All posts by Frank

When in China

Last Christmas, I gave my parents a trip to China (and back!) as a Christmas gift. We couldn’t afford going abroad when I was a child (except for that one time in 1991 when we had saved up enough to go to Spain for a week, by bus) so I wanted to take them now instead along with my lovely wife.

About a month ago it was time for the actual trip. We mostly stayed in Xi’an, the first capital of China, but took day trips to other places.

Here, it’s easier if I just show you…

Cable management in China

Muslim Quarter in Xi’an

Candy crush live!
Candy crush live!

Xi’an Drum Tower

Moon over Xi’an Drum Tower

Birds, now on cable

Nice hooters!

On our way to Xi’an Terracotta museum

Terracotta Army, Hall 1

Me at the Terracotta Army puzzle ward

Terracotta warriors in a different perspective

Terracotta warrior details, face

Terracotta warrior details, body

Terracotta warrior details, horse

Horses, wagon and driver all made in bronze

Huge Emperor Qin statue on the Terracotta Army museum parking lot

At the Shaolin temple

This tree has been used for hundreds of years by Shaolin monks to train finger punching

Details on a Shaolin temple roof. That guy sure has a lot of pets!

Main Shaolin temple training hall. Thousands of monks has for hundreds of years trained kicks, jumps and stomps, making pits in the floor.

Tower at the Shaolin Temple

Martial arts performance at the Shaolin Temple

Every Shaolin abbot has since the year 791 had their ashes buried in a pagoda on the holy Song mountain. The area is now called the Pagoda Forest, containing 228 pagodas, one for each master. This pagoda was raised for the previous abbot when he passed away 2010. Note that aside from martial arts, the inscriptions also depict a video camera and a laptop.

Mom & Dad at the Pagoda Forest

Me and my wife Marianne at the river Yi

Xiangshan Monastery

The 17 meter tall Lu She Na Buddha

Buddha’s buddies

The river Yi

Lóngmén shíkū – The Dragon Gate Caves, a.k.a Longmen grottoes. 2345 man-made caves on both sides of the river Yi, housing around 100’000 stone statues – all carved directly from the mountain.

In the streets of Xi’an

Almost all scooters in Xi’an are electric. This was an exception.

Me sniffing flowers and stuff. Neat.

Small Wild Goose Pagoda, completed year 709. After a violent earthquake in the 1500’s, the top two floors collapsed and only 13 stories remain. It has otherwise survived more than 70 earthquakes.

Playing Peek-a-boo behind a 1300 year old tree

Scenic area outside the Small Wild Goose Pagoda

We found Barad-dûr in China!

We also found the Chinese Princess Leia

Guangren Lama Temple, a Tibetan buddhist monastery, seen from the Xi’an city wall

Shopping sunglasses with my dad

All in all, it was a very interesting trip. There is a radical difference in cleanliness, culture and people’s behavior compared to e.g. Japan.

For one thing, we were constantly photographed by strangers. Some additional facts may have contributed to this though. This will take some explaining, so please bear with me;

We went to several places where we didn’t see any other westerners, or only very few – the ones we did see were pretty much all in their 20-30’s, carrying backpacks and cameras. We stood out from the crowd even in the cities for several reasons:

  1. We didn’t see any older westerners (40+).
  2. We hardly saw any people with white, or even gray hair.
  3. We hardly saw anybody with facial hair other than a thin mustache, and nobody with a full beard.
  4. We didn’t see anyone with visible tattoos – 75% of our group had very visible tattoos on our arms.

We also went to China during the Qingming Festival, a holiday for honoring the dead, but also a time where many are traveling. A lot of people from the countryside go to visit their friends and relatives in other cities, this can be the only time of year where they leave the immediate surroundings of their villages. It appeared as if many of them had never seen westerners before, at least not like us. Some days perhaps 20 people came up and wanted to take selfies with us, but mostly people just took pictures or started filming us without asking for permission. It even happened that while we were sitting on a bench, parents came up and put their children in our laps to take pictures of us together as if we were a tourist attraction. I don’t mind people taking the occasional picture of me, but that was a bit much. This behavior was much more visible when going outside the cities to more distant areas such as on Song Mountain, Shaolin and Lóngmén shíkū. Though it did become more amusing when I started playing a game – when I saw someone take a picture of me or anyone in my company, I pulled out my camera an took a picture of them as well. Often I only had a second or so to take the photo before the people started reacting and sometimes hiding their faces. People who wanted to take selfies with me using their phones  & cameras seemed absolutely puzzled when I instead took a picture with mine (though I always did let them take one as well). But it gave us all a few laughs.

Photographing the photographers

Life

I’ve said it before, but I want to remind both myself and others, because this is really important; you don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing.

I think we as individuals need to hit pause more often and just enjoy ourselves, not giving a damn about what others may think about it. The ideals of others – or rather what we think are their ideals – are not applicable to us. But still we live a large part of our lives in these narrow templates, fearing what others may think of us, even though their thoughts doesn’t even affect us.

It’s entirely up to you if you want to be part of that gray mass, holding you back from doing what you would really like to do but don’t dare to, or if you want to be true to yourself.

You can write your own rules, as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else (or is, you know, punishable by law).

Buy a cake for dinner just because you want to. Make out on the bus no matter how old you are. Wear a sombrero when shopping ingredients for tacos to make them more fun to eat. Get that (cool/beautiful/silly/awesome) tattoo that you’ve been thinking of for months. Jump in puddles as long as your legs will carry you. Always choose the option that will give you the best story and the best memories, no matter if it’s about buying Milky Ways to your coworkers for no particular reason, trying a tandem skydive with an instructor (worth it!) or saying no thanks to that thing at work because you just bought your first coloring book in 25 years and would rather spend time with it, sipping that wine that people are dissing but you deep down actually like.

And most of all, only surround yourselves with people who make you happy. People that make you laugh, that make you think and that make you love.
There are plenty of pessimists and energy thieves out there who will do their worst to drag you down to the same miserable level as them – avoid them if you can. If not, don’t take what they say too seriously. They are only human too, and don’t know more about how to live a life than you do.

And it’s your life. You should be the one to decide what to fill it with.

Tool holders

Since I first got my 3D printer back in 2014, I’ve been designing and 3D printing various tool holders for the pegboards in my workshop. I’ve uploaded the 3D models for free so that people can print their own, and so far they’ve been downloaded more than 1500 times. It’s nice to know that things you originally designed just for your own use can be of help for other people as well.

A selection:

Bit holder, shown here with chamfer, deburring, phillips, pozidriv, slot, hex and torx bits. This is used very often.

Screwdriver holder. This was the first pegboard tool holder I designed, and is the one I use the most. That funnel shape is really helpful when you’re in a hurry.

Tool hangers, in a variety of shapes and sizes. Good for placing tools where there is a free spot.

Scalpel holder. I use scalpels all the time when cleaning up 3D prints. With this I always have them at the ready, and I never have to worry about where I put those sharp, pointy things. If they are not in my hands, they are in the holders.

Multimeter holder. Was frequently used before I upgraded to a larger multimeter.

Power strip holder. I made this recently, and it really helped clean up the cable situation in the workshop.

Though originally made for pegboards, all of these holders can of course be mounted directly on a wall, a plywood board or anywhere else you can fasten screws on.

Nu.

I got a new tattoo last summer. Nu means Now in Swedish.

Four reasons why I did this:

  1. To not live in the past; I can’t change things that happened half a lifetime ago.
  2. To not postpone things that I can do right now.
  3. To remember that it’s the only time I’m actually alive.
  4. To always have an answer when people ask what time it is.

The Yarn Bowl

Last year I was asked to make a bowl for holding yarn while knitting. Something to hold the thread in place would also be good. I designed a bowl with a rim that ended in two curly horns that one could easily pull a thread through, simply by pulling it to the side and up


To give the bowl some weight I glued a stack of hard drive platters to the bottom, making it the exact same diameter to match.

I also added the nickname of the recipient to the outside of the bowl in raised letters, made as in one continuous thread (except the dot over the i).


If you want to 3D print one yourself, I’ve made the model (without the name) available for free here: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:1312595

The China Boxes

For Christmas 2016, I decided to go big and invite my parents to join me and my wife on a trip to Xi’an, China – flight and hotel included. Such a gift can of course not be delivered in a plain envelope, so I started to design and make two custom boxes that would hold the invitation letters.

