016 Le Mans, completing 384 laps in 24 hours.

Toyota’s other car… Toyota #6 came in second three laps behind.

Audi #8 finished third 12 laps behind. Audi #78 finished fourth 17 laps behind.

Now surely not everyone passed poor Toyota Car #5 to finish ahead?

Well… there’s a rule in Le Mans that essentially turns cars in DNF (Did Not Finish) if they are unable to complete a lap within six minutes. Apparently time keeps on ticking even after the 24 hour clock is up…  when one is on the last lap.

The win gives Porsche its 18th Le Mans win.

This is the second time in three years (2014), that Toyota has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as it led for more than half the race before the car died.

In the 2016 version, Nissan performed well… but Car #36, #26, #37, #42, #33, #41, #27, and #23 finished in places five through 12.  

Full race results HERE.

Andrew Joseph