Helping the needy

It felt like spring yesterday, but it’s cold again today. It’s hard to imagine having to “sleep rough” but that’s what the homeless are faced with.

In Brussels, Belgium, where (according to the video below) there are 2,600 homeless, and where canvas is illegal but cardboard shelters are not, Belgian entrepreneur Xavier Van der Steppen helps the homeless with “origami cardboard tents” that cost only $35 to make.

More about this story from the BBC

More about homelessness in Brussels (from the Brussels Times).

How about the homeless in Tokyo? According to this article from Mainichi Shimbun, “Tokyo sees 4,000 homeless sleeping in 24-hr cafes on any weeknight”.

One interesting point about the cardboard tents is that they’re made by prison inmates. One possible research project topic is to find out what prison inmates in Japan (or another country you’re learning about) are doing. Do they work? Do they make anything that contributes to society?

Another project for helping the needy (of a different kind): help the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour & Welfare with their English-language information. This is just awful: “Self-support of needy person” (PDF)

One incomprehensible sentence:



Japan is famous for its fancy toilets, which are getting fancier all the time. But one problem with this modernization of bathrooms is that we don’t squat as much anymore. Is the increasing number of foreign tourists to blame?¬†Even though many Westerners (well, Americans) don’t really get them?

Even if we lose the squat toilets, we still need to put squatting into our exercise routine, says this article: “What Western people stand to gain from squatting more often” (from Big Think)

Just dance around like Beyonce:


Fun block

Japan is famous for its great stationery. Here’s something new and unusual: the Omoshiro Block (“fun block”). According to Spoon and Tamago, right now it’s only available and the Tokyu Hands in Osaka and it’s pretty pricey, but it might make a fun graduation gift for someone.

Start with a full notepad block:

And as you use the notes, you reveal a famous Japanese landmark:

Click on any of the photos to see the end result.

A healthy vending machine

I bought a book of short stories at a used book store years ago that was organized by length of the story. But it wasn’t by word count; it was by how long it would take you to read the story. So the first section was titled “Waiting in line at the supermarket” and others were “Waiting at a doctor’s office” and “Commuting on the train” and others I don’t remember.

This website is like that: Short Edition

It’s a France-based company, and the website is in English and French.

You can choose 1-minute, 3-minute, or 5-minute stories. For many non-native speakers, though, you might think of them as 5-minute, 10-minute, or 15-minute stories?

There’s also a section of Classics by century where you can find short stories and poems by such authors as Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland), Shakespeare, O. Henry, and many more.

And according to Mental Floss, they have installed vending machines that dispense short stories. The first one was put in France’s main airport and there are more than a hundred around that country and about 20 in the U.S.