I based the design on a jewelry box I had previously designed, but almost every detail was refined and improved. I also incorporated metal feet and corners into the design, adding spacers to ensure that no nails would protruded through the lid and reinforcing the bottom to support the feet fasteners.

I 3D printed the boxes using a material that looks and feels like somewhere between wood and clay. Due to under-extrusion when printing, the intricate patterns I designed on the inside of the boxes got a distinct texture in what I would call a happy accident.
On the inside of the lids, I also added my parent’s names, painting them black in an attempt to resemble Chinese calligraphy.

The nails for the feet and top corners were not hammered in, but melted in place using a wood burning iron, pliers and a good deal of patience.

The cores of the hinges were made using a clear PETG filament, slightly heated and flattened at the ends.

To top it off, I printed two miniature terracotta warriors that I found online here and here, in preparation for the full-size versions we will see when we get to the 8000 man large terracotta army in Xi’an.

Time to design, print, clean up and assemble: Just over 100 hours.

 

Signs

The last few months, I’ve been designing, 3D printing and giving away door signs to friends and family. I’d like to share some of them.

It started when I made one for myself and my wife:

This was made using a plastic filament containing 35% real powdered wood. There are some really cool things you can do with this; sanding, drilling and staining will work with about the same properties as real wood. Since wood will change color when getting closer to burning temperature, I was able to develop a method for simulating natural wood grain – by randomly changing the temperature between the individual print layers, spanning a total range of about 30 degrees (C). This had to be done in waves, so that there would not be more than a 3 degree difference between two intermediate layers; If the printer is not able to get close to the target temperature within a certain time, a security feature in the printer firmware can abort the print and shut down the printer. This is because a large temperature difference between the measured and target temperatures could indicate that either the heater element or the thermistor have come loose; the automatic shutdown kicks in to prevent potential fire hazards.

The printout took about 40 hours, but in hindsight I wish that I would printed it even slower. Printing too fast often causes ghost effects around details, called “ringing”. This happens when the print head makes a sudden direction change and the inertia of the head causes vibrations that show up in the print. Unfortunately, I was not able to get rid of these effects even with sanding from 120 up to 800 grit sand paper. Aside from sanding, I enhanced the letter details with scalpel, dentist’s tools and small diamond files. But I wanted to accentuate the letters even more, and went with a few layers of dark mahogany wood stain. After drying, I sanded the entire sign again to remove the staining on everything but the debossed letters. Lastly, I finished the sign off with two layers of polyurethane to give it some surface protection and a glossy finish. I was worried that this would take away from the wood look, but it turned out pretty good. Perhaps a bit to much yellow, but good enough for an apartment door.


Next was a door sign for our friends who just got engaged. This was still being printed while they were visiting, so I didn’t have time to do a photo shoot before they brought it home – hence the CAD rendering. The outermost frame was based on a free vector graphic that I found here, but I had to remake it quite a bit to make it work.

After that, I designed a couple of things for my brother. He collects and restores vintage drums, so I made a sign for his workshop along with a personalized, fully functioning drum tuning key. I tried to make the font as close as possible to the one in his favorite drum brand, DW Drums.


I also made him a small wooden sign using a literal translation of his name, with integrated magnets to put on a steel door or locker.

Finally, a door sign for the his family. The metal corners were fastened them by pushing the nails in using a wood burning iron. The iron heated up the nails, the nails melted the surrounding plastic, and when cooled the plastic solidified around the nails. I opted on only using nails on the short side of the metal brackets to avoid having to cut them down from the back side.


I used the same type of corners on a door sign to my sister-in-law, who also got engaged recently. This time I went larger, and played around with putting part of the text outside of the rectangular base shape. I also made the sign thicker and integrated four magnets directly into the backside of the sign, so that it can be easily fastened on their (steel) apartment door. Or the fridge, if they prefer. I used the same method to fasten the corners as before, but this time cut the nails in half and inserted them from the front of the sign.

I’ve done a number of other signs as well, but those have mostly been variants of the ones shown in this post. These are the essentials from the last

Best of Tokyo

Me and my wife have been to Tokyo twice now, and I am still enchanted by this fantastic city. I miss it and have no doubt that I will return to it later in life.

I want to share a few of the things that I like about it. What you can’t see in the photos is how extremely friendly everyone is; not just the people trying to sell you things, but strangers in the street who will go out of their way to help you in any way they can.

And it’s clean. I mean really clean. If anyone sees a candy wrapper on the street, they pick it up and bring it with them until they find a trash can. This doesn’t happen very often in Stockholm.

Anyway, here are a few of my favorite things about Tokyo. Click to enlarge:

The view from the 41st floor
The view from the 41st floor

This photo was taken from the bar on the 41st floor in the Park Hyatt hotel. This is the bar where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson meet in Lost in Translation.

The streets at night
The streets at night

I can’t put my finger as of why, but I really like walking around the streets of Tokyo at night. It might be that I feel completely safe and can relax.

Godzilla
Godzilla

It turns out that Godzilla is real.

Yes, Godzilla
Yes, Godzilla

A close-up of Godzilla. Nicely done, Godzilla-game-for-PS4-marketing team!

The side streets
The side streets

Parallell to the main streets, things slow down a bit. But these stores and restaurants are often more enjoyable that the ones on the main streets.

The back alleys
The back alleys

The back alleys are often filled with hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Highly recommended if you have a limited budget and/or want a more genuine culinary experience.

The ninjas
The ninjas

As  in all big cities, the buildings are crawling with ninjas.

The old stores
The old stores

This is adorable.

The new... whatever this is
The new… whatever this is

This is not… quite as adorable, but definitively different.

The restaurant blackboards
The restaurant blackboards

Outside a small restaurant in a remote back street.

The smoking prohibition on the streets
The smoking prohibition on the streets

This should be implemented world wide! Smoking in Tokyo is prohibited on most (all?) streets. Aside from the obvious health benefits for both first- and second-hand smokers, it also helps keep the streets and sidewalks clean from cigarette butts.

The food
The food

The food is so good! Well, most of it anyway. I tried to eat something I’ve never tried at least once a day, and not everything was a jackpot. But sushi, udon and the other “classic Japanese” dishes are superb (as you can see from my wive’s expression).

The pastries
The pastries

Found in a bakery/candy shop. I think the picture speaks for itself.

The Engrish
The Engrish

The Engrish was actually not as widespread as I hade expected, but did see it a couple of times a day.

The toilet controls
The toilet controls

Japanese toilets are crazy, often with built-in automatically extending bidet arms with multiple spray modes and water temperatures. And built-in air driers. The really good ones practically eliminates the need for toilet paper.

The guest bathroom in a coffee shop in a suburb, way off any major street, gave me this experience:

  1. I enter the room and the lights turns on automatically.
  2. I approach the toilet, and the lid opens automatically.
  3. When I sit down, I notice the porcelain ring is not cold as I expected, as it has a built-in heater adjusted to about the same temperature as my skin.
  4. Sitting down also activates the sound system which plays nature sounds with gentle streams and babbling brooks, teamed with rustling leaves and singing birds.
  5. After I’m done and get up, the lid closes automatically and proceeds with flushing and self-sanitizing.
  6. Sensors at the sink activates the soap dispenser and water tap when I simply hold my hands under them.
  7. The airblade hand dryer also activates when simply putting your hands in it.

Aside from opening and closing the door, I never had to touch any buttons, handles or lids with my hands.

The fashion
The fashion

Far from everyone walks around like this, but it’s not uncommon.

The fashion
The fashion

This is more common than the kimono getup, at least in the Harajuku district.

The street performances
The street performances

Street performances, festivals and other celebratory events seemed to happen almost every day.

Big in Japan
Big in Japan

Being big in Japan was fun. 🙂

The biker culture
The biker culture

You see a lot of scooters in Tokyo, and hardly any European or American motorcycles. But I did find this beauty from Spice Motorcycles.

The biker culture
The biker culture

Despite being on the other end of the biker scope, this guy still managed to stay (sort of) cool.

The small shrines
The small shrines

Often crammed in between large buildings, these tiny shrines could be found every now and then.

The larger shrines
The larger shrines

Larger shrines can also be seen here and there. This one in Ueno Park houses a flame that was taken from the burning ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (later merged into a single flame). It has been burning ever since the atomic bombs were detonated over the two cities in 1945.

