June 2012 Archives

Summer 2012 Conservation Tips

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Setsuden - power conservation season - begins on Monday.

This summer there will be no nuclear power generated at all, which means 11.8 gigawatts less to use. It's made up for in part by coal (an unclean nightmare) and small increase in renewable sources, but the upshot is we have a little less power this summer than last. And they are predicting a scorching hot summer to come. So we are being asked once again, to limit our power use. 

Last summer businesses were mandated to reduce consumption by 15% but this year there is no specific target in Tokyo and businesses and households are equally responsible for saving electricity between 9 am and 8 pm. 

From a household perspective, where can we save? In 2011 we all invested in low energy lightbulbs and electric fans. What are this year's recommendations?

According to this guide from METI, the Top 10 things we can do:

  1. Set aircon to 28 degrees
  2. Close blinds and curtains during the day
  3. Turn off the aircon and use a fan
  4. Set fridge from high to medium and do not overfill it
  5. Turn off lights during the day
  6. Use TV's energy saving mode and/or reduce the brightness of the display
  7. Turn off toilet's warm water wash feature
  8. Unplug the toilet washlet and other unnecessary appliances
  9. Cook enough rice for the day before 9 am using the timer settings on your rice maker
  10. Turn off remote controlled devices from their on-board power switches. Unplug if possible

And other good ideas:
  • Clean the aircon filters twice a month
  • Use one aircon unit instead of two where possible
  • Ensure sufficient ventilation space around the refrigerator
  • Load the washing machine to 80% full
  • Run laptops on battery power during the day and charge them at night
  • Use power saving modes on your computer
  • Boil water on the stove and store it in an unpowered vacuum pot
  • Replace the vacuum bags frequently
  • Mop or sweep during the day; vacuum at night
  • Leave the house during the day
  • Turn off appliances during the peak hours of 13:00- 16:00
  • Check the daily and hourly peaks on the portal site: http://setsuden.go.jp/

Generations Past

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The Hills. (l-r) Roy, Elvis, Lucian, H. B., Bettie, Eupha, and Omer Dean + two memento mori & a dog.

This is my great-great grandfather, Henry Berton HIll, my great-great grandmother, Bettie, and five of their eight children. I've seen their names in the historical records, but never any photos until today. My great-grandfather, Bert Elvis Hill, is second from the left in this photo, which dates before 1908 which is the year Bettie passed away.

My great-uncle Robert, who I have recently met online and have been corresponding with about our family, sent me this and several other photos of our common relations. Robert's father is Omer Dean.

Solstice Breakfast Guest

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It's been way too long since a friend's called us after missing the last train home - just about everyone's got kids now and they are far too responsible to be out drinking late into the evening. So what a delight to hear from UltraBob last night. Yay! Midnight greetings and digging into the stash of hotel toothbrushes brought back the good old memories of Tokyo parties.

This morning we feasted on omelettes and toast to celebrate the solstice. Bob scooted off across town to work. Tod's crawled back into bed to celebrate the day a little longer in dreams. And I am going to mark the day by playing the ukulele (loudly) and hooping.

Happy summer!

Making Music, part 2

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Rob checks levels as Jesse strums my ukulele and Swinky vocalises in my bedroom.

Months have elapsed in the quest to make a song for the World Hoop Day Dance project. Shortly after writing the previous post in mid-March, I gave up on the lyrics and turned to the music.

Huw and I created the chords that guide the song. There are only 6 of them, C D7 F Bb A G7, but it took a while to get them in the right order. Huw put together the main part and I loved it. Then I decided to try to make a chorus. I sat with my ukulele in the park torturing toddlers and their mothers for several hours as I plucked and swore and made a lot of bad noises. But I got something that I liked. Then Huw and I fussed with it until the chorus came back around and fit neatly with his part and voila! It sounds great. So the base of our music was ready.

There were still no words and no melody. I recruited Jesse and Swinky to the project. Jesse writes a lot of music and is great with words. Swinky sings beautifully and works with Jesse on many of his projects. Over a drunken dinner and a very late night that ended in a sleepover and annular eclipse viewing the next morning, we got some awesome verses and a melody. Rob recorded what had been created. Progress! 

The chorus was left behind that night. Everybody got busy and nothing happened for weeks. Since it's my song and I want to make sure it gets finished, it fell to me to do something about it. I employed a favorite technique of mine: propose something crappy and people will fix it.*  I wrote some lyrics and warbled them to a tune I invented, then sent the recording to the team. It wasn't long before I had musical suggestions from Huw, Jesse came over to rewrite the lyrics, and last night I had everyone over for another dinner and recording session. More progress!

Now we have something to work with. Rob takes the lead from here. He'll add beats and create an arrangement with ProTools. Eventually we will get into a proper recording studio for the final recording. But at this point, I can start to think about the WHD Dance choreography, which is the whole point of the project, so I am really happy.

Can't wait to share the song with you when it is done.

* This works for almost any endeavor (maybe not cooking). Don't wait for people to approve something you think is good. Give them something to fix and they will crawl all over it. Your final product will be better and more importantly, it will be finished with everyone's approval and ownership.

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