The journey across went even worse than I had expected. In fact, I was quite happy sitting there in my own world (no, it wasn’t me driving) listening to an audio book, until something roused me.
I’m off to England tomorrow for Christmas, by car. In the back. The only thing that promises to make the journey bearable is my iPod full of audio books (my latest addiction). I’ll be working my way through the next two books of Larry Niven’s Ringworld series—it’s enthralling.
As a followup to my Microsoft rant of a few days ago, I notice that The Inquirer has run a series of photos of Windows-based embedded systems failing in the wild.
Have you heard
Speak on the radio
Browsing through Clay Shirky’s article on demotic cryptography, “The RIAA Succeeds Where the Cypherpunks Failed”, one sentence caught my eye:
Beating My Head Against MS’s Wall
Unfortunately, I’m sometimes unable to avoid having to use Microsoft products. Like all right-thinking people, I naturally abhor Microsoft. It’s not for their convicted-monopolist practices so much as their boneheaded corporate stupidity and incurable Not-Invented-Here syndrome and the fact that, even with their unparalleled human and financial resources, they just can’t get the simplest things right.
I spent most of today setting up a Jabber server for our company group.
I missed a call to my mobile phone this evening, and was puzzled by the prefix: +21. Never heard of that country! I thought. After some searching, I discovered that +21 is the international code for the Maghreb countries, and that +212 specifically is Morocco.
I’m looking forward to going to work tomorrow.
Gruesome news from Japan, reported by Fark with the classic headline “Taxi driver unzips his pants and finds a mummified homeless man”:
Ex Alma Mater
When I saw the headline, “University gets its own beer”, I instantly thought of my former educational establishment.
Cut your own paper snowflake!
Not Collecting Stamps
I have always found it irritating that some religious people insist upon the idea that the absence of belief in a god is also a religion. Such an inability to see things from any other frame of reference explains a lot, but it is also hard to counter.
Hokuriku Part IV: Kurobe Gorge and Back to Osaka
Back in Belgium
I got back to Belgium on Thursday night, went into work on Friday, and at last I have a bit of spare time to recover—and to write a bit here. My brain is still a bit jetlagged, which seems to adversely affect my language centres most of all. Speaking and writing are both a bit challenging right now.
And There’s More
I haven’t had time to finish putting up my notes and photos from the Hokuriku trip, but it’ll have to wait. It’s getting late, and I’m going to Kyushu tomorrow morning for three days. This time I’m travelling alone, because N—— has to go to work.
Hokuriku Part III: Toyama and Unazuki
Hokuriku Part II: Kanazawa
Back from Hokuriku
We just arrived back in Osaka this evening from our travels, crawling along the north coast of Japan—the area known as Hokuriku (北陸). Despite the weather forecasts of rain for just about every day, it was sunny and hot—unbelievably so for late November—and exceedingly pleasant.
Hokuriku Part I: Fukui and Awara Onsen
Notes from Japan
I seem to have overcome my jetlag. I didn’t sleep much on the plane, but I had plenty of little naps over the first few days, which seemed to take care of it.
I have written a web interface to add entries. I realised the need for it when I was stuck using a free internet terminal the other day and couldn’t run an ssh client off my trusty USB flash disk.
Return to Japan
I’m off to Japan again for a fortnight from tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it as a break, a chance to do some travelling in Japan, and most of all to see N——.
I’ve made a few small improvements to the way this site functions.
Descriptive not Prescriptive
I was chatting with a Dutch-speaking Belgian friend the other day, who was bemoaning the fact that she can’t keep up with the spelling reforms that have taken place since she went to school, which wasn’t particularly long ago. “They should send round a flyer explaining the new rules when they change them,” she asserted.
There are a couple of words that I’ve been thinking about:
I usually pick up a free paper called the Metro on my way in to work (they have stacks at the station where I change from the first to the second of the three trams that constitute my daily commute). It parallels the free paper of the same name that is available in London, Birmingham, and possibly other cities too. Being Brussels, it’s always in two piles, one in French and the other in Dutch. Also being Brussels, the French edition disappears much more quickly. When I can pick it up, it makes good French reading practice for me.
