Monday, November 30, 2015

Chinese Crested Dancer Digs Accordion

No apologies.  No explanations...

Jumpin' Minivans, Batman!

Mystery of China's 'Levitating Cars' Video Solved
A cable caught in a street sweeper caused the unusual scene.

The Huffington Post  Ed Mazza Overnight Editor, Posted: 11/29/2015

It looked like they ran into a force-field.

Surveillance footage from Xingtai, China posted online by Live Leak and others shows two vans and a car suddenly rising off the ground with so much force that one of them overturns.

While video of the accident, which happened earlier this month, caused the term "levitating cars" to trend on Facebook, there was no magic at work. A cable that had been laid across the street got caught in the street sweeper seen on the right of the screen, according to the Telegraph.

The street sweeper pulled the cable in, which caused it to tighten up and act like a tripwire for the vehicles -- but because of the low resolution of the video, the cable itself can barely be seen.

No one was injured.

'Bye Little Pony ('Til Next Year)

 So Saturday was the season finale two-parter for  My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.  And it was a corker!  All the MLP baddies had at least a cameo, and Starlight Glimmer finally re-surfaced and led Twilight Sparkle a merry chase through time.  Each revealed past was darker than the last, and Twilight was "out-magicked" time after time.

Discord, Celestia and Luna clowning
Applejack working hard as usual - this time for the resistance
Resistance fighters Zecora and Fluttershy
Pinkie does super-digging with her sister, Maud
Queen Chrysalis and the Changelings take over for awhile...
Dasie gets armor
Castle group shot!

Starlight does "Hinny of the Hills"
Friendship triumphs again!

Dash's sonic rainboom makes it all possible

Spike gets quality screen-time
And the song at the end was awesome!
Great stuff!  But it seems like a loooooooooong old time 'til next season. 

The Harmony of Fall

from Enrique Pacheco Plus 6 days ago / via Dropbox All Audiences 

Autumn is that romantic, melancholy and harmonious season that all photographers rush to capture from its arrival. And no wonder, the light, the colours and the energy displayed by the autumn, are ideal fuel for encouraging the creativity of any visual artist.

I traveled to Croatia and Slovenia in order to capture this amazing spectacle of nature, and now I feel like I made the right choice. 

Time-lapse: Enrique Pacheco (
Original Score: Peter Nanasi (
Shot in 4K Raw with Sony A7 and A7R and Zeiss Lenses
Motorized Slider by mSlider:

To license and purchase this footage, please contact Alejandra García Herrero:
Professional enquires only please.

Watch it HERE

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Smokestack Lightning

Somebody up there likes him...


The little thing that hangs down in the back of your throat, just so we're clear here.

Drawing by Gray's Anatomy by way of wikimedia. Annotated by Phil Plait

Back in the olden days, when the Sun was slightly cooler and the Universe a fraction smaller, I lived in Virginia. At the time (and apparently still today), for a little extra money you could purchase a “vanity” car license plate, with up to seven letters on it. I like this idea, and it’s sometimes fun to try to figure out what other people’s plates mean.

As a bit of silliness, I decided to get UVULA, because why not? I happen to have one, and you probably do too, and I used to (and apparently still today) like to do things just because they’re off-kilter and weird.

So I filled out the form at the DMV, submitted it, and waited. After a few days I got a letter in the mail telling me my request was denied. No reason was given. Now, I happen to know that if the plate you wanted was already taken, they’d tell you (that happened to me once). So why did they refuse me?

To this day, I don’t know. But I have my suspicions. Despite its latitude, Virginia still thinks of itself as a southern state, and a genteel one. I strongly suspect someone at the DMV was confusing a uvula with a vulva, and denied me on the grounds of their own mistaken prurient metathesis.

Ah well. I went with another plate idea, and never looked back.

I’m reminded of all this because my friend, Hank Green — who himself, I presume, has a uvula — just made a SciShow episode about the dangly little throat projection. I have to admit I was never an expert on such things, but I was still surprised at the versatile little appendage and the multiple roles it plays in the back of the mouth.

So there you go. I suppose it’s easy to belittle the uvula, but you do so at your own risk. I’ll personally never downplay it again.

Oh — as for my license plate dilemma, I finally settled on one that befit my greenish streamlined Datsun B210: KLINGON. You can make fun of me if you want, but it was the envy of the Old Dominion. I stopped at a red light once, and a guy pulled up next to me. He caught my eye and said, “I wanted KLINGON but they told me it was taken!”

I laughed, yelled “Q’Plah!”, and drove away. In my rear view window I could see his mouth hanging open, but sadly I couldn’t see his uvula myself.


 A sushi odyssey: Old-fashioned and bulky conveyer belts are being replaced by a more compact single-track systems and touchscreens at kaiten (conveyer belt) sushi restaurants in Tokyo. | COURTESY OF SUSHI NOVA 
The future of conveyor-belt sushi

The Japan Times  by Patrick ST. Michel  Special To The Japan Times  Nov 27, 2015 

In October, U.K. sushi chain Yo! Sushi opened a new kaiten (conveyor belt) restaurant in a Florida mall. It is the third branch the chain has established in the United States this year, and more branches are slated to open in 2016. It is a reminder that this automated approach to dining continues to intrigue eaters outside of Japan.

