日曜日, 8月 10, 2008

Funky housing - I want one

With the housing market in the UK in freefall, domestic energy prices surging through the roof and there being something of a shortage of affordable housing, what the country needs is something cheap, quick to build, cost effective to heat and frankly different to the myriad of dull city apartment blocks.

How about these?

Okay, these incredible polystyrene domes from the aptly named International Dome Houses company of Japan don't quite meet the ideal requirements for housing density that would be the most perfect "green" solution (ground level living is, I'm afraid, inherently un-environmentally friendly in a small, crowded place like Southern England), but they check the box on just about every other score.

They cost around £15-20,000 in Japan, then you'd have to pay import duty, but that's not bad. A variety of pieces mean you can come up with variations on the dome theme too. And how damn cool are they to look at?

Image nicked from the unknowing, but quite skilled Erika Snyder. Story spotted on OtakuInternational.

木曜日, 8月 07, 2008

Take an idea - make it smaller

For many years it the received wisdom about Japanese industrial "innovation" that really all Japan was any good at was taking Western products and making them smaller (and later rather better) than their Western rivals. It was true of their bikes, consumer electronics and even cars.

That was a long time ago now, and genuine innovation in many areas (hybrid vehicles, Wii and BrainTraining), and remarkable abilities to miss entire markets repeatedly (can ANY Japanese manufacturer manage an MP3 player that isn't a dull "me-too" clone?) have buried that notion.

So its a breathtaking return to form that sees Toyota, in cahoots with Sony, produce these fantastic mini-Segways.

For me, the problem with Segways was always that the massive bulky shape of the chic uber-scooter was clearly the product of a mind that was oblivious to public transport.

Imagine trying to use a Segway to cruise three miles up hill and down dale across a city like Bristol. In late Autumn. In the rain. Not going to happen for so many reasons.

But if I could throw it in the luggage rack on the train, or as long as I could be sure no nutters would sit next to me, on the bus, then use it just at either end - exactly as the designers at Toyota would no doubt be thinking, then we have a winner. Brilliant.

Thanks to Mari for bringing this one to my attention.

火曜日, 8月 05, 2008

Green village on Shikoku

Just flitting through a bunch of tabs on my reader I found this interesting photo story about Kamikatsu, a small village in the hills of Shikoku that is attempting to go entirely sustainable - eliminating the need for landfill and recycling or reusing everything.

This is serious recycling - none of that "we don't take anything other than type 1 or 2 plastics and you deal with your own plastic bags" attitude here. There are 34 categories to sort your stuff in to!

This kind of initiative seems to the sort of thing that the village structure of Japan can facilitate. From what I read they seem to be much more self-governing, still running on models that Edo-era villagers would recognise. By contrast, my own experience of a village in Shropshire, in the rural hinterland of the English/Welsh border was of a place where you knew one or two families with kids your own age and no-one else had anything to do with each other. You'd never rustle up this kind of cooperation there.

土曜日, 8月 02, 2008

Time to buckle down (127 days to go)

The season for JLPT applications is nearly upon us. The notification on my phone to alert me on the first day that SOAS are ready to receive my carefully completed, practised and triplicated exercise in bureaucracy is just itching to send my ケイタイ in to frenzy of eager buzzing and ringing. (Seriously, check that first link - never has the JLPT looked so forbidding and sexy in one go!)

Having faffed and fiddled so much that I failed to get my MSc off the ground this year, I'm left with a yawning chasm in my learnability so I am prepared to send this this exercise properly this year.

So it was that I came back to Anki, the marvellous little app that earlier this year did so much for my vocab. And boy, was it keen to seen me. I've had a little session just now, but you can see from the graph how much I've had to make up, and I will still have to make up over the next couple of weeks, just to get things back to where they were...My lapsed time has left me with a mountain of cards to climb over. All the cards shown to the left of the spike are ones that have been missed - some by more than three weeks! Still, it is easy enough to put a couple of sessions a day to pick this up. Answering them once isn't the end of it of course, some will be postponed quite a distance, but I will fail a fair percentage of these and they will then reappear early in the cycle, making things quite heavy going for at least a couple of weeks.

My future profile at present makes for fun viewing...
The gradient shows a steep relearning curve. The line shows how many cards I would have on that day if I didn't study until then. Despite my efforts this morning, if I don't log on again until Thursday I would quickly be back at 150 cards. Better not slack this time.