I upgraded my iBook to the latest version of Mac OS X, 10.3 or ‘Panther.’ It went almost without incident, although I did regret not having deselected the more obscure language options as I watched it installing support to run the interface in Norwegian, Traditional Chinese, and a list of other languages that I can’t read. It was a waste of disk space and, more importantly, time.
I have spent the last couple of weekends working on a small project: counting kanji (the Japanese version of Chinese characters). I’ve managed to learn quite a large number of kanji, but there are still some big gaps in my knowledge. I wanted to know which kanji I ought to know but don’t, and thus those that I should learn first.
More Fun With Product Names
Spotted while eating lunch today: a packet of sugar with an unfortunate name.
I’m turning Japanese, in a small way.
That Doesn’t Translate
My favourite Belgian company names to date:
You Can Call Me Sir
I got a letter from the bank yesterday.
Google Popularity Checker
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I had the idea of using Google to check the popularity of words and expressions. I originally intended it as a spelling or grammar checker, but it occurred to me that there are quite a few other possible uses.
I received the fourth (I think) electric shock of my life today. That’s not including the static shocks that I seem to receive every time I touch those metal racks in shops. That’s probably a combination of dryish skin and rubber soles on lino turning me into a sort of living van de Graaff generator.
Dulce et Decorum
I came across this fantastic set of roadside signs on Terese Nielsen-Hayden’s website. My favourite is this:
I’ve actually been pretty lucky with the weather so far here in Belgium. Everyone says that it rains a lot although, coming from England, I thought that it can’t be much worse. However, apparently it is:
How I’m Doing
My new life in Belgium is going pretty much according to plan so far. I’m busy, which stops me finding things to complain about, to the detriment of my blog but to the benefit of my mental health, I’m sure. I’m still not sure where I’m happier: Belgium, Japan, or the UK. The truth is, I’d probably feel a bit outside anywhere. At least in a place as schizophrenic as Brussels, with two language groups—and that’s before you include all the ethnic groups with their various levels of (dis)integration—I don’t feel that far out.
Life in Brussels
I’m now in my third week of my new job in Brussels. Although the two languages of the city are French and Dutch, my work is done entirely in English and Japanese. That’s good since I’ve forgotten a lot in French (although I am confident that I’ll get it back with regular exposure) and I’ve never been able to speak Dutch. My employment contract is in Dutch, though I don’t think there are any nasty surprises hidden away in there. I hope.
I’m in London. It’s hot here; not quite as bad as Japan, but almost. I’m not really suffering from jetlag. I slept from 11pm to 8am local time, and I’m not feeling completely knackered yet.
I’m upstairs in Mr Donut on Showa-dori in Akihabara in Tokyo, using a free wireless LAN provided by CyberSPOT, a nearby shop. The first time you browse, you get an advert for the shop. After that, all data passes through perfectly. Excellent stuff, and exactly the way it should be. Unfortunately, there’s no signal downstairs, and upstairs is the smoking section, so I’m trading my lungs for internet access.
This is my long-delayed account of three days in Korea last month. That’s South Korea, of course; the North Korean tourist industry has never really got off the ground, although it does sound a fascinating, if scary, place. South Korea is different enough from everywhere else I’ve ever been that it’s worth observing some of the little things.
I’ve been busy.
What Are Visas For?
After my previous entry, and following up on some thoughts that came to me last night, I have the following question:
Preparing to Leave
It’s been so long since I wrote anything here. I’ve been busy finishing off my previous job and trying to address the important things before I go, such as meeting friends whom I shan’t be able to see for a long time.
I visited a police station yesterday for the first time—and it was of my own accord, I might add!
Bishops and Pawns
I’ve been following the British news, and it’s with a detached interest that I’ve watched the furore regarding the appointment of a bishop who apparently prefers men to women. The Church is—let’s be honest—pretty camp, and the clergy itself has not always been known as a bastion of heterosexual behaviour. We can have gay men in government, but threaten to put one into a post that actually requires the wearing of a dress, and suddenly there’s a crisis. It’s all a bit absurd to me. I can’t see that someone’s sexual inclinations are any more important than the colour of their car, or whether they are left- or right-handed.
I’m Still Here
I know it’s been a while, but I’m still alive, all evidence to the contrary. I’m really busy at the moment, with work and trying to sort everything out before I leave Japan in a little over a month. So much to do, and so little energy left to do it...
Along with my payslip, I received a particularly laughable memo, from which I quote:
Epicanthic Fold Glue
I was delighted by a particular anthropological phenomenon that I observed this morning. In nearly two years of daily life in Japan, it was the first time I’d encountered it.
Quite a number of Japanese women carry parasols, a habit that I usually find rather quaint. But on a day like today, when it’s overcast, I find it inexplicable. Especially in the case of cyclists. And yet, I saw two examples of this puzzling behaviour on my five-minute journey to the supermarket and back.
I’ve got a day off today, which is always nice. The school at which I work on Thursdays has a holiday for the “Foundation Memorial Day.” Basically, the day it was founded, or built, or something like that. Unfortunately, I don’t get paid. Well, nothing’s perfect. Time off is nice.
More on ECC
Well, thanks to a bit of web searching, I was able to find the offending ECC advertisement I mentioned previously online.
I’ve seen what I think must be the most offensive advertisement ever.
Not Too Bad
The previous entry, if you hadn’t noticed, was meant to be a haiku.
I slept well last night.
Woke up; Oh shit! Eight o’clock!
I was late for work.
One of the interesting things about Japan is the complete absence of any kind of zoning or other apparent restrictions on development. I may be wrong, but my impression is that, if you’ve got the land, it’s more or less yours to do with as you wish.
I’ve had a few favourable comments on my new design so far. I though that I should give credit to Gothamist for a not inconsiderable share of inspiration, especially for the spaced-out title lettering (I didn’t even know you could do that before) and giving me the idea of asymmetrical border weighting. I combined those ideas with elements from my previous design, and I was really pleased with what came out of it. I don’t think this is too much of a rip-off, but if you disagree, do let me know!
An illustration from my collection. I drew this a long time ago, but just rediscovered it.
It seems like something always happens on my journey to and from work, and Friday was no exception. I walked from school to the station with one of the pupils, who was also heading that way to catch a train to go to “juku” (sometimes translated as “cram school,” it’s a kind of extra school that some children attend a couple of times a week to study more. Personally, I think it’s a bad idea and the hallmark of excessively pushy parents’ vicarious ambitions. As if school wasn’t hard enough already! I’m sure that those pupils work harder than I do).
There’s a company here in Japan that sells designer Buddhist altars and equipment (the small bowls, incense holders, and so on) and who advertise this fact very widely.
I just found a couple of pizza flyers in my entrance hall (hall? it’s only 0.5m 2!). Identical ones; I suppose they thought that would be more persuasive, or that there might be so many people living in my one room apartment that a single flyer wouldn’t suffice! They usually dump them in the letterbox downstairs; walking up two flights to put them through my door shows a certain dedication.
OK, I obviously can’t perform simple mental arithmetic. Not that it comes as any surprise to me, of course. 1h15m each way twice a day is 2h30m, multiplied by five days each week makes 12h30m. So I spend twelve and a half hours travelling to or from work each week. It’s still far too long.
I haven’t updated in a week, for the simple reason that little of interest has happened to me. It’s been a particularly uneventful cycle of the daily grind.
Asahi Super Drunk
I’ll set the scene. I arrive at the station after work, and nod to one of my pupils as I pass. (No surprise there; as I teach at three of the four elementary schools in the municipality, there’s a good chance that anyone between the age of six and twelve is one of mine.) Walking further along, I’m accosted by a drunk woman swigging from a can of Asahi Super Dry. Obviously a well-off alcoholic; otherwise, she’d by drinking happōshu—it’s cheaper and stronger.
It’s unusual that N——’s and my days off coincide. I get normal weekends, but she has a six day schedule that changes every week. However, we both had Saturday and Sunday off, and decided to travel to Shikoku for the weekend on the basis that neither of us had ever been there, and it wasn’t too far away—important for a two day excursion.
If That’s How You Treat Your Friends...
I came across this article in the EE Times via Ars Technica:
It seems like I’m in the wrong line of work. I spotted an advertisement at the station for the M_____ Skin Clinic in Takatsuki. Opening hours are from 10am to 12pm and 5pm to 7pm. However, they shut on Sundays, and Wednesdays, and public holidays. And they are closed in the afternoon on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
“Makkuro iyaya.” ("I hate black hair.") As said by one brown-haired junior high school girl to another on the platform at Awaji station this afternoon. There’s a permanent teacher-pupil war over the right to dye one’s hair a colour other than black, as I found out when I worked at a junior high school (funny name, by the way, but that’s the official English translation). I wonder whether teachers would try to exert such control in a country which doesn’t claim ethnic homogeneity. In the interests of stirring up the debate, I asked the teachers what they would do if a blond-haired caucasian student were to dye her hair black. They didn’t have an answer.
