A Useful Tool
After a long day spent wrestling with Perl modules and Apache RewriteRules, I have got my HTML stripping utility online. It’s a brutal but effective CGI that gets rid of images, scripts, colour, most text formatting, and leaves just the text content. The possible advantages:
Woo! I just got an email reply from my web hosting company. I asked for, and now have user permissions for gcc. That means that I can install new Perl modules for my user account, and add some useful features to my website.
A Brief Update
So what have I been doing and thinking about the last week or so?
A fellow by the name of Phil Gyford is blogging Samuel Pepys’ diary starting from January 1st 2003 (I guess he’s put the first page up little early...). It’s a nice idea, anyway, although unfortunately the Project Gutenberg version he’s using is based on a bowdlerized 1893 edition.
It’s just gone midnight here, so it’s Christmas in the eastern hemisphere. Merry Christmas!
Foreign Experiences Of Japan
I was just reading an interesting discussion on MetaFilter. A lot of people (mostly American) who live/have lived in Japan put down their opinions and experiences. Some of it resonated with me, especially about attitudes to the place. You can have a lot of tolerance for the bad points of your own country, but the failings of another country become very, painfully obvious. Some days are good, when you notice the things that make it better here. Some days, everything is unbearably frustrating. For me, the good days are in a happy majority.
First of all, I made a mistake when I was typing in yesterday’s entry: I transposed the Japanese translations for elementary and high school. Thanks to Chikako Gotō for noticing it! It’s fixed now.
Today was my last day at my current assignment. I was only there for 10 weeks, but I was really settled in and comfortable. The regular teachers were great, and the students delightful. I’m going to miss it.
If You Can’t Hear Me, Please Raise Your Hand
That’s not a joke, by the way: I heard it this morning, intended seriously. I was sitting the Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken, or Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and they said exactly that as they were testing the public address system. Quite what we were supposed to do if we couldn’t hear it, I’m not sure!
Roll Your Own...DVD
I thought I’d just write a brief entry about what I’ve been up to over the past week or so. Having been finally remunerated for my job, I decided that my flat would benefit from a DVD player. However, rather than just go out and buy a DVD player, I decided to make my own. Why?
What’s Wrong With Public Autopsy?
Aside from the fact that I love to be a contrarian, I’m fascinated by the reactions to Professor Gunther von Hagen’s public autopsy in London yesterday. He went ahead with it despite threats from the authorities, which deserves respect. The man obviously has balls (although whether they are plastinated or not, I don’t know...). If I lived in London, I might even have been tempted to buy a ticket for the event.
Despite being Sunday, I had to go to work today, because there was a kind of open day for the parents of the schoolchildren. Still, it’s not too bad, because I only had to work for a short time this morning, and I got away before midday. In return, I get a day off tomorrow. So I’m quite happy with the arrangement!
The Right To Bathe
I have to say I’m rather surprised, but pleasantly so, by the result in the Otaru lawsuit in Sapporo (in the north of Japan). A brief history of the case runs as follows: a Japanese bathhouse put up signs excluding ’foreigners’ (apparently due to bad experiences with visiting Russian sailors). One particular man took a trip to the bathhouse, and was refused entry for being foreign. However, he is actually a Japanese citizen, although white and originally a US citizen by birth. He, along with a German and an American, sued the bathhouse.
Are morals absolute or relative? It may be an academic question, but it seems relevant recently. In Iran, a man is sentenced to death for questioning the theocracy’s interpretation of Islam. The university professor in question, Hashem Aghajari, has also been banned from teaching for ten years. Which seems redundant, as it is hard to teach when you are dead.
At last, I’m back online. You don’t know just how much I’ve missed having internet access! Once more, I can read the news, listen to the radio and most of all, use Google again. I hadn’t realised just how much I have come to rely on Google for providing me with instant answers to every question.
My new flat is comfortable and convenient, and I’m getting settled in. Unfortunately, I haven’t organised any internet access yet, so it’s quite boring in the evenings with only the dreadful Japanese television stations for company. However, I have a couple of interesting books to keep me going.
If you’ve been reading my previous posts, you’ll know that I am now in the process of moving house. I’m going from a small room in someone else’s house to a not-quite-so-small apartment of my own. Unfortunately, I’m also going from having unlimited broadband internet to having no internet access at all. So replying to email and updating my website will become even less regular than usual over the next few weeks.
Fortunately, I have been able to bring my computer back to life. The display consists of two parts, the TFT display itself, and an electroluminescent panel behind that to provide illumination to the screen. I could dimly see that the display was OK, although without the backlight it wasn’t usable, so it had to be the EL panel. This is supplied by a high-voltage inverter circuit in the top (display) half of the case. What had happened was that one of the wires to the inverter had snapped near the hinge. It’s not surprising, given the number of times that the case gets opened and closed; the hinge is definitely the weak point of the clamshell design.
