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26 March 2008

Zen and the Art of Golden Temple Maintenance

200,000 gold foils, 1 mad monk and a 67-year-old craftsman... of such things are Japan's Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion made. With over 600 years of history, this magnificent building is perhaps the second most recognized symbol of Japan, after Mount Fuji. Located in an idyllic garden setting in Japan's ancient former capital of Kyoto, the glimmering structure is set like a jewel on the shore of a tranquil reflecting pond.

Commonly known as the Kinkaku-ji, the so-called "Golden Temple" is actually an outbuilding of the Rokuon-ji temple. It is also known as the Golden Pavilion or in Japanese, "Kinkaku" where "Kin" means "gold". The original building was constructed in the year 1397 under the patronage of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and has been maintained until this day by the resident monks.






Over 1.5 million people visit Kinkaku-ji every year and the pavilion's structure and surrounding grounds have been branded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is no "best time" to pay a visit - each season brings its own unique flavor. The vivid greens of Spring and Summer, the reds and ochres of Autumn and perhaps most especially Winter's light sprinkles of brilliant white snow all complement and enhance the luminous glow and harmonious lines of this truly exceptional structure.







Although Kinkaku-ji may appear to display an ethereal and timeless beauty, its history has not always been so serene. Tragedy struck in 1950 when a schizophrenic monk driven by voices that hated beauty, decided burn it to the ground. The story of the monk named Hayashi Yōken was told in novelist Yukio Mishima's notorious semi-fictional book "The Temple of the Golden Pavilion" and was first published in English in 1959. The monk was captured and imprisoned (where he was interviewed by Mishima) after bragging about his crime to a prostitute. His mother who was unable to bear the shame committed suicide by throwing herself in front of a train. Yōken was released from prison in 1955 due to his illness and died a year later. By that time the restoration of the Golden Temple into its original specifications was already in full swing.









Reconstruction of the pavilion took many years of painstaking labor. The trademark gold leaf coverings on the upper floors were not completed until 1987 and their application was fraught with difficulty as only a few craftsmen were trained in such a specialized field. It was not until 2003 that the roof of the restored pavilion (which features a stylized golden phoenix perched at the nave) was finished to appease the satisfaction of the temple's monks.





The main problem the restorers encountered was in applying the exceptionally delicate gold leaf. Though only a mere five-10,000ths of a millimeter thick, it still took some 200,000 individual gold foils weighing a total of 20 kilograms (44 lbs.) to cover the pavilion's upper floors. Applying the foils was a painstaking chore that forced workers to hold their breaths for fear of wrinkling the surface through the impact of their exhalations! What's more, parts of the process had to be repeated when it was found that the exceedingly thin, one-10,000ths of a millimeter thick foils used in the 1950s had begun to peel away from the underlying structure.








These days, maintenance of the Golden Temple's exquisite visage is entrusted to one single man: 67-year-old Takesato Yagyu. You can read about Yagyu's devoted dedication to the Kinkaku-ji in detail right here. According to Yagyu the pavilion's original gold decorations were not rigorously maintained and after more than 500 years, little gold leaf was left. In this respect it can be said that the modern restoration of this iconic symbol of Japan has returned the Kinkaku-ji's appearance of the 14th century rather than 1949 (the year before the arson attack). After viewing the Golden Pavilion in all its restored glory, lit up and glowing serenely on a warm and fragrant Kyoto evening, I don't think anyone can argue against that!

Article by Steve Levenstein from Inventor Spot. Steve writes about weird and wonderful Japanese innovations on a regular basis and you can catch up on current & previous examples at his blog. Submit your thoughts - click here!

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18 March 2008

Pictures Worth A Thousand Words - Post 16

An indigenous woman holds her child while trying to resist the advance of Amazonas state policemen who were expelling the woman and some 200 other members of the Landless Movement from a privately-owned tract of land on the outskirts of Manaus, in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon March 11, 2008. The landless peasants tried in vain to resist the eviction with bows and arrows against police using tear gas and trained dogs. REUTERS/Luiz Vasconcelos-A Critica/AE (BRAZIL)
via
"Pictures Worth A Thousand Words" series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15.

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The Most Complicated Thing That Humans Have Built So Far!

'CERN's Large Hadron Collider is set to become the very first time machine in history. According to the research published by Irina Arefieva and Igor Volovich, "in general relativity, a time-like curve in space-time will run from past to future. But in some space-times the curves can intersect themselves, giving a closed-like curve, which is interpreted as a time machine - which suggests the possibility of time travel." Continue reading the article on Dark Roasted Blend - it pretty much sums it all so well!

Can you spot the humans?