Anti-Smoking: An Ultra-Pavlovian Approach
As I was enveloped in a cloud of smoke on my walk back from the station—the business-suited offender in front of me had evidently had a hard time surviving his subway ride home from work without the benefit of nicotine—my mind turned to thinking about tobacco. I don’t actually have any moral objection to people smoking, but since they cannot be trusted to do so without blowing it in others’ faces, littering even the most isolated natural beauty spots, and waving their flaming sticks around like offensive weapons, extreme measures are required.
Japanese rice is a lot like napalm.
When I was little, I resented visits to relatives. They generally involved a long trip in the car (throughout which I would want to vomit and/or urinate), followed by food. Although food usually meant something more elaborate and interesting than everyday fare, it didn’t compensate for what inevitably followed.
I walked past a parked car this afternoon from which a thumping Eurobeat soundtrack was emanating. The guy in the driver’s seat was practising his para-para moves over the top of the steering wheel.
Life’s A Joke
And I don’t mean that in a negative way. I sometimes think that teaching is a lot like comedy, particularly in a big class. There’s a definite performance atmosphere; no matter how tired, sick or depressed you feel, you still have to go on stage (metaphorically) and perform.
Tempus maximae frequentiae. That’s how you say rush hour in Latin, according to the new Vatican dictionary of Latin expressions for modern concepts. Evidently the ancient Romans didn’t have rush hour. Lucky bastards!
It was raining today, and the trains were practically deserted. I’m not sure if there was a connection, but I had four seats to myself this morning when I rarely have one.
Attack Of The Three Foot Monsters
When I woke up this morning, going to work was absolutely the last thing I wanted to do. All I wanted to do was sleep. However, it all went very well. That is, provided that you don’t mind being throttled and punched in the gonads by six-year-olds.
I had quite a surprise when I checked Stuart Hughes’ website at lunchtime:
Nightmares And Cults
I barely slept on Monday night; I woke up from a nightmare. Twice. In the morning, I was exhausted and drenched in sweat—even less refreshed than usual.
Ho Hum, Ho Hum, It’s Off To Work I Go
I have to go back to work tomorrow. After three days off (today being a holiday) it seems so unappealing.
News About News
I spent a bit of time today improving my news aggregator.
The weather forecast predicted a hot, sunny day, so I took my camera and went out on a walk at lunchtime. The natural beauty of the area where I work is definitely a perk of my job.
My right hand is now a fetching shade of purple, but at least it doesn’t really cause me any discomfort any more. As predicted, the children were very interested by my red hands and neck, asking me what had happened.
I was woken up at 05:25 this morning by a storm of biblical proportions. Very high winds were whipping sheets of rain around, and the combination of the wailing gale and drumming rain on the roof just above my head woke me up more effectively than any alarm clock ever could. I even opened my window and looked out to see the water cascading across the road, like a perpendicular waterfall in mid-air.
Someone at work told me last week about Taisho-ku and its large Okinawan population. It piqued my curiosity, so I decided to visit it when the chance arose. Today was a holiday, I woke up early (in my bed, readers will be glad to hear), the sun was shining with no threat of rain, and I took the opportunity to go exploring.
I woke up in my bed this morning, having picked myself up off the floor around 3am. Peu à peu, ça s’améliore.
I woke up this morning at 8am, lying on the floor, fully dressed, with the lights still on.
A Real Rant
I hate RealPlayer (or RealOne Player as the latest version is called). I have many reasons to hate it. I hate having to use it in the absence of an alternative. I’ve griped about it before, but one thing pisses me off more than anything else.
Give Me Sanctuary From The Tabloids
I have a hypothesis that a good measure of a country can be found in the way in which it treats outsiders.
The contents of my mailbox, gathered over three days:
RSS, in case you didn’t know, is a format by which websites can provide a link to their latest news. It’s a simple XML file with a few standard fields like “item”, “link”, “description” and so on.