Isn’t It Ironic, Don’t You Think...?
Talk about ironic...about 24 hours after I write about the poor health of my notebook computer, I return home to find that the screen doesn’t work any more. Bloody typical!
If you asked me what I’ve been doing the past few weeks, I’m not sure that I could really pinpoint anything interesting or new, other than the fact that I have started work. My job is interesting and enjoyable most of the time, but it is tiring. Even though my hours are quite short, it takes a long time on the train to get there and back. Here in Japan, no one thinks that an hour and a half commute is a long commute, but it is! Especially when I am only working for an hour and a half or two hours at a time... At least the pay is good, and my travel expenses are paid for.
Since I’m sure that you’ve all been waiting with bated breath to find out about my job search... I have a couple of short-term contracts which will take me up to mid-December and pay very well. I’ll be teaching English at a couple of companies on two—possibly three—nights a week, and from next month (i.e. October) I’m going to be busy Monday-Friday working at a junior high school. That may be for five or ten weeks; it’s not clear yet, but I am hoping to find out by next Monday.
I got thinking today about the cultural implications of artificial flavourings. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? What prompted it was the fact that twice in the past week, I have had some foodstuffs flavoured with artificial ’grape’ flavouring. The second of these was grape juice. On the front of the pack it said “100% fruit juice”, but listed the ingredients on the side as grape juice and...flavouring. Hang on, that’s not 100%... So Dole (the manufacturer): you suck.
I’m safe and sound in Osaka, relaxing, acclimatising, and looking for work. Everyone tells me that it should be easy enough with my qualifications, but I’m just hoping that the potential employers see things the same way! At least I have a roof over my head and food in my belly for now, although I’m anxious not to overstay my welcome here—and I wouldn’t mind a bit more peace and privacy now and then.
Here I am, sitting awake at 2am, when I have to get up at 5.30am to go to the airport. Heathrow, that is—the world’s least favourite airport (R) TM. The only part of flying I don’t mind is the actual time in the air. The rest of it I find unbearable. No matter how sensible the departure time appears when I book it, I always find myself out of bed at an ungodly hour in order to travel to the airport in some far-flung fringe of the city it purports to serve, so that I can be there two hours before take-off. Two hours in which I stand in a long queue for the only two counters actually staffed, worrying about my habitually overweight baggage. Will they accept it, or will they demand a couple of limbs in payment?
Blognovel and life
The weblog. Blog, if you will. It’s so of the moment. Everyone’s got one these days, and some people even update theirs regularly ;-) It’s nice to see doing something fresh with the format. Plan B is a blognovel, apparently; an experiment in writing. I love the author’s writing style—kind of reminds me of Haruki Murakami’s work, which I really enjoy. It’s only just started, so it’s hard to say how it will turn out, but it’s got my attention.
After a long time
I realise as I write this that it has been almost exactly a month since I last updated the content on this site. Strange how having more free time actually leads to me doing less...
The RIAA Won. We All Lost
Congratulations to the RIAA. They have successfully destroyed a vibrant underground internet music scene. My favourite station, Monkey Radio is no more. SomaFM is gone too. Places that you could listen to good, intelligent music chosen by quality, filling a niche audience, without obtrusive advertising. Radio that didn’t have to worry about geographical boundaries. Stations that, instead of being paid for by advertising or big corporations, often cost the people who were running them money. Unknown musicians could get exposure. Ironically, many musicians signed contracts with major labels after getting a name through relatively popular stations like SomaFM. What a change from the payola-infested, homogeneity of commercial radio. I can’t remember the last time I listened to a commercial music station.
Charging by Weight
Given the levels of obesity in America, it comes as no surprise to learn that US carrier Southwest Airlines is now charging extra for passengers who can’t fit in one seat. Passengers whose ass is over 17¼” wide will have to pay for two seats, presumably one per buttock.
A friend sent me a link to a web site that lists webcasting TV stations. I’m watching a impress TV, a Japanese station, at the moment. I can’t honestly say that it is the most enthralling broadcasting I’ve ever watched, but it is good practice for me. At the moment, a student from an all-female university is discussing her summer holiday plans. Apparently a yukata party and two weeks backpacking in Europe. This goes under the heading of “Idea Station”...
The university results came out yesterday, and I got 2(i). Not bad—actually, it is good: it’s exactly what I expected, and I’m happy with it. Maybe if I had worked harder, I could have managed a first, but I was never aiming for a first anyway. I think it would just have given me even more grey hairs if the stress didn’t kill me first! It’s a huge weight off my mind to know the result. Tomorrow is the last day of term, and my last day at university!
