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Amazing bookstores of China

Amazing bookstores of China

There are amazing new designs coming from China. Some of them are happening in retail spaces – especially in book stores. Shanghai Zhongshu Industrial Ltd. is one such bookseller that has been using Shanghai-based X+living design firm to create amazing book stores.

Most noteable to me was this 1,300 square-meter (approx. 14,000 sq.ft) store on four levels is located in the Zodi Plaza completed in 2016 in Chongqing. The clever use of mirrors and staircases makes it a truly M.C. Escher-esque experience and takes its inspiration from old libraries with the dark brown hues and floor-to-ceiling shelves.

For other stores, the designers also took cues from the shapes of Chinese lanterns and lamp shades:

What makes the areas of the store even more fantastical is the use of mirrors and reflecting surfaces that makes the space seemingly endless and turns things upside down.

I’m continually amazed by the innovative work coming out of China. They appear to be having a real design renaissance. I for one will be keeping an eye out for work coming from there.


Tour of Untimely Departures at the Lone Fir Cemetery

Tour of Untimely Departures at the Lone Fir Cemetery

Every Halloween the Friends of the Lone Fir cemetery put on a ‘Tour of Untimely Departures’ where volunteers would dress in period garb and guide you through the cemetery to hear stories about some of the deceased buried there.

It appears that this tradition may be at an end, but hopefully it comes back. Until then, maybe check out some videos of older trips.

Japan resources

Japan resources

It’s no secret that I have enjoyed both sabbatical trips I made to Japan. Here’s some good links.

Here’s a good link on how to use Suica cards to get to/from the airport and some general guides. Great if you have 12-48 hours in Tokyo and want to see as much as you can in a short time.

Tokyo’s Piss Alley

Every time I go to Tokyo, I end up eating at Piss Alley as often as I can get over there.

While there, I always try to drop into this place that serves amazing eel skewers. The old man appears to have more or less retired, but his daughter is there now running the show and was great to talk with.

Owl Cafe – I went to Owl Village and had a great time. They seemed to genuinely want to take care of their Owls and treat them well. Still, I can’t say as I would ever do it again.


While in Kyoto, don’t get scammed by overpriced tourist kimono places. Also, it’s very hard for men to find yukata and kimono. Turns out, however, there are some amazing resources. Here’s some links that discuss places to pick up quality and used kimono for men and women.

Here’s some of the suggested places:

  • Nishijin Textile Center – great place to pick up quality men/women’s kimono at very reasonable prices. Men selection was a little limited.
  • Takashimaya  – upper-end department stores like Takashimaya have dedicated kimono floors (It’s the fifth floor in the Kyoto Takashimaya)
  • Shinkyogoku Street and Teramachi Street.
    • Chicago – 1st floor is vintage clothes, 2nd floor is used Kimono
    • Ofuku- Kimono World
    • Yukata Shop Sakura



Hakone is known for its hotsprings and as a favorite getaway for Tokyo city residents. It’s a bit of a resort trap in my opinion, but worth the trip as it’s good quality and affordable prices. Bonus points for riding the crazy boats across Lake Ashi, seeing an Edo period taxation and border control station, and taking the Hakone Ropeway cablecar over an actively smoking volcanic Mt Hakone.

At the border control station, there are lots of wooden puzzle boxes. I bought a Karakuri Creation Group NS-2-2 (New Secret Box Ⅱ) box and have enjoyed its wonderful high quality construction.

Finally, there’s the hot springs themselves. Mingled among the hundreds of hotels, ryokans, and resort spots, there are some amazing experiences.

Yunessun bathing at Hakone

How about bathing green tea, sake, in a wine bath? Yeah – I did those, and they’re 100% real:

Or coffee?

Or the Doctor Fish which are tiny fish nibble at your toes:

Osaka and Yakiniku/Wagyu and Kobe Beef

Here’s a really good guide on how to cook/eat and enjoy Wagyu and Kobe beef. Trust me, there is a difference between good Wagyu/Kobe beef and the low grade stuff most Americans get. Do not hit any of the tourist-trap looking places. Do some research and get a recommendation for high quality places that locals go to. If you’re not paying around $100 for a meal of about a 6-12 pieces, you’re probably not getting the real stuff. Once you do, you’ll never have realized how beef can taste. Meat that literally melts on your mouth is a real thing and worth having once in your life.


Hard-off, Home-off, and their affiliates are great places to get Playstations and other Japanese electronics at rock-bottom prices. Way better than the astronomical tourist prices in Akihabara.

If you ever watch GameCenter CX, then you are familiar with Arino’s attempts to beat old video games. One of the things he uses are cooling pads. Last time I was in Japan, I bought some. Here’s what they are.

If you are further south, check out the Memorial Cathedral for World Peace at Hiroshima. I went to mass here and prayed that we never see nuclear weapons used in war again.

In the spring, the Wisteria bloom along with the Sakura. Check out the most famous Wisteria tunnels at Kawachi Fuji gardens

Historically rendered 3D maps by Scott Reinhard

Historically rendered 3D maps by Scott Reinhard

I absolutely love maps and visualizations. I’m always on the lookout for cool new creations.

Scott Reinhard combines contemporary land elevations with historic maps to create three-dimensional environments of a specific region, city, or state. To produce the digital maps, he pulls elevation data from the United States Geological Survey, which he then embeds with location information and merges with the original design of the old maps.

Reinhard was introduced to the methods he uses in his digital maps through Daniel Huffman’s website Something About Maps. You can see more of Reinhard’s digital works on Instagram and buy select high-quality prints, on his website. Check out his Shaded Relief in Blender tutorial (thanks to Dunstan Orchard and Anton van Tetering).

Grand Tetons 1899
1903 Acadia
1904 Glacier

Sasha from Pyramiden

Sasha from Pyramiden

Pyramiden, located far above the Arctic Circle on Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, has been all but abandoned since 1998 – with only 6 year-round residents.

Aleksandr Romanovsky, who likes to go by the nickname ‘Sasha from Pyramiden’ has worked as a tour guide at the Russian settlement since 2012 when, he thinks, he was the only person to apply for the job. A loner by nature, Romanovsky has come to feel at home in this unusual, otherworldly place, where he spends the time between giving tours and warding off polar bears by enjoying solitary pursuits, such as playing guitar and learning Spanish.

Snowboarding from Camp Muir

Snowboarding from Camp Muir

I’ve climbed up the shoulder of Mt Rainier to Camp Muir (10,188 ft) and glissaded down; but I should have brought my old snowboard instead like these guys!

This clip brings back some memories for sure. I need to do that hike again.