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Archive for February, 2008

What did I say?

After making bold claims about the last post on Japan, that is exactly where I find myself right now, hence the recent pause in blog entries. I have been here in Tokyo for a few days for a conference and I’m currently in the excellent Narita International Airport, awaiting return to Hong Kong and fighting with a Japanese keyboard. I’ll post a pic when I get home.

An old flame

Shenzhen has slowly been changing over to natural gas for it’s mains gas network. The most interesting bit? It’s Australian natural gas that’s being used to power Shenzhen. So, each time we light the stove we’re lighting up a small piece of home.

A consequence of the change to natural gas has been the need to change the stove and hot water service, the old ones not being compatible with LNG. There were many to chose from but fortunately we were advised which ones were a rip-off and which ones were rubbish.

old stove New stove

I thought having an adjustable temperature instant gas hot water service would be a good thing, and it’s good in the sense that there’s no pilot light to blow out or waste gas. The problem is that it takes about 8 seconds whilst the little fan spins up and the electric lighter kicks the gas in to gear and gets the flame burning. It takes another second or two for the hot water service to work out that it needs to crank up the flame. That’s a lot of cold water down the drain. It also flushes about 10 seconds of cold water into the hot water pipe each time the hot water is used, e.g. when rinsing dishes.

 old hot water service new hot water service

As part of having the new gas hot water service it needed a permanent power connection. How did they do this? Rather than run the wiring from a permanent power point they chose to piggy-back onto the wiring to the exhaust fan, which was closer. The idea probably sounded like a good safety principle to them - it required the exhaust fan on when the gas was burning, or it’s what they were told to do, but having to do so was a right royal pain. It meant that having a shower required a preliminary trip to the kitchen. Additionally, the set temperature was lost each time the fan was turned off.

Exhaust fan wiring

I’m sure people just don’t think this sort of stuff through. In the end I just plugged the power for the hot water service into a power board I had behind the microwave. Nice and simple.

Pictograms

Note for cleaning lady

Gail found herself out of time one day to finish off the washing. The washing machine was only going to finish it’s cycle after she needed to leave home. It was the day that the cleaning lady came to visit so she left her this note to explain what she wanted done. The two Chinese characters say ‘please’ and ‘thanks’ respectively. The cleaning lady understood perfectly!

You see, sometimes you don’t have to speak the language to be able to communicate!

Stack ‘em up

OK, the last post on Japan, I promise!

One of the on-going problems in Japan is vehicle storage. We saw quite a few car parks where the vehicles were temporarily stored, as opposed to parked, in a space. Vehicles drove onto a movable carriage, turnstile or cradle and then were carried away to a storage location. Take a look at the following few photos for some examples.

Japan parking 1

Japan parking 2

Japan parking 3

Just another example of Japan dealing with it’s space-restricted living style.

Strange Kyoto Moments

On the same street as our hostel in Kyoto we noticed this car under a car cover that seemed to have no way of getting in or out of the space in front of the residence, save for a forklift. Hard bound by fences and trees on either end it would have been totally impossible to get the car in our out of the space on it’s wheels. It was a bizarre place to see a car parked stored.

Kyoto car trapped

The next day we noticed that the tree had been cut down and the car was gone!

Kyoto car missing

The following day the car was back!

Kyoto car returned

The things you do in a space constrained society eh?

A clean launch

In Japan I saw some of the cleanest construction sites in my life. There wasn’t a hint of rubbish, dust, rubble or scrap at any of them. It was almost like construction in secret.

 Construction zone

Take this example. Everything is neatly fenced, everything is clean, nothing is at risk and life proceeds as normal around the site. It’s as if the rest of the world doesn’t need to be bothered by this construction going on. At the time I recall that almost no sound came from the site, as if they were working deliberately not to disturb anyone in the area. A stark contrast to construction sites in China.

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