Gotta love getting to work in Japan. To be honest, my journey isn’t too bad, because I live near the end of the line, which ensures that I always get a seat. It helps that I live in Osaka rather than Tokyo, too. Seen those guys on TV, employed to push the commuters into the train? We don’t have them here. It still falls far short of being a barrel of laughs, mind you.
Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock
I’m sitting here, waiting for another thirty minutes to pass so that I can go home. I don’t have anything to do, so it’s a complete waste of time. Yeah, I know I’m getting paid, but I’m not adding any value to the operation by sitting around until the minute hand points south, and it’s so frustrating!
So Far, So Good
I’ve made it through my first morning of work, managing to do very little. I’ve done a tour of all the classes to say ’hello’ to the pupils, eaten my lunch and browsed a few websites.
It’s coming up to midnight, a bit late, but I’m ready for bed.
My Other Laptop
I’m feeling a lot happier today.
Just to prove that I’m not the only person bashing the rampant gender inequality here in Japan, I’ll quote from the editorial ("Gender equality a worthy goal") of Friday’s edition of The Daily Yomiuri, itself a translation from the previous day’s Yomiuri Shimbun (emphasis mine):
New Job, New Worries
Like I said before, I’ve got a job starting on Monday, teaching at elementary school. However, the differing and often conflicting expectations of the four different parties involved (the agency, the board of education, the schools and me) are really making me nervous.
Yanagimoto Versus Tsuji
It wasn’t quite Godzilla versus Mothra, but it was funny to hear two election candidates going head to head in their speaker vans this afternoon. As they came within shouting distance of each other, they gave up on their normal spiels and started trying each to shout their own name louder than the other candidate.
Back To The Airport
I took my parents to the airport this morning. Of course, no matter how reasonable the flight time sounds at the time of booking, by the time you factor in the excessively premature check-in times and the time taken to get to the airport in whatever godforsaken hamlet they are located in, far from their alleged city, you always have to get up early.
It appears that I get a week’s reprieve, and I’ll start work from next Monday.
I’m sitting here with earplugs in my ears. Why? Because local (city and prefecture) elections are next week, which means that all the candidates are spending a week driving around in vans with loudspeakers, trying to encourage people to vote for them.
All About Japan
I thought I’d write a bit more about my feelings concerning Japan. I want to try to express myself more clearly and to address the negative tone of some of my recent comments. They weren’t meant to be quite so negative.
This image really cracked me up. Admiral Ackbar’s head sliced like ham. It’s gruesome, but incredibly well realised.
It’s cherry blossom time. I went up to Satsukiyama in Ikeda with my parents. I think they came to Japan at just the right time of year.
Bowling For Columbine
I saw Bowling For Columbine at the cinema this afternoon. I’ve been wanting to watch it for a while, but it’s just gone on general release here. It’s an unusual feeling to watch a documentary at a cinema.
A Hard Decision
I called up and turned down a job offer today. That was a really hard decision. The agency that employed me before offered me a one year contract, with visa sponsorship. My current visa expires in August, and they would have got me a three year visa. I could have stayed for a long time.
Oh So Quiet
My brother’s gone back to London; he left this morning. It’s nice to have my own space back, because my flat is really small—only one room, really—and living in the same space for two weeks was quite a shock! On the other hand, I do miss him. It’s nice to have some company around, even if it’s only to share a joke, read out a funny line or whatever. It seems really lonely here on my own tonight.
The apartment block two doors down from me is on fire.
Nara’s a really good place to see some old Japanese buildings. Although Kyoto seems to be far more popular with tourists, I much prefer Nara myself. There are several temples and shrines within walking distance of the station, and some of them are really good. It’s also less crowded than Kyoto.
Do I know any more about Iraq than most people? Probably not; I mean, I’ve never been there. However, for about a year, my lab partner at university was Iraqi, and we chatted about the place from time to time whilst programming, wiring up circuits, etc. I found out about some of the inconveniences of life in Iraq. For example, going home for the holidays entailed a flight to Jordan and a very long overland trip from there to Iraq. We never discussed politics, though, which seems a missed opportunity in retrospect.
I thought that it was about time that I exposed my brother to some traditional Osaka cuisine, so I brought some takeout back home for dinner: takoyaki and okonomiyaki.
