Monday, December 25, 2006

Working On Christmas

For the first time ever I worked on Christmas Day. I think it was the first time I've worn long pants on Christmas. It's definitely the first time I've worn a long sleeved shirt and a tie. At least it was quiet. Each lesson was only one person, and two of them didn't turn up.

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 1 minute
Current media: Same as the last post


I'm off to Thailand (and possibly Laos) soon for about a week. Internet connectivity will be sporadic at best. I'll be back on the 2nd.

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: He Died With A Felafel In His Hand

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Hyde and Seek

Completing the trifecta of classic horror stories I've been reading recently is The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, perhaps better known for Treasure Island than this work (I hadn't know RLS was the author of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde until I read the introduction to the collection). It was by far the shortest of the three, so much so that while reading Dracula at one stage I worried that there wasn't enough room for the third story, but at a mere 70 pages it's a relative lightweight.

Jekyll and Hyde is much more like Frankenstein than Dracula, again being about a scientist who brought forth something he couldn't control. The difference here though is that while Frankenstein's monster was separate from himself, Jekyll's monster was his own darker side.

Frankenstein's big idea was don't overlook the humanity in that which appears monstrous, while Jekyll and Hyde is about not overlooking the monstrous in what looks human. Hyde is Jekyll freed of his inhibitions and as he would say nobler self, a man who only answers to his desires.

Jekyll though is not free of blame in this story. He sought the freedom to be his darker self. And when he realised it might be a problem, he kept on going to the dark side, until ultimately he was unable to come back.

Overall, a warning not to succumb to the temptations that exist in each of us.

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Writing time: 51 minutes
Time since last post: 51 and a bit minutes
Current media: Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me

Saturday, December 23, 2006

The Story of Ami

I've been trying to decide if I was going to put this up on the blog, and have decided to, since some people already know, and it was somewhat of a new experience. Anyway, here's the story.

On Mondays, I usually meet up with two of the teachers I've met here (K and J to protect the not so innocent) and we spend the evening at some bars in Umeda. The Monday before last (the 11th) was the last Monday before payday, so merriment was a bit more free than usual. Indeed, instead of going our separate ways and heading home at midnight on the last train, we decided to go to a bar near J's place and then crash at his place.

So after catching the train to Tsukaguchi, we started walking from the train station to the bar J liked (Mamasita's for the record, a nice place, but does have a cover charge). On the way there was a girl about to get on here scooter. We suggested that she come with us to the bar, and I believe K started wheeling her scooter towards the bar.

The girl's name was Ami, and while at the bar we talked a fair bit (about two hours, although I don't recall enough talking to fill all that time), but didn't really communicate as her English was only a little better than my Japanese. We did get a little touchy-feely (holding hands, or one might say I copped a feel or two) and we swapped phone numbers. J, K and I left the bar a little after Ami did, and a little bit after we got back to J's place I got a call from her.

I didn't call her back for several reasons: an uncertainty on what to do, how to communicate without a common language, my usual poor memory for these things meaning I didn't really remember what she looked like (short, Japanese, female), and the main one, fear of the unknown. I think I left it too long, because when I did call her on the following Monday, under pressure from K and J, the little I got from the phone call was "eigo, ie, bye bye".

Ah well. 'Tis better to have loved and lost, and all that, etc, etc. (Love is overstating, but you get the idea).

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Writing time: 27 minutes (typing, I've been thinking about if I should write it or not and what I would write since the morning after)
Time since last post: a little bit
Current media: still none

I had an idea for a project

Today while doing a voice session I had a really good idea for a project, but I don't think I can really do it over here. I'm putting it up here so that in a few years time I can look back and remember it.

Anyway, the idea is as follows. Get a bunch of old refedexes or UBDs or any book with street maps for your city, one for each year, or as often as they are released. Find some interesting part of your city, and get the map for that part each year. Scan in the maps, and make a video out of the images.

Not particularly original, but it would be interesting to see how the city has changed over the years. The challenge would be getting all the old refedexes.

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Writing time: 2 minutes
Time since last post: 4 days
Current media: None

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More thoughts on Kids Classes

Monday was my third week of regular kids classes. I've learnt almost all of the kids names (although I did get Haruka (a girl) and Haruki (a boy) mixed up). I've got into the swing of the activities. I'm more energetic in the classes. This weeks lessons went OK. The kinder lesson was naming actions (he's running, she's jumping, etc). They definitely understood the words but were more interested in doing the actions than in saying what they were doing.