The temples
The temples

From small to huge, the temples are plenty.

The pagodas
The pagodas

The 5-story Kan’ei-ji pagoda was built in 1631, rebuilt 1639 after a fire, and still stands today.

Wedding ring in titanium with a diamond seen.

The beautiful cemeteries
The beautiful cemeteries

The absolute serenity of this cemetery was stunning. We came to see a single, specific grave, but couldn’t help but walk around among  the others as well.

The grave of the real Hattori Hanzō
The grave of the real Hattori Hanzō

This is the grave of the real Hattori Hanzō. Not the fictional sword maker from Kill Bill, but the real-life ninja, samurai and general that helped Tokugawa Ieyasu become the ruler of a united Japan in the 1500’s.

The nature
The nature

Even in the middle of a city with more than 35 million citizens, nature like this exists.

The parks
The parks

Got to love the parks. Beauty and stillness unlike anything I have  ever seen in a large city. This was a fairly short walk from our hotel near Shinjuku station – which is used by about 4 million people per day.

The turtles
The turtles

We also found turtles! I think this is Donatello.

Sharing this with my wife
Sharing this with my wife

Call me sappy, but the best part of these trips to Tokyo was that I got to share them with my wife.

The story of Lumien

As you might have understood from the URL redirection and name change on the blog, my last name is no longer Johansson.

Johansson is, along with the almost identical number of bearers for Andersson, the most common last name in Sweden. I’ve never felt common, and have never imagined staying a Johansson for the rest of my life. So when I got married last year, me and my wife took the opportunity to take a brand new name for ourselves. This turned out to take almost a year before all the hurdles of bureaucracy was overcome.

When applying for a newly created last name, you first have to apply to the patent registration office (PRV). This cost us about 3600SEK (~380€). Once that is approved, you have to apply for changing your legal name. If the first application is approved, the second can be sent automatically. If not, you have to reapply to both instances separately.

We sent in the first application for a new name more  than a month before the wedding.  Unfortunately, it was denied on the grounds that there was a small record label registered in Sweden with the same name. This decision could have been bypassed if we were to get a written permit from the company on whose grounds we were denied the name – so we wrote them and asked, but they refused. PRV then gave us six weeks to send in a new application, or else the paid sum would be forfeited.

After much thinking and discussion, we came up with a second name that we both liked and could agree on. That application was denied because there were 7 people in Sweden that had a similar last name – with a different spelling – but that PRV decided could be confused with the one we applied for. We again had six weeks to send in a new application.

On the next application, we got denied because there was a housing cooperative (bostadsrättsförening) with the same name.

The application after that got denied because there were businesses that used part of the name we applied for in their company name.

And so it went back and forth for about a year. If anyone thinks of applying for a newly created last name, be advised that your application will be denied if any of the following conditions are met:

  • There is at least one person in Sweden that has the same name as their first name – or even as a middle name.  If you think that you have come up with a unique name, chances are there is someone living in Sweden (not necessarily of Swedish heritage) having that as part of their full name.
  • It can easily be confused (due to spelling or pronunciation) with an existing last name.
  • It was previously an existing last name but no longer in use, unless you are a direct descendant to someone with that name, no more than 4 generations away.
  • There is an existing company name, trade mark or brand name – in Sweden or within the EU – with the same or similar spelling, or that can easily be confused with any of them.
  • The name is generally known as a last name in any other country.
  • There is a generally known historic person or family with the same last name.
  • The name is a title on someone else’s protected literary or artistic work.
  • The name of, or otherwise associated with, a foundation, non-profit organization or similar group.

After hundreds of suggestions to each other, months of discussion and a whole bunch of applications, extensions and waiting periods, we finally found a name that didn’t clash with any of the above and that we were both happy with. And my wife (who is a Finnish citizen) got a part of her other language in it.

Lumien.

It’s a combination of words; Lumen: Latin for light. It can also be used for lifeLumi: Finnish for snow. Lumien as a whole can actually be used as a conjugation for snow in Finnish, though it is a rare one.

Once the application to PRV was approved, the second application for legally changing the name only took a few weeks.

So there it is. Frank Johansson is no more. I am Frank Lumien.