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June 14, 2019

A note on "fair use"

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In the early days of boj, some fifteen years ago, I was scrupulous about never republishing an article without editing it significantly.

I still occasionally got irate or threatening emails telling me to take stuff down: done and dusted. 

As time has passed and the web has shaken off its early growing pains, more likely than not publishers are happy to have you copy things intact, as long as you credit them and link back directly to the original source.

One thing about the doctrine of "fair use" remains a philosophical conundrum to me, regardless.

Consider the previous post, on Japanese scissors. 

The entire text — and photos — of an article in Nikkei Asian Review appear in my post.

But — my Crack Research Team©® spent some time and energy chasing down photos of some of the scissors cited whose images did not appear in the original article.

The original story featured six photos of scissors, whereas mine uses those six along with six more I added — a total of twelve.

Does my post thus differ sufficiently from the Nikkei Asian Review piece that it qualifies as original, and thus not a violation of the standard of "fair use?"

As I've always interpreted "fair use," it includes taking the original and then modifying it in some significant way.

The arguments center on the meaning of the word "significant."

Here is the back story to the image that appears at the top of this post, about a legal dispute over "fair use" in the realm of the art world.

June 14, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Japanese scissors have evolved

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From Nikkei Asian Review:

Inside Tokyo stationery stores, scissors are undergoing a quiet evolution.

The familiar tool has become smaller, easier to cut with and multi-functional.

Scissors go back millennia.

An ancient mural in Egypt depicts a pair and, in Greece, some have been excavated from ruins dating back to around 1000 B.C.E. 

The first stationery-use scissors are believed to have been created around 1880 by Finnish manufacturer Fiskars.

But these Scandinavian scissors would not take the form we know today until 1967.

It was the same company that then came up with the iconic orange plastic-handled scissors that are light in weight and easy to use.

They went on to become one of the company's best-known products.

By the 1960s, scissors had evolved into designs specific to dressmaking, gardening, surgery, and other purposes as manufacturers sought durability and ways to make the tool better cut through various materials.

In the meantime, general-use scissors, those typically found at stationery shops, did not evolve much.

But in the early 2000s, Japanese companies started to produce scissors with distinct features, like compactness.

Because of their uneven shape, scissors tend to be bulky.

Unlike pencils, they do not easily fit into cases, and their presence on desks can be awkward.

If this is a design problem, it cannot be solved by making smaller scissors; this would merely compromise the tool's utilitarian nature.

Pencut (top) is a pair of scissors that resembles a pen when not in use.

It's made by Tokyo-based Raymay Fujii, which gave the Pencut retractable loops of a soft elastic on each gripping end.

A tightly fitting cap covers the blades.

When the tool needs to be tucked away, it can fit into a pencil case.

The Pencut has relatively long blades for its size and good cutting performance.

This last trait made it an instant hit.

Smaller products had come along before but took the typical scissors shape and never earned an "easy to use" reputation.

The Pencut changed all this, touching off a wave of new compact products from other producers.

Tokyo's Sun-Star Stationery took the concept of pen-shaped scissors a step further and created the Stickyle Scissors (below).

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Kokuyo took a different approach to pairing compactness with usability. The handle loops on the Osaka-based company's Hosomi scissors (below)


are staggered so that they align on one side along the length of the tool when closed, achieving a narrower profile compared to traditional scissors.

Raymay Fujii then responded to all the competition it kicked off by introducing the Pencut Mini (below).


The trend toward compactness remains apparent in stationery shops.

There is another trend in Japan's scissors world, one in which new ideas are being applied to cutting performance.

Cutting ability is not determined by sharp edges alone.

Blade shape, the angle at which the blades come together, and how the blades move against each other also significantly impact performance.

This renewed pursuit of better-cutting scissors was touched off by the Fitcut Curve (below),


hatched by Plus, a Tokyo stationery and office equipment maker.

The scissors have blades that curve away from each other in a way that makes them always meet at a 30° angle along the entire length of the blades.

The feature makes it easier for the Fitcut Curve to cut through hard or thicker objects at the part near the tip of the blades.

The superior performance is apparent to anyone who picks up a pair and cuts with it.

The Fitcut Curve made rival companies realize that scissor performance can be improved by means other than sharpening the edges and prompted them to come up with enhancements of their own.

Nakabayashi did this with the Hikigiri (below),

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whose design was guided by artists in Seki.

The town, in the middle of Japan, has a long history of producing high-quality blades.

The Hikigiri's flat lower blade and curved upper blade give the scissors a longer cutting edge.

Thus, in the process of closing the blades, the upper edge travels longer than the lower blade, causing more friction at the cutting point and thus enhancing cutting performance.

Seki natives are now calling this the hikigiri, or pull-cut, effect.

The scissors require as little as one-fourth the force to cut the same material compared to regular scissors, according to Nakabayashi.

The same principle — each blade edge traveling a different distance — is employed in Raymay Fujii's Swingcut (below),

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which, instead of having a curved blade, has a pivot deliberately located away from the axis so that one edge travels longer than the other.

Kokuyo's Aerofit Saxa (below)


has blades that both curve away from each other so that the angle they form at the cutting point is wider than if they were straight.

This strategy improves performance, especially near the tip.

Multiple other features also enhance performance.

The blades, for example, are shaped in a way that makes them less prone to attract sticky stuff when slicing through duct tape.

The gripping ends, meanwhile, extend deep into the plastic handle, ensuring maximum clamping force.

These performance-focused products are all easy to operate, comfortable to hold and do their one job well.

Having long ago ushered in the compact and cutting-performance era, Japanese scissor makers recently embarked on a quest for multifunctionality.

Plus' Fitcut Curve Twiggy (below),


with its blades closed and a cap on, is compact enough to fit in a pencil case.

But the product also features the same curved blade design of its Fitcut Curve sibling for enhanced performance.

The Midori Portable Multi Scissors (below)

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measure 10cm in length.

Tokyo-based Designphil created the scissors to slice through credit cards, iron wiring, and other rugged materials.

And, one of the scissors' blades has a serrated back so it can be used to cut open boxes being held closed by duct tape.

Similarly, Kokuyo's Hakoake (below)

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is specifically designed to perform multiple functions associated with opening items that arrive inside cardboard boxes.

The scissors can slide through duct tape, cut tough plastic bands or plastic ties attached to tags and open any envelopes that show up with the order.

Perhaps the ultimate cutting product to come forth from the recent two-bladed boom is a product called Xscissors (below),

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made by Tokyo's Carl Manufacturing.

Artisans were hired to sharpen the edges of these general-use scissors' 3mm thick blades.

The more muscular blades add durability, and the rear ends of the blades extend right through to the ends of the handles to maximize gripping force.

Carl's new tool is so good and so straightforward that the model could be a harbinger of yet another round in the Japanese scissor industry's game of one-upmanship.

June 14, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Flash Mob Singing Opera Breaks Out in London Food Shop

Wrote reader Joe Peach: "Routine shopping in an Italian grocery store in London was interrupted by a flash mob of five opera singers who burst into 'Finiculi Finicula' for unsuspecting customers."


[via Big Geek Daddy]

June 14, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

New algorithm tells you how much caffeine you need to stay alert


From Interesting Engineering:

Ah, caffeine!

It is the perfect morning stimulant but too much can make you jittery and on edge.

Have you ever wondered just how much you need to stay alert but not suffer any of the negative consequences?

Now, a new web-based caffeine optimization tool, called 2B-Alert Web, can tell you.

The algorithm created using multiple sleep-deprivation and shift-work scenarios was compared to the results found within U.S. Army guidelines.

The creators' analysis found that its solutions required on average 40% less caffeine to stay alert or improved alertness by an additional 40%.

"Our 2B-Alert web tool allows an individual, in our case our service members, to optimize the beneficial effects of caffeine while minimizing its consumption," said principal investigator Jaques Reifman, Ph.D., a Department of the Army Senior Research Scientist for Advanced Medical Technology, serving at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

Reifman had already presented the algorithm at SLEEP 2018 in Baltimore, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS), and had compared it to four previously published experimental studies of sleep loss.

But, he then decided to take the algorithm even further.

The algorithm is now incorporated in an open-access tool that allows users to input several other factors such as the "desirable peak-alertness periods within a sleep/wake schedule, the minimum desirable level of alertness, and the maximum tolerable daily caffeine intake."

This means the 2B-Alert Web 2.0 tool can now predict the alertness of a person as a function of his or her sleep/wake schedule and caffeine schedule.

The freely available tool then also allows users to get ideal caffeine timing and doses to achieve peak alertness.

"For example, if you pull an all-nighter, need to be at peak alertness between, say, 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., and desire to consume as little caffeine as possible, when and how much caffeine should you consume?" he said. "This is the type of question 2B-Alert was designed to answer."

The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented at SLEEP 2019.

June 14, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reflective Bendable Driveway Markers



Save your flowers, maybe even your house.

People are crazy, especially in the dark.

Fair warning.

From the website:


These commercial-quality markers are wrapped in reflective tape for high visibility.

Perfect for guiding down dark driveways or in hard-to-see weather conditions.

Weatherproof flexible fiberglass rod, steel spike, and stainless-steel spring.

Unique spring at the base allows them to rebound instantly if hit.

They install easily, even in frozen ground.

Orange or Black.

48" high.


Six for $34.99.

June 14, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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