The juniors went a lot better than I was expecting. This weeks language was relatively tricky (is the x in the room? Yes it is/ no it isn't). I started out by making sure they understood yes it is/no it isn't (is this a ball?, is this blue, is so-and-so a girl?, etc) before moving onto the actual language involved. I think this helped a lot as the rest of the class went pretty well. I think it helped that their was one kid who really got it and led the others.

The seniors went much the same as last time. They're capable, but I'm not sure how motivated they are. They do get very competitive at times though.

I did do a few things a bit different this week. I cut out some of the singing, and switched around some of the timing and changed the games a little. A few of the ideas came from some co-teaching lessons I had on the weekend, as part of a transition for some kids classes I'm going to be taking over from one of the teachers who's leaving soon.

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Writing time: 28 minutes
Time since last post: a few hours
Current media: Torchwood 1x10 Out of Time

Back in Drac

One of my recent literary achievements was finally reading Bram Stoker's Dracula (the original, not the novelisation of the movie (seriously, they made a new book out of the movie that was based on a book)). As far as stories go, it was pretty dry. The suspense wasn't that great, although to someone who hadn't been exposed 12 combined years of Buffy and Angel, a passing interest in Vampire: The Masquerade in it's various incarnations, and other pop culture vampire bits and pieces (for example, someone who read it when it was first published) the mystery of the book would be much greater. The great mystery in the 2nd part of the story is pretty obvious to the modern reader.

It's the oldest book I've seen that was written as if it was made up of the several characters different views of events (I'm sure some more literary type will tell me that there are older examples of this).

The one bad bit in the matter is the actions of Dr Van Helsing. From the start he was pretty confident he knew what type of creature he was dealing with, but he did not do everything he needed to do to protect Lucy. He took some half measures, and delayed her demise, but he only got serious about the matter after an innocent life had been lost, and more were likely to follow.

Similarly, later on they miss the obvious similarity of the symptoms that Mina Harker is suffering from with those that afflicted Lucy. In such a situation where they are taking great pains to piece together all the bits of knowledge they have, this stuck out like a sore thumb.

Overall, Bram Stokers' Dracula is not the best of stories, but is pretty important for all that it has inspired.

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Writing time: 19 minutes
Time since last post: half an hour or so
Current media: iTunes shuffle of all the track 5s - currently Ooh Child by Nina Simone


On Sunday I went to Kobe to see the Luminaire. This is a light display that is a memorial to those who died in the 1995 earthquake that devastated Kobe. When I first saw the posters advertising the event at my local train station I thought it was something similar in spirit to the Christmas lights we have in Australia. However, while I was talking with a student about going he told me it was actually a memorial. He also gave me some advice on how to find it in Kobe.

So, with a somewhat more sombre mood than I had planned on, I caught the train after work to Kobe. I wandered in vaguely the right direction, until I found some signs for the event with maps on, then wandered a bit more to make sure I was heading in the right direction. After a while I found some streets closed to traffic with a throng of people walking along, but there was a fence stopping people from just hopping in. So I followed the fence to the entrance, and started walking.

The route follows an s shape, going up one street, down the next and then up another. The first two streets aren't that impressive. One or two buildings put some lights up, but that was it. The good stuff waited until the third street. The street wasn't that much, but at the end was a covered walkway type area filled with lights.

The walkway went on for quite a while, and then you come to the big round lighty thing, as well as the souvenir stands, lottery stands, and food stands. I picked up a prepaid train ticket and part of a Christmas present for someone (I know who, but don't want to ruin the surprise).

Here are a few photos. More can be found here.

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Writing time: 27 minutes (I got a bit distracted reading other tabs)
Time since last post: 3 days
Current media: iTunes shuffle of all the track 5s - currently Ugly Men with Beautiful Women by Tripod

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Believer's Bleak Default Option

Because of the general lack of English literature available in Japan, I've started reading newspapers again. My paper of choice at the moment is the International Herald Tribune, partly because it's generally thicker than the other English newspapers, and also it has a more world wide focus so I get to hear some things that are going on back in Australia.

I was somewhat outraged by one of the editorials that appeared in it a few days ago. It was titled Atheist's Bleak Alternative, and you can read it yourself here. Written by Jeff Jacoby, it laments the lack of religiosity in modern society, as reflected in the lack of religious iconography and verbiage on this years run of Christmas cards. A large number of cards don't even have non religious Christmas images like Santa Claus. An interesting phenomena to note, but nothing to get to riled up about.

Mr Jacoby takes it a step further, and complains that this lack of religion, specifically Christianity is a major problem, resulting in moral relativity and an inability to install positive values into society.

