Architecture Monday

Now this is one heck of a design constraint!  A super narrow and super long trapezoidal lot in Tokyo, that is further constrained by setbacks from the property lines. Nothing like that kind of limitation to get the creative juices flowing, and the resulting lantern of a house is one nifty solution.

It’s cool enough on the outside, but to really get what’s going on within I find a section through the building tells the story the best:

The big move is to place most of the living spaces underground where the setback didn’t apply, thus maximizing the available width (still only about 10’ wide!).  A long and linear (ok, natch, how could it be anything but long and linear on this property?) kitchen occupies the middle of the basement, with a living room up front and the washroom in back.  Upstairs is the bedroom with (again) a linear hallway leading to the back door. What makes this all work, however, is that the building skin is made of translucent panels, and the floors above are of metal mesh, allowing light to suffuse and penetrate all the way down to the basement living areas.

Unfortunately, I can’t find any photos looking towards the living room or the bedroom area, which is too bad as those are likely some of the most powerful places within the house.  But the experience of being in this luminous cathedral-ceiling like house has got to be pretty neat no matter where you are.

I love it, a great example of taking something that seems unusable and turning it into something of wonder.  Great work.

Lucky Drops by Atelier Tekuto

Gaming Thursday: Broken Lands

My gaming group and I are getting ready to return to the Broken Lands, a campaign some of us had started many years ago that unfortunately ended soon thereafter as the main GM and another player had drop out.  Back then we ran the campaign in FATE, but this time I’m shifting us to using Cortex Prime with some hacks to bring a few more FATE-like elements into the game.

Also back then I, no surprise, made a character sheet for our game.  This time around we’ll likely be keeping most of our records in our shared OneNote instead, especially since we’ll be mostly remotely gaming… But, do you think THAT would keep my completely non-obsessive and totally healthy character sheet design mania at bay?

Of course not!  What fun would that be?  And so:

I’d probably tweak it some more, but given the uncertainty as to how much use it would actually get, this is probably a good place to leave it for the moment.

(As an aside, I am a bit enamoured with Cortex Prime right now, there’s a bunch of nifty aspects to it, and it is one heck of a wide and extensive toolbox.   I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out at the table.)

Architecture Monday

There’s something that I quite like about this train station in Dinan, France.  Built in 1879, it’s got this interesting mix of old school form, art deco-ish ornament, and some clean lines of modernism, all wrapped up into one.  And check out that rotated clock tower – you don’t see that very often!  Complete with ornamental bas-relief bells and a spare but bold design of the clock itself.

The delight continues inside too… check out that serious corbelling of the ceiling in the corners, at the base of which is a light?  Now that’s neat.  And the classic map along the upper band, with art-deco touches beneath.

I learned of this station through an adjacent new welcoming platform which is in of itself interesting.  A wood lattice canopy “supported” at one end by two earthen forms (one conical, one more amorphous) that recalls the medieval construction the region is known for.   Also with bonus trees that grow up and through the canopy above…

What a glorious assemblage!  Old and new, in many senses of the words, brought together to serve the rails.

La Garre de Dinan, old station designed by Georges-Robert Lefort and new canopy by Fouquet Architecture Urbanisme.

Gaming Thursday: The Troubleshooters Aurora Casefiles

The Troubleshooters RPG is a game based on the action, adventure, and mystery genre of Franco-Belgian graphic novels (aka bandes dessinées), especially those of Tintin and Spirou & Fantasio.  Now, if you’re like me, just that tagline is enough to excite you!  And if it does, you’ll be equally excited to know that the game is now out for all.  It’s a definite beaut, well put together with art and layout that do a great job to evoke the genre.  Even better, so do its rules, with the core system being solid enough and with some nice mechanical nods that provide support towards playing and creating those types of stories we love.

Having backed the Kickstarter, I received the PDF a few months ago and have greatly enjoyed diving into it.  And while I have no major issues with the base system, I immediately began wondering how it might play using the Aurora RPG Engine.

I think you can see where this is going…

Enter: The Aurora Casefiles!  A conversion that aims to bring the advantages of both Aurora’s dice mechanics as well as its narrative tools to the world of the Troubleshooters.   This is not attempting to design the game from the ground up; rather it strictly keeps as much of the core Troubleshooters rules and all its nifty subsystems (such as dice flipping, karma, dice challenges, duels, story points, and more) intact.  It’s the best of both worlds!

Snag your copy here (and the Aurora Engine document if you haven’t already), pack your camera, bring along your favourite white dog, a few companions, and let the adventure begin…

(Note that this conversion document only contains the bits that are necessary to modify the base Troubleshooters core rules to use the resolution mechanics of the Aurora Engine.  As such, you will need a copy of the core Troubleshooters RPG, which you can get direct from Helmgast here or also from

Philosophy Tuesday

There was a concept and a technique that I learned early on during my philosophical training:

Don’t look for what’s wrong.

Instead, look for what’s missing.

A clever little distinction there, for the former tends to hang us up, raise our hackles, and generally bog us down through muddy terrain as our ego and calculating self and identity and shame and all sorts of things gets involved.  It also can sometimes (often?) lead us to a dud prize: Congratulations, you know what’s wrong!  Now what?

Even more meaningful is the insight that often nothing is actually, truly, capital-W, wrong.  It may be unproductive or detracting, and may have deleterious outcomes, but perhaps Wrong isn’t actually there and/or isn’t so binary.  And so Wrong isn’t the best place to look.

Looking for what’s missing sidesteps all of that.  What’s missing looks for what, if it were present, would alter how things occurs for us and what would create new possibilities.  There are many avenues to display there, but the most fruitful place to look is often in who we are being in those moments.  When we shift our being so too do our actions shift, and thus so do the results also shift.  When we add in what’s missing the rut is broken and we get ourselves in gear in ways that may have seemed unfathomable before.  As a bonus, our experience also shifts to the better!

All of which is all great in the realm of mindfulness and philosophy.  But I also want to expand this into the realm of art, and specifically in the realm of critique.*  Because looking for what’s wrong not only can blind you to the work you’re exploring, but expressing a series of what’s wrong is often unproductive at either improving the work or the growth of the creator.**  What’s missing can provide way more valuable and actionable feedback and builds up rather than undermines.  Relate what caught your attention and was memorable, review your impressions, and express what was missing that would elevate the work and its impact even further.

With what’s missing our possibilities are opened, our art (including the art of living!) is strengthened, our excitement grows, and, above all, our spirit soars.


* As you might already see, this also works great for other critiques, be it performance reviews at an employment, coaching sports, and etc.

** If the foundation of the work doesn’t resonate with you, or if you think there’s something problematic, then that’s a thing too and certainly worthy of expressing, but both express it in that way and also you can still critique the rest of the work from what’s missing to elevate the craft.  Even if this particular work itself is discarded due to those primordial issues, what’s missing has helped to strengthen the creator, and the next work they create will be grander because of it.

Architecture Monday

They say California is in love with their cars… which leaves lots of extra car and road bits around… so why not get playful and use them into your architecture?

Road signs for fences and railings and siding, hatchback glass for awnings, station wagon tails for a a gate, plus repurposed sheet metal and more!

Something fun by Leger Wanaselja Architecture



Electric Obfuscation

I want to talk about this ‘article’ posted on USA Today that makes the claim that operating an electric vehicle is somehow shockingly more expensive than a regular car (and, thus, you should consider staying away).

Upfront, I will say I find this article is contrived and it does not align at all with my experience of electric vehicle ownership.  Quite the contrary:  owning an electric car has had significantly lower operating costs for me.  (It’s one of the reasons I love it so much.)

1) You likely won’t need to buy a home charger.  I can’t speak for every single electric car on the market, but I’ve not heard of one that cannot plug into a standard 120v outlet.  So there’s no cost there if you want to stick with regular L1 charging.

