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Showing posts from January, 2015

A Hello Kitty birthday breakfast

I was halfway through the chocolate when it struck me: I was eating Hello Kitty chocolate. I was eating Hello Kitty chocolate for breakfast. I was eating Hello Kitty chocolate for breakfast on my birthday.
I almost choked. Then I thought, oh hell, why not? So I finished it.
It's all for science, research and quality blogging.
Valentine's Day is approaching, which means shops are full of chocolate, which means any responsible blogger should do decent reportage, which means fearless, hands-on, empirical knowledge of the matter under discussion. It's called investigative reporting.

You can buy very expensive designer chocolate in specialist stores or department stores like Isetan, or you can opt for cheaper stuff – usually of the cute variety – in convenience stores. I bought the Hello Kitty and Snoopy chocolate at, umm, can't exactly remember, but I think it was a Ministop. Both contain eight small chocolates in the shape of the relevant character, and cost roughly ¥400…

How to make a South African happy

Want to make a South African really, really, REALLY happy? Give her Marmite, Klipdrift Brandewyn (brandy) and Amarula cream liquor. All three were presents. The book underneath (can you see it?), Good Morning, Mr. Mandela by Zelda la Grange, was also a present.

Klippies and Coke is the ultimate South African drink. Sophisticated? Heck, no. Perfect for rugby or a beach barbecue or as doepa against morons like Jacob Zuma and Julius Malema? Ooo, yes.

Amarula? Nectar of the gods. 
I've received so many wonderful gifts from all over the world in the last few months, ranging from chocolate to books to Klippies. You know who you are. Thank you, and kanpai!

Konnō Hachiman-gū, a shrine for maths geeks

Never trust an astronomer. They tell you stuff about stardust; tempt you with morsels of celestial beauty; persuade you to ponder the What, the Whence and the Whereto of the universe. Before you can blink, you'll be reading books about maths. Maths! You will understand not one whit, but then again, you barely grasp the phenomenon that is Hello Kitty.
This great crossing of an Einstein-Rosen bridge started …
"It should be possible to continue this path arbitrarily far into the particle's future or past, unless the trajectory hits agravitational singularity…"
How can you not love that? It's a line from that Wikipedia article. Anyway.
This little adventure started with a calendar; more specifically, this post, in which Massimo writes about "the 364.242190 spins that the planet did in its last revolution around the Sun".
Actually – for this is about science, and one should perforce be precise – it started with this post in February 2012, when I discovered that J…

The god who took off with the tofu

Crumbs, cripes and crikey, but it's difficult to get going and start blogging! Partly because I can't get into this new year, but mainly because I start researching a story about a Tofu Jizō, innocently thinking there's only one, and then I realize oh heck no it's actually a thing and maybe I should visit this other temple as well before I write a story but then what about this one oh look here’s another one but it's in Morioka no Ru you can't go to Iwate aaargh.
My new year's resolution, which might last two weeks, is a) to blog more regularly than last year and b) to return to my first love, quirky temples.
So. Tofu Jizō.
Mukashi-mukashi, a long time ago, a man called Kichibei had a tofu shop in Bunkyō-ku, which, in those days, was a wooded area with many wild animals, including foxes and tanuki.
He had many regular customers who collected tofu and left money in a special box. One of them was a young priest, but he seemed to be a shady character: whenever he&…

Because it's over

Anno Domini Nostri Iesu 2014 is over. Sela. What did it deliver?

1)  Two cracked ribs. Hiking in Nagano. Bones broken. Ego intact.
2)  Two bloody knees. Hiking in Chichibu. Bones intact. Ego not.

3)  A total of 61 posts, a new record in non-productivity.
4)  Zero incidences of violence in class, but it was a close call.
5)  Average of 2 books per week = 104 books, give or take 10. I'm a speed reader and I don't sleep much. Still, not happy with this consumption rate. So many books, so little time.
6)  Number of times I rewatched BBC Sherlock: confidential. Embarrassing. 
7)  Hay fever attacks: zero. I implore the gods to allow me to repeat this achievement.
8)  Silent curses flung at sniffers, spitters, parasols, rude commuters, oblivious smartphone users, a dreary succession of passive students: ad infinitum.
9)  New clothes bought: zero. Meh.
10)  Best flower discovery of 2014: a suburban cherry blossom footpath in Saitama (link).


Best temple discovery: a rakan temple in Ch…

Ja, ja, I'll do this New Year's post just now

Yelp! I'm doing a "Japanese New Year's customs" post on Africa time, six days ex post facto, but I plead your indulgence: New Year's decorations are traditionally removed on the first Saturday of the new year, in other words, I haven't caused deadline mayhem yet.
"Just now", by the way, is a South African expression that means shortly, later, eventually, in a minute, tomorrow, next year, maybe never, probably never, ha ha never, shut up I'm busy. It can also mean a minute ago, a while ago, two hours ago, in my previous life. You can also say "now now", which means as soon as possible, shortly, later, eventually, etc etc etc.


Decorations
Japanese New Year’s decorations are called o-shogatsu kazari (お正月飾り). It’s usually made of natural materials such as straw ropes, pine branches, bamboo and paper. 
They should be put up by December the 28th, since December the 29th includes the number 9 (九 ku), which is regarded as a bad luck number becaus…