#704 Urawaza by Lisa Katayama

Urawaza by Lisa Katayama Urawaza by Lisa Katayama

Urawaza is the Japanese art of finding a way to make more of what you have. If you have rice water, figure out something to do with it.

Lisa’s book is a list of Urawaza. Each Urawaza has an illustration, but it also has a scenario(sometimes unlikely, sometimes very realistic) for why you would need an Urawaza, how to do the Urawaza and why it works. For example, you can lessen the shock you get from getting out of a hot tub and into the cool air before sucking on a couple of ice cubes beforehand. You won’t experience quite the same shock because you’ll have cooled down at least a little.

You can get coffee stains out of carpet with spinach water and another ingredient.

What I liked

I lived in Japan for almost three years so I like to learn things about Japan. I have never heard of the concept of Urawaza, but it definitely makes sense. You take a problem and you solve it with the things you have on hand, or the things you might have thrown away. The rest of us would call these “life hacks.” There are entire websites dedicated to life hacks. Urawaza is simply the Japanese way of life-hacking, although, Japanese people do take life-hacking to the extreme, especially space wise. Apartments and houses aren’t very big. How are you going to do everything you need to do in that tiny house?

An Urawaza, that is essentially Japanese culture, is having your entire bathroom be the shower. I wish I had that. In actuality, Japanese bathrooms tend to have a toilet room, often with a small sink, or a built-in sink( you have special toilet slippers), an area with a sink/counter/mirror whatever, then the shower area. The shower area generally holds the tub and the shower. You can get the entire room wet. Sometimes, there are entire bathrooms that you can get wet. This concept is a way of making the bathroom a little more space efficient, but also making the bathroom more useful to more people at once. If somebody ate too much curry, the person in the shower doesn’t have to hurry out of the shower as a result.

I love little things that are useful. I like to know how to do things with little. For example, did you know that you can use just vinegar, water, and baking soda to get some pretty terrible stains out of your carpet? It really works. I’ve been attacking the carpet at my house with a vengeance since I moved in; baking soda and vinegar performs quite the trick.

When I was getting my first degree, an art degree, I had a professor that often said that being an artist was being a problem solver. As an artist, you thought about something, and you figured out a way to make it happen, which invariably involved solving a lot of problems. I think we should all strive to be problem solvers. We should all look at what we have on hand and decide how to better use it, or give it new life, or spend less money trying to do something.

Oh, and, I also loved that this book explains a bit of the science behind why certain things work the way they do. These things aren’t just magic; there’s science behind them.

What I didn’t like

The book could have been longer. The Urawaza could have been more detailed. I know for a fact that there are all kinds of interesting Urawaza that the Japanese people use that could have been in this book. For example, you want to grow yellow squash and goya, but you only have a five foot by five foot garden space. What do you do? Well, if you were an enterprising Okinawan, you would erect a scaffolding over your garden space. There would be four posts and a wire frame would be spanned between the posts. You would plant your plants that like to stay put in the garden plot, then plant your goya near the posts and let it trail up the posts and then grow across your wire frame. Your goya would hang down from your trellis in its bumpy glory and your squash would be all happy on the ground. I can’t tell you how many times I saw this very thing in Okinawa.

Notice, I didn’t pluralize Urawaza when I used it in what could have been a plural sense–Japanese doesn’t have plurals. You just infer from the context of the sentence if the word is meant to be plural or not. おいしいすし could be that you’re speaking of one piece of delicious sushi, or multiple pieces of delicious sushi.

In case you’re wondering what goya is–it kind of looks like a cucumber with a bad case of acne, technically some sort of squash. It’s bitter and very high in antioxidants, so it’s very good for you; it’s one of the reasons cited for why Okinawans live so long.

Overall

Urawaza–life hack–whatever you want to call it–it’s a good idea.

Weigh In

What’s your favorite life hack/urawaza?

Did your family pass down interesting life hacks to you?

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#694 Words at Work by Mim Harrison

Words at Work by Mim HarrisonWords at Work by Mim Harrison

Mim bets you have words that mean something only to people in your profession, or mean something different to people in your profession. Whether you’re a stock broker or a pharmacist, Mim knows that there are words that are just special to you and your colleagues.

Mim begins the book with a quiz in which you should match a list of words with definitions. Then Mim dives into dissecting words that mean something completely different to people of certain professions.

Mim spotlights the restaurant world, the retail world, airline pilots, cookie companies, pharmacists, television ad producers, the hotel world, printers(the profession and people, not the machines), symphony orchestra musicians, venture capitalists, waste managers, perfume makers, Broadway company managers, microbiologists, and magicians. Each spotlighted group has its own chapter. In each chapter is a list of words and their definitions and how and why the words are used in the manner that they are. Sometimes, Mim even includes the history of the usage if she knows it.

What I liked

I like words, so this is great. I love learning about why people use the words that they do. I like comparing words that are similar from one language to the next.

These words are actually called jargon. Jargon is a weird word meaning language and words that you use in a certain profession. I work in the IT world, I use a lot of IT words that may not mean anything to someone who works at Wal-mart. I can certainly go to Wal-mart and tell the cashier that I have to hurry because I have to go to work and write queries on my SQL server and set up an automated report and then format it using ASP.Net and, after that, I have to go run some Cat 5e cable, then fish it down a wall, then terminate the ends and test it out and then plug thin client terminals into it. Is the cashier going to understand any of that? Probably not, but it all makes sense to me. You’re not supposed to use jargon when you’re talking to people who don’t know what the jargon means. It’s rude. It’s just about the same as going up to a person and speaking Spanish to them and expecting them to follow along when they only speak Swedish.

It was interesting to read all of these words and see how people in certain professions define them.

What I didn’t like

This is a type of book I like to call a “random fact book.” There’s not really a story to it. It’s broken down into sections that are related and the reader is given random facts. I like these books as a rule, but they aren’t necessarily read-straight-through material.

Overall

Let’s eighty-six this review.

Weigh In

What’s your favorite word that you use at work? It can’t be the F-word.

Is jargon a fair concept?

#693 The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex by Kristen Schaal and Rich Blomquist

 The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex by Kristen Schaal and Rich Blomquist The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex by Kristen Schaal and Rich Blomquist

Sex is sexy isn’t it? Well, Kristen and Rich are bringing you the ultimate book of sex. They start in the beginning with a brief overview of how creatures used to reproduce asexually. Then they take a look at sex throughout history. Then they move onto subjects such as dating, foreplay, and aids.

This book is supposed to be a funny book about sex. It’s not very gratuitous. It’s more goofy. There are plenty of pictures and comics and short stories to go along with whatever subject Rich and Kristen happen to be talking about.

What I liked

This book wasn’t as funny as I would have liked, but it’s still humorous.

The information, well, a lot of it, that Kristen and Rich put in this book is true. The whole deal about reproducing asexually. Then sex throughout history. Then all the other facts about sex, they’re real. Now, you would think that most people over eighteen might know all these things already. They don’t. So I think this book can serve as a goofy sexual education book, which is really a good way to teach sex ed. Take some of that taboo out of discussing some of these things and then laugh about it. You’ll remember what you learned more so than watching disgusting STD slides, but no joke, STDs can be disgusting and unfortunate.

I liked some of the comics. They made me chuckle silently.

What I didn’t like

I kind of wish it would have been a little less goofy. Less pictures. Less silliness.

Sex is a very interesting subject, not just actually having it is interesting, but learning about it is interesting, and, no, I don’t mean pornography or the Kama Sutra, or what have you. Learning about cultural ideas about sex, sex in regards to history, and how to do it safely are all highly interesting. Some very pivotal parts of history have centered around sex and I think I would have liked to have read a book about that more than this book.

This book was more like The Human Sexual Response by Masters and Johnson, if Masters and Johnson had been stand-up comedians and sexual researchers instead of just sexual researchers.

Overall

This was my sexy review of The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex.

Weigh In

Is sex education best taught on a more familiar and laughing manner, or in a serious manner?

If you wrote a book about sex, how would you approach the subject?

#676 Ghosts, Hauntings and Mysterious Happenings by Phyllis Raybin Emert

Ghosts, Hauntings and Mysterious Happenings by Phyllis Raybin EmertGhosts, Hauntings and Mysterious Happenings by Phyllis Raybin Emert

Sometimes we cannot explain everything in the world. Sometimes a house is haunted and science cannot explain it away. Sometimes a person has the ability to tell when something is happening hundreds of miles away, without having any connection to that place. Sometimes ghostly apparitions appear at historical locations. Sometimes someone writes a book that predicts something almost exactly as it happens in the future. Sometimes someone can seem to speak to the dead.

These are all very interesting occurrences. This book holds over twenty stories about various unexplained and mysterious circumstances. Prominent haunted places mentioned in this book are The Borley Rectory, The Whaley House, and The Tower of London. Another prominent haunting mentioned is the Bell Witch. Edgar Cayce and Rosemary Brown are both mentioned as mediums.

What I liked

I love mysterious things. If I can’t explain something; it’s very intriguing. I cannot explain any of the events in this book, although I’m quite skeptical on quite a few, especially the mediums. I have a hard time believing in the idea of mediums. Maybe it’s real, but I just don’t know. This book has always fascinated me, I’ve actually had it for a long time, but I’ve never reviewed it on this site. It’s all just so interesting.

It’s a short look at each item mentioned, which gives the reader a good overview of the occurrence.

What I didn’t like

I wish the book had more meat to it. I would love to read more in-depth on some of these subjects. In fact, I have on at least one of the stories in this book. The story in this book, The House on Plum Tree Lane, is actually the subject of the book Night Stalks the Mansion, which I have read and reviewed. Because I’ve read the other book, the story in this book definitely leaves out a lot, but it’s also a little inaccurate. This book states that the house was turned into apartments, which may have been the case, I don’t remember, but the house actually doesn’t exist anymore. It was burned down. This book could have been written before the house burned down, but I have absolutely no idea if it was or not.

Overall

This is quite an interesting book and always has been.

Weigh In

Are you more skeptical or believing?

If you hear of something unexplained, what is your first response?

#439 Word Myths by David Wilton

Word Myths by David WiltonWord Myths by David Wilton

If you didn’t read my book haul post about when I purchased this book, let me give you a little refresher. When I first saw this book, I thought it said, “World Myths,” and as I like mythology and folklore, I was all up for that, but upon closer inspection I realized it said, “Word Myths,” but I think that is equally as interesting.

The idea behind a word myth is that we tell stories about certain words and their origins, which may or may not be true. The story depicted on the cover of this book is the myth that Eskimos/Inuits have about a billion words for snow. David explored this myth and it turns out that it’s partially true. The language which the Inuits speak has a main root word that means snow, but has various prefixes and suffixes to mean different kinds of snow. David also points out that we have more than one word for snow in the English language. We have flurries, sleet, blizzard, and so forth.

David goes on to explore “ok” which is a favorite of mind. It turns out OK is from a weird fad to first misspell phrases then initialize those phrases. Who would have thought that was a thing? Apparently it was  back in the hay-day of newspapers.

David attacks some of these myths with historical research, which I think is pretty nifty. He goes as far as to research the first recorded usages of certain words. Some people will say a word has been around for three-hundred years, when in reality it’s only been around a hundred years. That does put a damper on some of the stories we tell about words.

David explained something to me that I never really paid much attention to. Acronyms and initialisms are not the same thing. An acronym is when you take the first letters of a phrase and it actually spells something out or means something. An initialism is when you take the first letters of a phrase to shorten it, but the resulting letter combinations don’t mean anything.

One of the tales David tackles is JFK saying that he’s a jelly donut. He never said that. David explains why he never said that and what the phrase he said really means to the German people. He did say that in a manner of speaking what JFK said could have been translated to mean that he was a jelly donut, but he was in the wrong region for that and everybody knew what he meant anyway.

There is apparently a trend in word and phrase mythology to attribute various words and phrases with nautical origins. In most cases these words and phrases don’t have nautical origins at all and come from completely different places.

One of the more important aspects of debunking a word myth is that you have to have hard facts. You can’t just rely on some story someone told you one day. The story is more believable if there is a city mentioned where you can research said phrase or word. Most myths will change locations. It happened here, or it happened there. Oh it’s the next county over. It’s never your county; that’s how you smell a rat. A myth often doesn’t have anything real you can pin down. I like David’s reasoning on this whole thing.

What I liked

I liked learning about various words. As this is my non-fiction book for the month, I did quite enjoy it; it wasn’t boring. It did broaden my view of the English language and it enlightened me to some weird trends in the way we speak. Who would have thought that there were official words trends? There are. I guess you have to consider the slang we use each decade. Cowabunga! Nobody says that any more. I’m actually not sure what people say today. I know people used to say, “That’s tight,” but that was way over ten years ago now and I just have no clue what slang people are throwing around these days. It only stands to reason that as each generation has their own weird slang stories will develop about how those words came about. I can’t imagine anyone studying the word, “Cowabunga,” in fifty years, but maybe someone will.

What I  didn’t like

There were times I felt that David’s research was lacking. There were many cases in which he was able to disprove a supposed origin of a certain word or phrase, but he wasn’t really able to prove an origin for that word or phrase. That wasn’t his job. He set out to debunk myths, not confirm their true stories, but I’m kind of disappointed. I feel like I got half the story. Don’t get me wrong, if David was able to find an origin, he did include that in the text.

Part of me wonders if the truth really matters in a situation like this. Do I really need to know where the word “hooker” really came from? Is it that important?

The last section of the book deals with marketing failures and supposed mistranslations of various slogans around the world. First off, most of them aren’t even true. These things didn’t really happen. These companies have big marketing and PR departments that make sure that kind of thing doesn’t happen. Second, I almost feel that it’s slander to go around perpetuating some of these myths. When you have a business your image and your name are everything. I think it’s wrong of us to say, “Oh that product’s name translates to prostitute with infection in Swahili,” or whatever if we don’t know that that’s really the case. I think it’s even more wrong that supposed business coaches and motivational speakers, and whatever else you call those people, use these stories as marketing examples gone bad. This is in poor taste. I don’t think people should do this. I think maybe this section of the book is probably the exception to my lament that we don’t really need to know any of this.

Overall

This was an interesting book that lightly stuck its toe into the waters of strange words and their origins.



david wilton, eskimo words, i am a jelly donut, JFK, marketing failures, mistranslations, myth, OK, origins of words and phrases, snow, word myths, word myths by david wilton, words for snow
History, Non-Fiction, Random fact, Reference, Social Commentary, True strange Happenings, Wilton-David
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