Japan

Sit-down small restaurant in Japan - courtesy of bantersnaps on Unsplash

I’ve always been fascinated by Japan.

Japanese culture is so different than American culture. Here are just a few examples that capture my imagination:

  • In Tokyo, living and shopping spaces bring efficiency to levels never achieved in the USA.
  • Artisan culture is expressed in fascinating ways, such as extreme pour over coffee methods that have migrated back to the USA. (See this article at Boutique Japan.)
  • One person’s trash is another person’s treasure… more than twenty years ago, my friends Eric and Sheryl, who lived in Japan for at least a year, told me of how their neighbors would put perfectly good stereo equipment on the curb to be picked up by the garbage collectors after they bought newer and better equipment.
  • Even though the salaryman concept is losing ground, Japan’s often unquestioning commitment to work lives on. (See this article at The Lily.)
  • When I was in college, I picked up a photo calendar featuring Japan’s beautiful and rugged mountains. I think Japan has more mountains per square kilometer than my beloved Colorado. (Check out Kamikochi.)
  • Japan loves bizarre little cars that will never find their way to the States, such as the Honda N-WGN and the Nissan Roox. I’d love to feature one in my driveway.

Even post-pandemic (if we ever get there), I may never get to visit. But it’s nice to dream.


Photo courtesy of bantersnaps on Unsplash. Used by permission via a Creative Commons license.

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

The post I couldn’t write

blog post not written - screenshot

I started writing. I stopped.

It’s hard to be a voter in this election cycle.

Telling you why I voted one way or the other in a blog post is impossible. It’s so easy to be misunderstood or judged.

Our world has become so polarized that it’s hard to be fully heard. If a sound bite heading features what you don’t believe, you probably won’t read the whole article. And even if you read the whole article, you would probably read your own meaning over the words. I often do the same.

Face-to-face discussion is the only way to really understand what the other person means. (And yes, discuss at a safe distance.)

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Get those other perspectives

Wall Street Journal Columnists - photo of magazine spread

Every month or so, The Wall Street Journal publishes WSJ Magazine, which I thoroughly enjoy.

One of the best sections is “The Columnists,” where six different people share their thoughts on a single-word subject. The most recent feature focused on time.

A wonderful aspect of this feature is that WSJ always pulls people from several different disciplines. For “time,” Bill Nye represented science and an actress shared how time affected her life. A chef is almost always represented, an author talks, and at least one celebrity pontificates on their brushes with the topic.

In the same way, it’s helpful to get different perspectives on what we’re facing in life. One viewpoint will rarely provide all the answers we need. Even when we know we disagree with a particular approach to life or culture, it’s good to hear from that side to help us shape our views.

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Warnings on a chair?

labels hanging off of portable camp chairs

I was sitting at outdoor church last Sunday morning, and I noticed a family sitting in front of me.

Every one of their chairs had two-part tags hanging off.

I looked closely, and this is what I saw:

  • Warning: Do not use this chair as a hat. Serious damage to your brain may result.
  • Gluten-free
  • Dairy-free
  • Soy-free
  • Nut-free
  • Zero calories
  • Warning: Contains inedible materials. Consumption may cause cancer or heart disease.
  • Not tested on animals
  • Not intended for use while water skiing
  • Failure to comply with warnings and disclaimers may result in death.
FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

My favorite month

Aspen leaves in the mountains of Colorado during September

September is my favorite month.

After a long hot summer, the cool days are such a wonderful change.

Leaves are starting to change, at least in North America. (I missed that during the five years I lived in Africa.) Growing up in suburban Washington DC, I loved the rich variety of colors falling around me.

My birthday hits this month. Though I’m not huge on birthday celebrations, it’s still a fun day.

School starts. Or it did during my childhood… that was before school began in August. I always enjoyed going back to class and friends, even though it meant the pain of homework.

Enjoy your September!

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Weird times

Skyline of Denver with a construction crane

These are such strange times.

We’re surrounded by business closing – yet some sectors of the stock market are soaring.

The world has become Woke and yet there seems to be complete intolerance toward anything but the majority view. Every single written or spoken word is judged using just one filter that determines what is correct.

In the name of justice, society is shutting down traditional methods of maintaining law and order.

Wake me up when it’s over.

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

An Ideal Boy

An Ideal Boy poster

We lived in Kenya, Africa for five years.

The most numerous non-African people in Kenya are from South Asia.

(There is some pretty awesome Indian food there – in fact, the best I’ve ever tasted.)

One day I went into a shop run by South Asians and found a poster – “An Ideal Boy.” I bought it instantly because of the reflection of a quirky part of India’s colonial-era past.

And all these years later, I found that poster in our attic.

I’m sharing it with you.

You can see a PDF of “An Ideal Boy” here. Download the file, enjoy it, whatever.

If you want to buy one of the panels, I’m selling them for $5 each, which includes shipping to US addresses. There are 12 panels, and there’s just one of each. I plan to keep one or two for myself (whatever is left). If you’re interested, send me an email at paul at pmerrill dot com, and I’ll be in touch. Send me your address too. We’ll exchange the funds via PayPal or Venmo.

First come, first served. (There’s only one “Salutes parents.”)

Each panel is about 5 1/2″ x 6.”

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

It just isn’t the same

Charly Bliss live in concert

Live music is something many of us greatly miss in the wake of Covid.

An alternative has been tossed over the fence – live streaming.

I’m sorry, but it’s just not the same. (No one said it would be.)

Often, what’s already out there on YouTube is better than a streaming show you might see. And you’ll probably see some actual crowds.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for supporting musicians! A good solid alternative is to go to their page on Bandcamp and buy some music or merchandise.

I just did. And since our cars are old enough to have CD players, some sweet new tunes will be playing in a few weeks – with better sounds than Spotify can deliver.


Aimee Giese, a Denver friend, spent a good amount of time compiling a page with links to support Denver musicians. You can buy lots of fun merch from a wide variety of artists.

If anyone out there has another similar page, please put the link in the comments. Thanks.

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

Staying environmental in the face of Covid-19

shopping cart filled with groceries

The world has thrown being environmentally aware out the window as we’ve faced the Covid-19 crisis.*

There’s disposable everything… gloves and sanitary wipes get thrown by the side of cars. To-go packaging from restaurants is almost always plastic. (And they usually also throw in a bunch of plastic cutlery.)

If the grocery stores in your neighborhood are like those near me, they won’t let you bring your own reusable bags into the store.

There is one thing you can do.

Keep groceries in your cart as you bring it to your car or bike. Then put your goodies in your reusable bags to carry home.

Simple. Easy.


* Yes, I do know about the massive decrease in consumption of some consumer goods and lessened vehicle use, resulting in greatly reduced air pollution.

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail

The writing’s on the wall

car magazine spread

I love car magazines. I’ve enjoyed them since I was a boy. I find pleasure in discovering the latest details on all kinds of vehicles.

The genre I least enjoy is supercars – because they are so far removed from my reality that I could never own one.

The other genre that I don’t take pleasure in is SUVs. Though they are the world’s most popular vehicle category, they offer less driving pleasure than cars. (But I’ve never cared about what’s popular.)


Back to car magazines…

Looking at printed photos and flipping the pages of a car review are somehow much more satisfying than scrolling up and down a web page.

Apparently, few other people appreciate this joy.

Nearly all magazines are dying a slow death – not just those of the vehicular variety.

Automobile Magazine quietly passed away without its caretakers even telling me.

Autoweek died just a month before Automobile.

When Car and Driver quits printing their publication, I will cry.


By the way, the expression “writing on the wall” comes from Daniel 5.

FacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinmail