Thursday, December 15, 2011

The VCR robot

So in general I tend to start ridiculous projects thinking, "This is going to be easy." I've embarked on too many of these wild goose chases to count. I suppose you have to dream. Anyway, most of the time the ultimate goal is to teach my kids something interesting. Usually it just turns into a massive hole into which my time gets sucked. The kids wander off and I'm left tinkering with stuff I have no business doing because so many other things are waiting to be done. But I can't stop, because ... I ... am ... stupid. Here is one such example. The antiquated VCR broke, so we decided to make a robot out of it. Check out the video below. It is less of a robot and more of a mechanical aberration.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cremation: Not a bad way to be laid to rest: Part I

So, like I said last week, my father-in-law died two hours before we landed in Osaka. Someone came to the airport to get us and whisked us directly to the hospital. He still lay in the bed when we arrived. In general I can be pretty insensitive. I tend to use the excuse of being an engineer and therefore having no social graces as a cover for this. Refer to this statement as you get irritated later on.

Anyway, so when people say someone looks so peaceful in death, I usually think they're full of crap. The person who's dead looks dead, the spirit's gone and no one's home. I suppose we get attached to these bodies. It's only natural, right? But, it is so clear to me when looking at the dead that what remains is just a vehicle that I find the things we tell ourselves to be asinine. I believe the spirit moves on, leaving the broke down 1975 Gremlin of our bodies on earth. This has to be more important than anything else.

My father-in-law looked worse than most. He lost a ten year battle with liver cancer and exploited every possible course of action to prolong his life. "He looks so peaceful," the pastor said. Uh, no he didn't. Japanese custom is for the body to come home and spend one final night sleeping in their own bed. The event serves in a similar manner to a viewing at a funeral in the US. So my wife, my youngest boy and I slept upstairs that night with the body downstairs. They packed dry ice around the body's mid section (to slow decomposition, I guess). My engineering mind immediately started doing thermodynamic calculations, it wasn't pretty.

The next day we accompanied the body to the crematorium. It is rather convenient for the crematorium to be part of the city dump as will later be explained. The body was at this point in a coffin and the whole thing slid into the oven and the door locked. My wife pushed the arm button and then the activate button. You could hear the mechanism inside ramping up in response. We left and then came back an hour later.

Now, I really had no idea of what to expect at the next stage of the process. I know I have sounded calloused and cruel in the descriptions up to this point. I've done this intentionally, because, well... that is really what I think and I'm not sugar coating it. But also because it puts into stark contrast the emotions the next step   elicited in me. It was one of the most spiritually impressive moments of my life. Come back tomorrow to hear about it.

What are your thoughts about public viewings of the dead. How does it make you feel?

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