Saturday, March 19, 2016


Happy Spring!  March 19-20th is the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere this year, depending on your time zone in the world.  But wait, you say, spring starts on March 21st each year.  True, very true, almost… how puzzling.  But before we go into all that, the sound of birds chirping, the sight of the early bloom, the tickle of a warmer breeze, stir up something fresh and optimistic inside our sleeping selves.   I think it must be the excitement of discovering a new puzzle box, don’t you?  I’m not sure that’s what puzzle box master Akio Kamei had in mind when he created his “Spring Box”, but maybe.  Or maybe I am taking some linguistic license with the name.  Blame the coming of Spring.  

Spring Box by Akio Kamei

The Spring Box is a cube of walnut wood with large holes on all six sides through which you can see another cube of red rose wood.  The internal cube floats in place, held by the opposing forces of six large springs.   The boxes contrast in a visually striking way, and the novel design is a very interesting kinetic sculptural piece of art on its own.  The box inside moves gently this way and that as you push from one opening to the next, testing the opposing forces of the springs, compressing one spring and then another, and coming back to rest in the central floating position when you release it.  There doesn’t appear to be anything more to do than appreciate the physics on display.  But this is a puzzle box, of course.  Kamei is known for his unique and unusual mechanisms, which can range from simple to extremely challenging.  The Spring Box is an incredible example of his creativity and proves to be a very challenging box to open.  Luckily the box is so fascinating you can enjoy it without even opening it.  The experience is enhanced by the open nature of the outer box, which allows you to see the floating box inside from all angles.  Despite this there doesn’t appear to be any way to open the box inside the box.  It’s Spring, though, and we are filled with renewed hope and new life, so it’s the perfect time to get this box to spring open.

A box in a box

While we are endeavoring to do so, and enjoying the weather, we should have something light, refreshing, and delightful as a daisy to usher in the start of spring.   Which this year, as mentioned, starts almost 2 days earlier than normal.  It may not have passed by you unnoticed that we had a leap year this year.  Everyone knows this occurs every 4 years (technically, every year divisible by 4), in order to readjust for the imperfect count of 365 days per year in our Gregorian calendar.  It takes our Earth approximately 365.242189 days to orbit the sun completely.  Adding a day every 4 years actually over compensates very slightly, and this is adjusted for in years divisible by 100 (such as 1700, 1800, 1900, etc.) by skipping the leap year that year.  This in turn actually undercompensates very, very slightly, which is then adjusted for in years divisible by 100 and 400.  Don’t blame me, I didn’t make this system up.  The first time since the inception of this calendar that this third rule actually happened was in the year 2000, when the leap year was kept instead of skipped.  This effected the seasonal equinoxes by pushing them earlier than ever.  Since this year is also a leap year we have Spring almost two full days ealier, making it the earliest Spring since 1896.  

The Daisy circa 1876

So let’s hearken back to that bygone era and herald in the season with another harbinger of Spring, the daisy.  In this case, the “Daisy” cocktail, described back in Jerry Thomas’ 1876 guide, is quite similar to a “fizz” and consists of a base spirit, such as gin, mixed with citrus and sweetness, with a bit of fizziness by way of soda water.  Back then they likely used Holland gin, known as genever, which has a distinct maltiness due to the maltwine content.  Eventually the Daisy came to include a bit of grenadine for sweetness.  Some Daisies used different base spirits, such as tequila (ever heard of a margarita?).  Some skip the fizz.  But they are all simple and light, and garnished with lots of fruits of the season.   And this year we can enjoy them for a few extra days, so what are you waiting for?  That’s the only puzzling thing around here.  Time to spring into action.  Cheers!

Welcoming spring

For a delicious Daisy try:

For more about Akio Kamei:

For prior Boxes and Booze featuring Akio Kamei’s work please see:

1 comment:

  1. Great description of the leap year variation! I actually didn't realise about the 400 year adjustment. Love the look of the spring box - still got no idea how it works from the pictures.