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.

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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.
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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.”

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The incomprehensiveness of fashion

prada sneakers

Prada has a new pair of shoes – the Cloudbust Thunder.

They look like kids’ Power Rangers shoes. They appeal to… I’m not sure who.

And they are priced at $895, before taxes.

Why?

I’m sure they cost more to make than the Nikes people buy at Walmart. Prada designers are more highly-paid. Their nylon threads are sustainably-sourced. (Maybe not on that last one.)

It’s a luxury product from a luxury manufacturer. The outsized lug soles will not provide greater traction as the wearer navigates moonscapes. But the style will stand out in any crowd – at least to the shoegazers.

Interestingly, these shoes are in Prada’s “Must Haves” category.

Not for this shoegazer.

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We need help – some of the time

car exhausts from 3 different cars

Some praise the idea of increased rules. Others tout the benefits of self-regulation.

I argue for somewhere in the middle.

I am old enough to remember cities before the era of car emissions laws… a brown layer of thick haze covered the skyline on most days.

Today, new passenger vehicles are 98-99% cleaner in what comes out of tailpipes compared to vehicles from the 1960s (source). That change would not have happened without government regulation.

At the other end of the spectrum lies the ridiculous state of health care in the USA. Because of government regulations (and also private litigation), it takes months to pay a single doctor’s bill. And it’s nearly impossible to find out the real cost of a simple procedure because of added complications from the insurance industry.

Why does government involvement in one area yield good results in one area and bad results in another? I’m not sure.

One end of the spectrum says groups have no wisdom. The other end says the individual has no wisdom.

Both are incorrect. Groups and individuals have wisdom – some of the time. And some individuals have no wisdom, just as some groups have no wisdom.

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Sometimes the minority loses

Ruth's Chris Tofu House

When we go out to eat, my wife’s choices are limited… she has gluten sensitivity challenges.

If a restaurant has gluten-free options, there are few. And they may not be marked as such.

We also get to pay double for the pleasure of knowing that the half-size pizza does not contain heavily-processed wheat flour.

Living in Clarendon, Texas (population 1,857) would cause even more limitations for someone with gluten issues.


Vegan? I won’t even go into that realm, but you see that the same issues apply. (There is no Ruth’s Chris Tofu House.)

Live with a wheelchair? There are not many off-the-shelf choices in the Ferrari line that will allow you to drive.


Is there a solution?

One might be for a Clarendon resident to move to the big city.

The big city resident might move closer to a Whole Foods supermarket and adjust their budget accordingly.

But basically, it’s just not fair if you fall outside the mainstream.

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Not OK to talk about

Today, it’s bad form to say anything about gender that was the popular view twenty years ago. But it’s very acceptable to criticize religious choices.

Thirty years ago, socially acceptable norms of discussion were the complete opposite.

There seems to be a rapid change of pace in what’s OK to talk about and not talk about.


And then there are areas that are never acceptable.

Many years ago, I was flying to California with a leader I respected – and respect – a great deal. The flight allowed us to talk more freely than our normal daily work life would ever permit.

He mentioned how some people needed just a few tweaks to their personal style for their image to be improved. But neither he nor I could ever mention those tweaks to those style-deficient individuals.

That would be crossing the line.


Heather and I have several years of experience at the game of parenting. We’ve learned a few things during that journey. But the opportunities to share those lessons are few. We fear accusations of being proud or not understanding the other side.

“Lead by example” only has so much impact. Sometimes a deficit and later a positive change need to be spoken about.


Thankfully, there are always outspoken individuals. If it weren’t for them, change would rarely happen.

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Toothpaste Museum

Not everyone knows that I run a toothpaste museum. If you go to Google and type in: “toothpaste museum”, you will see my site as the top result.

One of my sisters and I started exchanging toothpastes many years ago. (Since Amy lives in Belgium, she has access to vast swaths of toothpastes that are unknown on these shores.)

And it went from there.

Friends have brought me toothpastes from all over the world.

So you’ll have to check it out here.


p.s. The Museum “lives” at my office. I feature a new toothpaste every month. If you’re in the neighborhood, drop by.

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350 iPhones

a house made of iPhones

It takes only the amount one would spend on 350 iPhone X’s to buy a decent house in Denver.

Or if you go for the base model, the iPhone 8, it’s like buying 500.

Somehow the (350 = a house) equation staggered me.

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The best dishwashing gloves

Mamison Korean kitchen gloves

I never knew that the best dishwashing gloves are made in South Korea.

Somehow, I discovered that fact and bought a pair through Amazon Prime.

And they are amazing.

My skin is naturally dry, so if I wash dishes by hand, my hands quickly dry out. So I enjoy protecting them with a second skin of latex.

These gloves fit well and are not impossible to get off when finished using. The outer rubber-ish material is grippy enough that dishes won’t slip out of my hands very easily. (And I have broken a dish or two over the years!) They are much longer than typical gloves, so you can wash pots and pans in a deep sink.

I can’t give an endurance report yet, but they definitely seem to be stronger than the U.S. supermarket varieties that I’ve used in the past.

Shortly after I bought them, some friends visited whose grandparents are from South Korea. They confirmed the superior quality of Korean dishwashing gloves and mentioned that the extra protection provided by these amazing gloves is valuable when preparing spicy kimchi. (The powerful spices in some varieties of kimchi can eat away at skin but are relatively harmless to the stomach.)

A win for South Korea!

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