Saturday, March 01, 2008



cc photo from flickr by EverJean

Places to go, places to see, places to be.

In Japan...

Auberginefleur, blogger of Japan Now & Then doesn't post regularly, but when she does, man, they are doozies.

I really appreciate the outside-in glimpses of Japan she provides.  The posts are well composed and go deep into the subject at hand. I usually spend the fair part of an hour fully exploring the vignettes captured.  Of recent enjoyment:

Buying a Kimono: Measurements - There are few places a Westerner can go to really get the full understanding of the kimono; this includes its history, the culture behind it, and the latest in kimono styles and fashions. Auberginefleur's blog is a dependable source of current information in English for curious students of the kimono.  This post goes into depth on how one buys a tailor-made kimono.  From selecting the fabric, taking of measurements (I didn't know that they are called sunpo and the entire list is called a sunpōhyō because a sun (approx. 3.03 cm) was a measurement of length in pre-modern Japan!  Auberginefleur provides some highly detailed images on a kimono measurement diagram as well as a sales form listing the measurements by formula.  Some shops take all the elements individually, while others take only a few key ones, and calculate all the rest out.  Fascinating.

Speaking of measurements...I hate to wear button-down dress shirts as they always seem "blousey" and un-tucked around my waist.  I've tried many different shirt-gathering and tucking techniques but never seem to be successful.  I'm going to have to surrender the battle and pick up some tailored-fit dress shirts now.  I'm going to try a few tailored Oxfords out of the Land's End catalog but I really think I'm going to have to go into the Galleria and pony up some $$ at a higher-end department store or men's-store to have a knowledgeable salesman truly fit me right at the waist, arms, and neck.  Then I can use those shopping for the rest of the shirts.

I've lost quite bit of pounds around my middle and am looking trimmer than usual, and quite fit in a size-large polo shirt.  However, I'm having to go to a few more "Meetings" and really want to pull off a neater appearance than the polo-shirt style I usually wear.  I just hate the look of men's dress shirts that aren't fitted nicely around the least on me.

I digress. Sorry.

Tokyo Area Exhibitions, Winter-Spring 2008 - A simply extraordinary collection of exhibitions, museums, and other web resources highlighting some of the best elements of Japanese culture. Covering a wide range of subjects from drama, painting, tea-ceremonies, roof-tiles (!!!), poetry, and cherry blossoms.  You could spend an lazy afternoon taking this cultural tour of Japan without even leaving your desk.  Wonderful!

Japan Navigator - What is the smell of your Japanese landscape? - Scents are powerful stimulators.  They go directly to the brain and the seat of memory.  The smell of coffee in the morning will forever be associated with my paternal grandparent's home in Missouri.  When we would visit as kids we would wake up in the mornings in their semi-finished basement to the smell of coffee percolating.  It was so comforting.  Walk down the isle of most any supermarket and you will see as much shelf-space devoted to candles and air-fresheners as to flour and sugar and baking goods.

The Japanese are no less interested in crafting environments not just based on sight, but on smell as well.  Japan Navigator blogger Ad Blankestijn points out that the Ministry of the Environment has compiled an official list of the "Top 100 Aromascapes of Japan."

A life-long Texas Gulf Coast resident, my association of our Houston "Aromascape" tends to be more of the smell of crude-oil offloaded from tankers or the sweet but curious scents of additives wafting on the air from the many refineries.  Or diesel and auto fumes sitting in traffic. (Sigh)

Some highlights of Japanese aromas as selected by Ad:

    the tang of sea air in Miyako (Iwate)
    the smell of deep grass in Hoei (Niigata)
    the fragrances of beech and dogtooth violet flowers in Shinjo (Okayama)
    Another type are aromas caused by people, for example by local industry:
    the aroma of soy sauce of soka senbei (rice crackers) in Soka (Saitama)
    the aromas of Japanese and Chinese traditional medicines in Toyama (Toyama)
    the scent of clay and fire in the ceramics town of Imari (Saga).
    Some of my favorites from the list are:
    the scent of old books in the booksellers’ quarter of Kanda (Tokyo) - although I am a 100% digital citizen, I like the smell of ink and paper and am always sniffing my books
    the smell of fresh moss and cedars in the Southern Valley on Mt Haguro (Yamagata Pref.) - yes, not only this one, but all cedar woods, for example on Mt. Koya with its huge graveyard in the forest, or along the ancient path leading to the Kumano Shrines in southern Wakayama…
    the smell of plum blossoms in Kairakuen, Mito. - again, also all other plum groves. My strongest memory is of the yellow “wintersweet” in a temple garden near Taimadera, Nara; or of the private gardens in Kamakura, where you can catch a whiff of plum scent when walking down the narrow alleys.

The official list of the "Top 100 Aromascapes of Japan." - Via Google Translator

Hantei - Blue Lotus, the blogger in Japan who makes regular posts on simply fantastic Japanese dishes created out of her own kitchen for the nightly meals takes us into Hantei, a famed restaurant in Nezu.  It is as famous for the age and beauty of its structure as the food inside.  Loaded with photos, Blue Lotus walks us through a meal starting with the choosing of the sake cup, through numerous courses of fried foods, and finishing with "the meal" of rice, pickles and soup.  Simply delightful.

Keeping warm in Japan - This post by Blue Lotus examines the lengths many Japanese must go to keep warm in their homes.  As many homes do not have central heating and air, rooms are generally heated while in use. This leads to a plethora of devices for keeping warm, many quite creative.  Most otaku would recognize the kotatsu (the low table with the built-in heater and blanket to trap the heat for the legs), but most would be surprised to find heated mini-rugs in bathrooms and kitchens, hot water-bottles for the bed with cute and funky covers, and arm-warmers.  One might think this was due to lowering the cost of heating a home wastefully in its entirety like many of us in the States do who don't have zoned HVA/C units.  However, as a good portion of $$ is spend on all these warming gadgets, it isn't so much that I think, but as Blue Lotus identifies, many homes in Japan are just built inefficiently, with thin walls using minimal insulation, single paned windows, etc.  Certainly, there are many more "modern" style homes being constructed in Japan, however from what I understand, most single-resident homes are still constructed with the expectation that they will be torn down and replaced in about twenty years or so, so who wants to invest in all that efficiency?

The hot water bottle idea led me to a fantastic solution for Lavie's cold-toes problem at night.  Her feet get painfully cold at night during the winter/spring and we have been at a loss to comfort them (my calves have tried and while happy to snuggle Lavie's toes...make for a challenging night's sleep of my own).

Anyway...while reading this post , I remembered a long and thin buckwheat "bean-bag" that her dad got her years ago. You can place it in the microwave for 5-min and get it nice and toasty. Usually one drapes it over their back/neck to help relax tension with the heat. But, inspiration....!

I dug it out of the closet and heated it up. I slipped it into the bed at dearest wife's feet and she has been in bliss ever since. The heat is gentle and slowly fades long after she is asleep. Because it is non-electric, she doesn't have any worries about a short or anything. And because it is soft and "bean-baggy" she can adjust it perfectly with her feet to get the perfect balance between comfort and whim, but there are no hard edges or anything to be painful if kicked in her sleep.

Behind the Wheel...

I saw this post on RetroBlog today: Ariel Atom 500: Zero to Bugsplat in Mere Moments



photo via Jalopnik

Zero to sixty MPH in under three seconds? No windscreen? No door panels? A boot only slightly larger than my lunchbox? Air intake right behind my ear? Sign me up!

Lots of YouTube videos to follow under off the post link.  Nothing like watching Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson gush while tossing one of these around the bends.

Yeah, I could "suffer" commuting back and forth to work in one of these things...even during one of Houston's tropical rainstorm events.

Ariel Motor Company - UK website

Ariel Atom - Wikipedia

Welcome to the Ariel Atom Experience - Book a test track visit probably nowhere near where you live.

Latitude 48° 14 North. Longitude 174° 26 West.....

High Tech Cowboys of the Deep Seas: The Race to Save the Cougar Ace - Wired Magazine

This is an amazing 10-page story of the salvage of the Cougar Ace, a Mazda car-transport ship that suddenly listed on it's side causing the ship to be abandoned and risk sinking South of the Alaskan Aleutian Islands.

The story introduces us to the team of Titan salvage and their colorful attempts to reclaim the ship before it goes down.

The story does cover the tech-angle, but it really drives home the point that behind the tech, are men (and women) who make tech their own and leverage it for powerful successes or failures.

Nothing like hearing the account of being in the belly of a transport ship that could go down at any minute surrounded by hundreds of cars held to a sixty degree sloping deck overhead by a few straps, while other lay like submerged corpses under water where it has infiltrated the hold.

A gripping story.


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