I received a call from the Japanese embassy this evening, to tell me that my application for a visa has been accepted. I’m coming to Japan! (Or going; depends on your perspective.) That’s a big relief, considering that I already have the ￡500+ ticket. Strangely enough, you have to get the ticket before you can apply for the visa. Quite what you are expected to do if you application fails, I don’t know.
Wish me luck!
I’m just polishing off my visa application. I’m going to get up early, print off the documents with the university’s laser printers, put on my suit and board the train down to London. Hopefully, in a week’s time I’ll have my Working Holiday visa to spend a year in Japan...
I went to see the new Star Wars film yesterday, Attack of the Clones. I don’t think that the web needs yet another review, so I’ll just give my impressions of it in brief.
Sun in the sky, Miles and Trane on the playlist, lapsang souchong in the teapot. A perfect coding environment!
It looks as if there’s very little going on here at the moment, but there’s a lot of invisible activity taking place. I want to use mod_rewrite to give me static URLs for each page, so I need to make a few modifications to the site engine. Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. I wrote the code in a day or so, in a frenzy of activity. It is not very beautiful code. It’s documented reasonably well, and I know what is going on, but it is not elegantly written. It uses so many global variables that it is difficult to modify one thing without wider effects. I’ve been going through the code, isolating each function so that it obtains all its required information in the calling statement, and the only variables changed are those passed by reference (in the few cases where that is desirable).
No more exams for me
I had my last exam of university today. It was also one of the nicest exams I’ve ever taken—I really felt that I understood everything I had to answer. It’s great to finish on such a positive note.
I’ve tweaked the site logo at the top to make it a bit smaller, so that it doesn’t take up so much screen space. I’ve also added a background to break up the expanse of white that was there before. I think it’s rather nice! The background is based on the same image as the logo at the top of the page to give some thematic consistency.
I’ve made a lot of progress today. I’ve populated all the sections, and it all works as expected. I’ve added functionality as I’ve gone through, to match the features I needed as I put the pages in. I specifically added bulletted lists, inline image support, and file downloads today. It’s really coming along.
I’m trying to implement automated bulletted lists:
I had my exam this morning. I think it went OK, but I can’t really be sure. My hand cramped up after an hour and a half of writing—in the middle of an answer about speech-to-text systems. I really could have used a speech-to-text system at that point! I ran out of time attempting to perform Viterbi decoding on a 7x4 state trellis, but not before I was dealing with fun-to-write probabilities like 0.00001126. Viterbi decoding is exactly the kind of exercise that should not be undertaken by hand.
I found this message from a friend among the spam in my Hotmail account today:
Take a look at my custom haiku 404 Error page!
Revision and development notes
I’m taking a break from revising for tomorrow’s exam in Spoken Language Processing. I’ve been studying Hidden Markov Models. There’s more to do yet, however.
This is a test of the new improved ezhtml routine.
bold not bold 2*3=6 and bold again.
bold not bold 2 * 3 = 6 and bold again.
italic but this_one_is_not and this is.
I’ve just played with the site logo a little, changing it from flat colour to this slightly tubular-looking version. I think that I might have been inspired by Mosfet’s Liquid theme for KDE.
First dynamic version
The dynamically generated version of the site is up and running. I’d crack open the champagne if I actually had any. Now, however, it’s time to get back to more prosaic things. I’m hungry, which means it’s time to cook some dinner.
I’ve got hosting, but it’s going to take a while (24-48 hours) for the DNS settings to be updated and to propagate across the net. Until that takes effect, I can’t execute CGI programs, so I can’t get the dynamic content generation working until then.
Marathon coding session
I finally decided on a back end format for this site, and set about implementing it. As I don’t need concurrent updating or anything like that, I’ve decided not to use a database. This is a lightweight site builder.
More IE weirdness
I think that I’ve managed to fix the strange behaviour of Internet Explorer. What it was doing was, when it loaded the logo images for the first time, it stole space from the blank table row below. Reloading the page fixed it, but I really want it to work first time. I’ve replaced the blank 20 pixel row under the logo with a
tag. We’ll see if that works.
Well, I’ve even persuaded Internet Explorer to work properly, so let’s see if utf-8 lives up to its promise. If you can’t read the bit below, that means that you probably don’t have Japanese fonts installed on your computer. Actually, I should say if you can’t see Japanese characters...maybe you can’t read Japanese! The bit below that, in French, should have accented characters. If those don’t appear correctly as well, then your browser probably doesn’t support utf-8, and you might consider upgrading if you can.
OK, I know that this site doesn’t look like much at the moment, and there’s nothing to see, but I’m getting there! I haven’t got the styles to work exactly how I want them yet, but I’m not far off.