Quick facts:

- 20 years work-in-progress
- A team of 7,000 physicists from more than 80 nations
- 27 kilometers in circumference, 175 meters underground
- Facilitating head-on collision of protons, travelling very near speed-of-light
- Each tunnel is big enough to run a train through it.
- Temperatures generated: more than 1000,000 times hotter than the sun's core
- Superconducting magnets are cooled to a temperature colder than in deep space

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16 March 2008

How To Fix the Web With Greasemonkey in 3 Minutes

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15 March 2008

The BIG Idea: Social Relations as a Business Model

Now I've been thinking about this for quite a while but haven't been able to put it into words quite easily. What I usually do when I think I've found something new is to sit down and think through about what I found before I go online to research about it and see if it is actually not something totally new. Perhaps I've been searching using the wrong words but help me develop this concept if you can.

The idea is this. We probably all know the concept of "six degrees of separation"; Which refers to the idea that, if a person is one step away from each person he or she knows and two steps away from each person who is known by one of the people he or she knows, then everyone is an average of six "steps" away from each person on Earth.

If we assume this concept is true then this has implications on business relations as well. Now, let's combine this concept with the pyramid scheme where every individual has a network of up to 6 levels and every individual is on top of "their" pyramid. However, unlike the pyramid scheme where no product or service is being delivered; individuals in this combined concept sell their own goods, services or talents.. etc. For simple reference, let's call this "big idea" Hexamodel.

So, how does the Hexamodel work? Let's take me as an example. I'm a freelance graphic designer and according to the six degrees of separation concept I'm connected to everyone in the world. Perhaps not everyone in the world needs a designer, but along these degrees of people some will. Lets say that I offer a %5 commission on any person who refers me to his or her friend from the work being done. If we expand this network to everyone then it means lots of work for me, lots of money shared, and lots of friendships to be made?

Of course this is something in its roots but I believe it could be developed to create a sustainable business model. Also I haven't done much reading about it so Hexamodel being simplistic doesn't come as a surprise. There seems to be some great studies in the notes section of this wiki page. In particular, Albert-Laszlo Barabasi's 'Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life' is very intriguing.

What do you think?

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06 March 2008

One Idea CAN Change the World

Or is it impossible question mark




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04 March 2008

Search Engine Comic Strips (A New Series?)



Does anyone know the source of these? Let us know.

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01 March 2008

Prostitution: A Problem Beneath Problems

If you ever walk down the infamous red-light district of Singapore, Geylang, it is easy to be led into believing that the seeming progress made by the nation has neglected this part of the island. It is a shuddering sight seeing women of all races, age and nationalities dressing down to the bare minimum and standing at the road sides, soliciting for any potential business and the men scrutinizing them as if they were a piece of good to be purchased. Hotels and run-down shop houses lined alongside the roads and the air was heavily laden with a thick sense of uneasiness and disgust.

Once in a while, police cars would drive past the roads and the women would scurry to hide as soliciting in public is still a crime, though prostitution isn’t. Apparently heading for another night of physical wasted-ness, a lady was walking past a small erected Buddha stature when she suddenly slowed her pace, turned and prayed. Was she praying for better business that night, or was she praying for the day when she can finally bide farewell to this form of self-degradation?

The two questions highlight the problems that come with the social dilemma posed by prostitution. It is easy to assume that prostitution, because it has always been prevalent in history (in the form of “white” slavery or sex trafficking), is thus acceptable though it remains a taboo subject to debate generously on. Yet, more often than not, we neglect the underlying problems that are made more conspicuous by the rise of this sex industry.

Poverty, war and social exclusion are just some of
the global problems that accentuate the surge in growth of this industry. Women, and sometimes even girls, are led into believing that the job as a “sex worker” brings in fast bucks and more importantly, they are only temporal and the promise of riches at the end of this job after years of poverty is irresistible. Yet too often than not, they are forced to take up loans that effectively bind them into this quagmire where the high interest rates amounted to huge debts. With no money to pay off their loans, they are forced to work for the “pimps” or brothels till the day when they have enough to buy their freedom. Also, from historical days, women were often made to serve as sex workers in wartime to service the victors or the conquerors.

Prostitution, the oldest profession in the world, is deeply rooted in the society and this social problem is almost impossible to eradicate. In the modern society where sex is increasingly being portrayed as a service and pleasure instead of sacred and holy, the industry will only thrive. What can be done though is to concentrate on the underlying problems like reducing poverty and promulgating the rights of a woman. When women are finally not being portrayed as merely sex objects and respect for the females are on equal par with the males, the prostitution trade will gradually decline. Whether or not it can be fully done away with remains a dilemma that continues to question the morality of society.

By Jacob Toh. Submit your thoughts - click here!

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