2) If you want to upgrade, at least with my Model 3  I could go to 240v charging simply by having a 240v/50A circuit installed with the correct outlet as the car came with an adapter.  This cost me a couple of hundred bucks for the electrician to run some cable and conduit.  Not very much.

3) HERE’S THE BIGGEST MENTAL HURDLE TO OVERCOME FOR MOST OF US.  Do you ever fret about leaving the house and needing to find a special place to charge your phone?  No, you do not, because you charge at home and can leave with a full charge.  The same is true with an electric car.  You plug in when you get home.  Even on an 120V circuit, you are getting ~5miles of charge per hour.  That’s not super fast, but a typical car will spend 10h or so in the garage from the evening and overnight.  That’s 50mi of charge, which will cover most people’s commutes.  If you have a 240V charger, then you can get a full charge in a couple of hours.*  Deadhead miles and time investiture while you wait for something to charge is, for the most part, not an issue.**

4) Their purported cost of charging, however, is where I take the greatest exception.  Where I live has relatively expensive power costs.  And I even pay extra for 100% renewable electricity (75% wind, 25% solar).  It’s well less than 30c per kWH off peak.  When I drive, my car is using <250WH per mile.  If I were to compare this to a 50mpg car, then to drive an equivalent 50 miles I would use 12.5kWH which would cost me $3.75 — and to be clear that’s both rounding up on the energy per mile I use to drive, rounding well up on the cost of electricity, and using a very high mileage car as a comparison point.  And I still end up a bit cheaper than a gallon of gas here.  Remove those artificial inflation points and my actual comparative cost would be less.

5) In addition, there’s almost no maintenance to an electric car. No belts, oil changes, spark plugs, wire, tensioners, filters, or etc. I’ve not had to bring my car in for servicing since I bought it 4 years ago.  This brings down the operating costs even further.

Between less “fuel” cost and less  maintenance cost, I estimate I will save thousands of dollars of operating costs compared to that of my previous gas-powered car.

In short, I find this article is narrow and contrived.  There are ways to make EV ownership more expensive, but why would you want to?  You could also write an article saying here are the things to watch out for to ensure you’re not making EV ownership more expensive, but that’s not what this article does either.   Of the “4 extra costs,” the first is not entirely necessary (the cost of a home L2 charger, and even if you do include the cost, over what timeframe did this study average it?  If you install it and own the home and EVs for 20 years, the cost becomes truly minimal), the second ignores the phone effect (you can charge at home), the third is non-universal (an EV tax?), and the fourth also ignores the phone effect (why would you need deadhead miles?  how many of these are they estimating?  what cost are they assigning it?).

I find this article misleads and that’s a shame.

* If you live in a rental unit without outlets, then this could be of concern and would need the landlord to install outlets.  But especially with economies of scale, that might not be that large of a hurdle.  Years ago, some of the parking lots at my University already had outlets to each stall to plug in your block heaters, which displays the ease of bringing power to parking.

** This is especially weird as the main instigator of this so-called study owns a Porsche.  You’re telling me that person couldn’t afford to install home charging and, while they sleep, get 200+ miles?

*** Let’s use their values, too, OK?  They say 33 MPG car at $2.81/gallon (certainly not there now), costs $8.58 for fuel (not including maintenance).  Let’s say your EV uses 300WH per mile.  100 miles is 30kWH times .30 per kWH equals $9.  Note my actual cost at home, using my actual overall efficiency and cost of electricity is about $5.40, but I’m rounding up to account for other people’s driving habits and costs on commercial chargers.  But even if it was $9, that’s not exactly breaking the bank, and you save much of that amount in lack of maintenance.

**** The article states that charging rates can vary by 100% on a week to week basis.  That one I really am curious about — I’ve never encountered that with any of the charging spots I’ve seen or used.  Electricity pricing in some states must be really weird.