I went looking for notebook memory in Denden Town today. A specific type of memory—I wanted two 32MB EDO 144 pin DIMMs for the old Thinkpad I bought a while ago to bring it up to the maximum amount. I tracked some down, and bought a couple.
The Badlands Of Berkshire
How the hell do you get shot in the face with a harpoon in a “neighbourhood row” in Berkshire?
Milk And Honey
Most of the stuff in the Bible, at least the Old Testament part, doesn’t appeal to me much. Rampant misogyny, stoning, homophobic homicide, genocide, slavery, warmongering, weapons of mass destruction; the list goes on.
Glad Not To Be American
I hope that I don’t give the impression of having a huge axe to grind as far as Americans are concerned. I don’t. However, I do have an issue with the people they choose (or, of course, sometimes don’t choose) to lead them.
I found a fantastic souvenir: a sanshin kit. The sanshin is a traditional (around 500 years old) Okinawan instrument. Its salient features are a squarish body covered with snakeskin, and a long thin neck with three strings. It is similar to the Japanese shamisen, which it predates; the shamisen, a slightly larger instrument, was apparently based on the sanshin.
I go away for a few days, and all hell breaks loose. Bush & co. are fighting to bring “democracy” to Iraq. I’d take that more seriously if it didn’t come from the mouth of an allegedly corrupt, second generation President who didn’t even win the election.
Kyoto In The Rain
We went wandering aimlessly around Kyoto today. Unfortunately, it was wet. When we arrived, it was raining only slightly; just enough to discourage the usual crowds, but not enough to cause even a nuisance. By British standards, it was practically a fine day!
Thank You For The Lie In
Thanks, Lufthansa. My brother’s coming to Japan to visit, and I thought I was going to have to get up really early to go to the airport to collect him.
I’ve seen it before, but ran across it again this evening via Dole Bludger: Bob Black’s “The Abolition of Work”.
In a fit of narcissism, I googled for my name. I found a recently created page.
Garbage Houses Part II
I forgot to mention the funniest part about the “Garbage Houses” TV programme the other night.
Dan E Venz has posted the chapters of his thesis? book? on japan.box.sk. It concerns the attitude to and assimilation of foreigners in Japanese society. He says:
I don’t watch a lot of TV in Japan, because, quite frankly, it’s not very good. The more I understand it, the worse it gets! More than the programmes, however, it’s the credulous commercials that have me accelerating towards the off switch, thanks to the obligatory cheesy jingles. Maybe there just isn’t enough sarcasm for my British tastes.
Legality, Or The Lack Thereof
A few years ago, the idea of running high speed data networks over electrical supply lines was floated, tested, and scrapped. It didn’t work, as I recall.
One Small Step For Man
A little while ago, I wrote about Matthew Thompson, who took his employer to a tribunal over sex discrimination. At issue was their discrinatory dress code requiring male employees to wear ties.
This is the one hundredth entry on this page, so it’s something of an anniversary.
Colour Blindness Test
I stumbled upon this series of pages for testing colour blindness. It’s just an online version of those cards they use during eye tests. However, I don’t imagine that it’s as reliable as the optician’s cards, in the absence of any colour calibration of the monitor. I thought it was at least interesting and possibly useful, nonetheless.
The End Is Nigh
...and no, I’m not talking about Iraq this time! I have two days left in my present job.
Given the size of Osaka and its population, and the fact that the trains on the Midosuji Line (the busiest line on the subway) are about 300m long and arrive every minute or two, the following is quite a coincidence.
The forces are almost ready for action, and the chances of them being told to pack up and go home without a fight must be approximately zero.
I reckon that I might have found an anthropological explanation for an unpleasant aspect of Japanese “culture": the predilection of middle aged and old men for urinating in public. Not only in secluded places and/or after dark, either; I once passed a man in broad daylight in a busy part of downtown Osaka, who was urinating against a tree. This tree was located between the pavement and the carriageway, so his (presumably shrivelled, given that it was January) member was in full view of both passing cars and the numerous pedestrians.
I thought it might be interesting to show a picture of my Amity tablet computer, so here’s a photo of it in use. It shows how small it is, if nothing else.