Yet in its birth country, kaiten sushi is changing. Kappa Sushi, one of the major chains, debuted a new restaurant in September in Tokyo’s Aoyama neighborhood called Sushi Nova. Since then, new locations have opened in Asakusa, Harajuku and Shibuya.
Hibari is a cheap but melt-in-your-mouth fresh conveyor belt sushi parlor, located a few steps to the left when you exit Shinjuku Club Marz
All the changes to the industry are on display at Sushi Nova. The Aoyama shop is compact, with a clean and futuristic interior. The menu includes classic fish options, but also devotes space to desserts, tempura and quirky “vegetable sushi” items. Customers order via touchscreens and a single-track delivery system zips the ordered food directly to tables within minutes.

“We save a lot this way,” says Junichi Takagi, public relations director for Colowide Group, a food service company that acquired Kappa Sushi in late 2014. “A classic kaiten system requires a lot of space. … The rent for restaurants in the city can be very expensive.”

Sushi Nova is one of the first “urban” kaiten sushi chains in Japan, taking ideas developed during the conveyer-belt boom of 1970s and ’80s and adjusting them for the metropolis. As the country’s population continues to migrate into urban centers and more tourists than ever visit Tokyo, chains are seeing an opportunity to boost the lagging sales of their regional branches.

Kura, a chain in Japan, relies on small staffs and lots of automation, like sushi-making robots. Credit Hiroko Tabuchi for The New York Times
Osaka inventor and entrepreneur Yoshiaki Shiraishi opened the first kaiten sushi restaurant in 1958, and two decades later the format was ubiquitous.

“From 1980, the standard sushi restaurant model started to resemble a chain style, and they popped up all over,” Takagi says.

It remained a profitable model for decades and Kappa Sushi, founded in 1979, reaped the benefits.
“It was one of the only parts of the food service industry that kept soaring over the last decade,” says Nobuo Yonekawa, a kaiten sushi critic and consultant. “Two years ago, they started experiencing tougher times.”

Growth stalled partially because too many kaiten restaurants had opened in the suburbs, where it is easier to find the space needed for large conveyor-belt systems. Kappa Sushi was hit especially hard. They recorded a net loss of ¥7.1 billion in 2013, and a Business Journal article earlier this year reported they had developed a reputation for inexpensive and “cheap” sushi, which further hurt their image.

During this period, chains looked beyond sushi to attract a more diverse set of consumers. Kappa rivals Sushiro and Hamazushi began giving more space on their menus to ramen, curry and beef bowls.

Attracting new customers is great, but if the regions where your branches are located are sparsely populated, it doesn’t really matter what you add to the menu. Yonekawa says that as regional populations dwindle, kaiten chains will shift their attention to more crowded locations, such as malls. And, like the rest of the country, the chains are also moving to the big smoke. Takagi says Sushi Nova plans to open 100 stores by 2019, all in the greater Tokyo area.

Sushi Nova is not the first attempt at establishing an urban sushi chain.

“Uobei in Shibuya is the pioneer of the new sushi restaurant style,” Yonekawa says.

Genki Sushi — another struggling kaiten company — opened Uobei in 2013 to test a new model for serving sushi to the city. It has set the standard for this new breed of restaurant, with its sleek design, menu that extends well beyond fish and a touchpad ordering system that replaces the conveyor belt.

This last point also plays a central role in how Takagi hopes Sushi Nova will appeal to customers.

“This way, we don’t have to waste much food, we can be environmentally friendly,” he says.

Now the number of touchscreens and single-track delivery systems are on the increase, even at regular kaiten restaurants. Part of the reason for this is that sushi left out too long on the conveyor belt will eventually need to be thrown away. Genki Sushi announced earlier this year that they plan to introduce touchscreens to all their establishments. But Yonekawa is not convinced that Sushi Nova and Uobei will be successful. He worries that, despite changes to their store designs and menus, the chains’ reputations for inexpensive sushi might continue to turn off some consumers.

“But I do think they can be popular among non-Japanese tourists,” he says.

Although Sushi Nova was intended to primarily service the untapped city market, the increasing number of foreign tourists was also considered while the new business model was being developed. Takagi says Colowide has been marketing to tourists for eight years with its other brands.

“The Tokyo Olympics isn’t just a special reason to market to them,” he says. “It has (always) been a priority for us.”

Accordingly, the touchscreens at Sushi Nova and Uobei feature English, Chinese and Korean menus. Also, Takagi says free Wi-Fi and power outlets are available for customers — potentially providing an much needed place for tired travelers to recharge their batteries.

Despite these changes, don’t expect the kaiten sushi stores of yesteryear to vanish. Both Takagi and Yonekawa noted the appeal that old-school kaiten venues have with families. For many, these restaurants are tinged with nostalgia for a bygone era of economic prosperity.

Though Sushi Nova and Uobei may appeal to city residents and tourists, they are not really designed for a family of four to enjoy together on a Saturday night.

The kaiten business model will continue evolving, but until Tokyo finally lures the last residents away from the countryside, there will still be a place for restaurants outside the metropolis that serve sushi the old-fashioned way: on massive, convoluted conveyer belts, surrounded by family-sized booths with not a touchscreen in sight.


Here's an entertaining 27 minute documentary on conveyor-belt sushi.