So what have I been doing and thinking about the last week or so?


A few weeks ago, I picked up the acoustic guitar at school (at my last job) after not playing for several months. Someone described me as like “a fish returned to water”. Yeah...I did miss having a musical outlet.

So I bought a guitar, at last. I decided not to ship my guitar out here to Japan, mainly because of cost—it seems ridiculous to spend more on transporting it than I did on buying it. My electric guitar is big and heavy, and customs always seem to try to find a way to charge you for the privilege of bringing your own possessions with you. I decided instead to buy a cheap one out here. Well, I found a good shop months ago, on the mainland over the bridge from Kansai Airport (it’s on an artificial island). I decided to put off buying one until I was settled, employed, etc. As I am now on holiday, I have time to play, and I went shopping a couple of days ago.

I found a Pignose travel electric guitar (a PGG-257, to be exact) on sale very cheap at JPY 15,000. There was a more expensive version with a whammy bar, but I prefer a fixed bridge. It’s ideal for my peripatetic lifestyle. It is small (81cm long) but the scale length is normal, so it plays like a regular electric guitar. It has a speaker built into the face, under the strings, and an amplifier to drive it. The body is finished in sunburst, and the neck is maple. It plays very nicely, and sounds good, too, sort of like a Telecaster. It’s hard to convey accurately in words, but it is very elegant and aesthetically well-balanced in spite of its diminutive size. You can see a photo of a similar model here, although the colour scheme of mine is different (cream scratchplate, maple neck).

I’ve been playing it heavily for the last couple of days. It can get very loud despite its nominal 0.5W output, but I can also turn it down quiet enough not to disturb the neighbours, whilst still enjoying playing it. I tweaked the truss rod and bridge this afternoon, and it now plays perfectly.


I mentioned previously about my home-made DVD player. It’s working fine. I couldn’t get Linux to run satisfactorily on it, so I threw Windows 2000 on. I had to set all the font sizes to huge (14 point or so) so that it is readable on an NTSC TV screen, and with the changes in colour and layout, it doesn’t much resemble Windows any longer.

However, the big problem is the usability. It’s a bit inconvenient to use compared to a typical player. I need to code up some menu program to make it easier to control, and to automate things like switching to fullscreen, play, pause etc. All the different programs have different key controls, which makes it tricky. However, the Win32 API function to send keystrokes should enable this.

What this has that DVD players don’t is the ability to play any video file. All those episodes of Enterprise and South Park which I can’t see on Japanese TV (because they are too busy showing people eating all the time). So I got them off Kazaa Lite instead of Channel 4. Does that make me a terrible pirate? Arrrgh, me hearties! Aye it does! I can’t say that I care.


It’s not really a big event here in Japan, although the shops still contrive to play cheesy melodies and molar-grindingly awful arrangements of songs from the Season that Taste Forgot. Most people were working, but I was on holiday, and enjoyed a good Christmas meal. My roast chicken was, though I say so myself, quite a feat, constructed from chicken breasts pinned together with toothpicks and roasted in a mini toaster oven. It came out very nicely, as did my roast potatoes. I also had Christmas pudding, mince pies, mulled wine... Very pleasant, in fact. My flat is still cheerfully decked out with flashing lights, tinsel, miniature tree, and so on.

The big seasonal event here is New Year. Quite strange really, considering that they only adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1873. Everything closes down, and people go home to their families for a few days. Children receive gifts of money. It’s similar to the Western Christmas in many ways, I suppose.


Whose the biggest threat to world peace? Kim Jong-Il, Saddam Hussein, or George W Bush? Well, Bush has weapons of mass destruction, Saddam is trying to prove he doesn’t, and Kim is trying to get them and doesn’t care who knows it. I thought I was safe over here in a corner of Asia, but those North Koreans are a little close for comfort, especially with their missile technology.

With all the threats of cutting off economic links with North Korea, it occurred to me that any sentence containing the words ’economic’ and ’North Korea’ is probably an oxymoron...

Switching to the other side of the DMZ, why do all the English-language media refer to the president-elect of South Korea as Roh Moo-hyun? I was watching the Korean TV feed on the election night and his name was clearly written as 노무현, which is (approximately) Noh Mu-hyon. The Japanese media also report his name as ノ・ムヒョン (ie No Mu-hyon). The French, like the anglophones, have him as Roh Moo-hyun. I’ve asked a few Koreans and Korean speakers, and they all seem to agree that his name is pronounced ’Noh’.

So where does this ’Roh’ come from? I saw some footage of a press conference, and ’Roh’ in roman letters was clearly visible behind his head. If the name is written in Chinese characters (maybe I should say hanja in this case), it is as follows: 盧武鉉. The usual Korean reading of the first character here is ’roh’, when it is used in a word. Apparently, it is sometimes pronounced differently in the case of names, in this case as ’noh’. It seems, then, like a transliteration error, possibly by Mr Noh/Roh’s own people. Perhaps everyone was too polite to point out the mistake! I’m still perplexed by it.

Hmm...That wasn’t really brief after all, was it?