Well, I’m trying out my new tablet PC in the field. Actually, it’s not new at all. It’s a four year old Mitsubishi Amity VP that I found in a computer junk shop for the unbelievably low price of JPY 1980. I went through the tray of parts until I found one that was in good condition and, using some battery packs that still held charge, checked that it would boot. It did, so I bought it.
I know how a heavy smoker must feel, wracked by spectacular coughing fits. Mind you, to get the kind of cough I’m afflicted by, you’d have to be smoking something stronger than tobacco—maybe crack rocks cut with a generous dose of drain cleaner. I sound like a tuberculous dobermann, and I don’t feel a whole lot better.
I was trying to find an authoritative etymology of the word “satsuma” in English. It’s not completely apropos of nothing; the word is definitely of Japanese origin, being the name of a place in Kyushu. In Japanese, the word “satsuma” usually refers to “satsuma imo”, the sweet potato that I wrote about earlier. Satsuma oranges are called “mikan” in Japanese, by the way.
Stop Me And Buy One?
I just had a real “only in Japan” moment. Only in Japan are you disturbed from your thoughts by some guy with a van singing “yaki imo, yaki imo, yaki imo...” through a megaphone.
I saw a misspelling this morning. Nothing unusual about that, except that this one was in Japanese! It is hard, but possible to misspell a few words in Japanese, and someone had managed it, in metre-high lettering across a bridge. It was some official banner exhorting drivers to take care and drive safely.
A Good Day
I had quite an interesting day today. This despite the fact that I felt absolutely awful most of the morning due to going to bed too late. I never learn, do I?
I’ve been sent a new certificate to say that I passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. It turns out that they had used the wrong characters to write “Osaka” (the test location). They had printed 大坂 instead of 大阪. It’s not very different, and I certainly didn’t notice it when I was checking the important stuff like my name. Although those characters have also been used historically to write Osaka, they are considered incorrect today.
The Duct Tape Drum
I looked at the empty roll of duct tape sitting on my desk and thought that it would made an excellent drum shell.
Web Hosts That Suck
I can’t do anything because my web hosting company has let the disk fill up yet again. Some space has opened up, enough for me to complain.
I have left it a long time to express my opinion about the forthcoming Gulf War II. Believe me, it isn’t that I don’t have an opinion. However, I’ve been listening to all the propaganda and trying to work out the facts. There is no unbiased news on this topic, so the best one can hope to do is to read as widely as possible and hope that the truth is hidden somewhere in that vast corpus of obscured data.
I’m drinking from a small can of pseudo-beer, which they gave me free at the local liquor shop when I picked up some beer and wine yesterday. It’s a sample of a new product, so I guess there’s some kind of promotion going on.
The Best Site On The Internet
I’m so tired! I slept at lunchtime (a siesta?) and I slept on the train home, and I’m still exhausted. I bought some small lamps for my room the other day in an effort to improve my sleep patterns. The light in my flat is so bright that it seems to disrupt my circadian rhythm. Perpetual daylight, like the arctic summer or something. I need some darkness to feel that it’s night and to prepare for sleep, otherwise I never have any impetus go to bed. I suppose it’s obvious that sitting under stadium level lighting isn’t conducive to a normal sleep pattern. In my case, I have infamously nocturnal tendencies anyway. I think that I resent going to bed in a way, because the evening represents freedom, while sleeping is the last step before the tyranny of the morning routine.
The person who was coordinating the seminar yesterday said that I looked like I was going to die! I think I must have been tired, because I fell asleep at 7pm, woke up at midnight and took off my clothes that I was just sleeping in, and went back to sleep from 3am until 10am.
I can’t remember why I originally agreed to do it, but I did, so I ended up working on Saturday afternoon, when I should by rights have been sleeping and lazing around. I taught a single, 90 minute class at an English seminar for elementary school kids. What’s worse, it really didn’t go well!
Normally, around this time on a Sunday evening, I’d be feeling depressed at the end of my weekly fragment of freedom. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my job. It’s actually good fun, most of the time. It’s just the problem of being powerless, having to get up and go to some arbitrary location at an arbitrary time, which is emphasised by the shift from two days of freedom to five days of timetable enslavement. After all, no one likes Mondays, do they?
Unsurprisingly, not everyone agrees with my point of view! So here is an email response to my comments on the House of Lords:
A long time ago, back in December, I took the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken), level 2. The levels go from 4 at the bottom end up to the fiendishly difficult level 1 at the top. As I recall, you need level 2 to enroll in a Japanese university as a regular student, which gives a rough idea of the level of ability required. (In fact, I remember reading recently that they are moving towards some other exam for university entrance, but that doesn’t invalidate the comparison.)
Yes, My Typing Sucks
I thought that my atrocious typing last night was so bad, I’m just going to leave the last entry as it is for your amusement! In my defense, I do have a cut on the tip of my middle finger...
New Old Laptop
For a bit under JPY 9000, I picked up an old IBM Thinkpad laptop yesterday. Despite the fact that it only has 24MB of memory and a Pentium 133 processor, it actually feels reasonably fast with the copy of Windows 98 that came on there. That certainly surprised me—I couldn’t believe it was really such a humble beast from its performance. Windows 98 really isn’t that bad after all, is it?
If You Don’t Know What It Means...
A Salesman Calls
It’s not too common an occurrence, thanks to the fact that you have to climb two flights of stairs to get here, and the place I live isn’t populated by the right demographic group for selling crap to (unsuspecting older people are generally the target). However, tonight I was visited by a salesman.
Tales From The Ghetto
I’m writing this on my handheld to upload later. The on-screen keyboard is a little tedious but tolerable. It’s fascinating to see the effect of the cold weather on the LCD screen—it slows right down and becomes really pale.
In truth, I have nothing particularly new to report. I’ve been working, which takes up a fairly large amount of time, but an even larger amount of energy. As a result, I have spent a lot of my leisure time sleeping, watching films, and reading. In other words, activities that don’t tax my brain any further.
About My New Job
As I mentioned before, I’m spending eight weeks or so teaching English in elementary schools. I’ve just finished my first week, so what is it like?
I think that I have just read one of the most irritatingly stupid things ever:
Rock Stars - A Menace To Society?
What the hell is it with these rock star types and child porn? First Gary (no, we don’t want to be in your gang thank you very much) Glitter, then Jonathan King, and now it’s Pete Townshend. In the interests of fair reporting, I’d like to make clear that Kenneth George King (his real name) and Paul Gadd (Glitter’s real name) are convicted criminals, whereas Mr Townshend has simply admitted paying for access to a child porn site. Interestingly, in the Who’s rock musical Tommy, there is an uncle who “fiddles about” (that link goes to the lyrics, by the way, in case you were worried about clicking it!) with his nephew. Maybe we should have taken more notice, in retrospect.
Nice, But No Monkeys
If you’ve never been to Japan, you might not be able to appreciate just how desolate the urban sprawl is. Hardly any houses have gardens, and the parks and playing fields are surfaced with sand instead of grass. The cats don’t even have anywhere to bury their droppings, with predictable results.
Write To The Government
Instructions For Using Sticky Labels
Who would have thought that some round coloured sticky labels could be so complicated? Evidently the Japanese do.
Two Weeks Good, Four Weeks Baaad
I’m talking about vacations. Although I’d usually tell you that I’d much rather be idle than working, sometimes I’m not sure. When it gets to the stage that getting out of the house before 3pm is a genuine struggle, idleness has really set in.
I’ve been talking about rewriting the background code for this site for quite a while, although with a noticeable lack of activity. You may notice that the page generation time is now given at the bottom of each page. I hacked that in a couple of days ago to get some idea of the speed of the code. It seems to be around 40-70ms in most cases, but occasionally takes longer (probably due to load on the server from other websites). That’s not awfully fast, and it’s not surprising, because there are some fairly inefficient routines in the code. In particular, the automatic navigation generator isn’t pretty.
I used to live in Birmingham, so I know that Aston has a reputation for being unsafe, but the murder of two girls and the non-fatal shooting of two others by gang members has shocked a lot of people. Rightly so.
I woke up this morning. That in itself is noteworthy, as I’ve been waking up after midday most days this week. Today, I opened my eyes with a good fifteen minutes of AM to spare, which is something of a minor victory. Having woken up, I instantly regretted it, because although most of my throat felt numb and swollen, the parts that weren’t numb were really painful. I wonder if too much seasonal cheer has weakened my immune system. I hate having a cold. Still, I’d rather have a cold on holiday than when I’m at work and have to talk all day.
Happy New Year
Happy New Year!