The part that really got me annoyed was the following quote:
That is because without God, the difference between good and evil becomes purely subjective. What makes murder inherently wrong is not that it feels wrong, but that a transcendent creator to whom we are answerable commands: "Thou shalt not murder." What makes kindness to others inherently right is not that human reason says so, but that God does: "Love thy neighbor as thyself; I am the Lord."

I'm sorry Jeff Jacoby, but murder is not inherently wrong just because God says so. It's wrong because it harms others by depriving them of life. If God had said "Thou shalt murder", would it be our moral duty to whack everyone we could? That would be a religion I hope no one would follow. Similarly, kindness to others is good because it makes life better for others and ourselves.

Additionally, the suggestion that without the fear of God people would do bad things with no remorse is quite frankly insulting. I don't go around killing people because I know that it hurts them and is an act of violence. I don't need to be told by some man in the sky. I can work that out for myself. If the only reason you don't go around killing people is because God says not to, then you sir, are a very scary person. I treat others well because I respect them, not because I hope to avoid eternal punishment by doing so.

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Writing time: 71 minutes (I stopped to watch the latest BSG)
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Battlestar Galactica 3x11

In Soviet Russia, Cookies Eat Santa

Today I had my first kids class at my regular school. I'm covering for one of the other teachers while he's on holidays. Anyway, during the lesson, which was seems to just be learning some basic vocab (eat, drink, presents, cookies, map, etc) one of the kids piped up with "Cookies eat Santa" instead of "Santa's eating Cookies". This immediately made me think of the good old Russian Reversal. I did say "In Soviet Russia, Cookies eat Santa", but not surprisingly, it was lost on the kids.

In other news, after about a week, my sore throat is almost gone, but a bit of a cough and a lot of phlegm remains. Hopefully that will be gone soon.

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Writing time: 10 minutes
Time since last post: 13 hours
Current media: None

Friday, December 15, 2006

Some Quizes

I just did some online quizzes. These are a bit geekier than your average on-line quiz. Anyway, here are the results.

You are OS2-Warp. You're plagued by feelings of abandonment and disgust for your backstabbing step-brother.  Oh, what might have been.
Which OS are You?

You are .swf  You are flashy, but lack substance.  You like playing, but often you are annoying. Grow up.
Which File Extension are You?

You are You are a know-it-all.  You are trustworthy, most of the time.  You are  versatile and useful.  You like volunteering.  You are free.
Which Website are You?

I like the third result, can kind of understand the first, but was a bit shocked and annoyed by the second. Ah well. They're just silly quizzes anyway.
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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: iTunes shuffle of all the track 7s - currently Polka Power! by Weird Al

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holy Shit That's Fast

I don't think I've truly realised how fast the Internet is over here in Japan. Now, I have some idea. Except for the blurring to prevent incriminating myself, this is an actual screen capture. Please note the speed. I will admit this only lasted for about 30 seconds, but it is still none-the-less impressive.

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Writing time: 7 minutes (had to touch up the picture a little)
Time since last post: "go" days
Current media: none

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Something Really Messed Up

I saw this article on the BBC news feed today and am trying to decide if I'm disgusted, revolted, or just plain shocked. A woman has been charged with aggravated murder of her own baby. The weapon of choice? Microwave oven.

As this has yet to go to trial, I won't comment specifically on the woman, as at this stage it is inappropriate to make assumptions of guilt, and innocent until guilty still applies. However, the idea of killing your own child is reprehensible.

And putting a baby in a microwave? Well, I know how a microwave works. I've had fun putting CDs in a microwave (don't leave it on long), as well as other objects. There's even a joke "Curiosity didn't kill the cat. A three year old with a microwave did". I should hope that ignorance is not part of the defense strategy.

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Writing time:17 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: The Daily Show December 6

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Coup No 2

Fiji's had a coup. This is the second coup of 2006, and Fiji's fourth. Like Thailand's coup, this one has been building up for a while, but was a lot more public, with negotiation going on between the military and the Prime Minister for quite some time beforehand. Some pretty good background reading can be found here, here, and here.

I don't know as much about what's been going on in Fiji as I do about Thailand, but again I disagree with the idea of the military stepping into politics and trying to control or influence the elected government.

I just had the idea of keeping all military facilities outside of the actual country, on islands and atolls and that sort of thing, but that is perhaps a bad idea for a few reasons. They include the fact that it isolates the military from the people, and two, isn't really practical for most countries.

Anyway, I once again state my support for democratically elected governments, the ideal of a non-political military, and hope that regular government is restored to Fiji soon.

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Writing time: 10 minutes
Time since last post: 10 minutes
Current media: iTunes shuffle of all the track 3s - currently Tribute by Tenacious D

Kids Lessons 2: The Regulars

On Monday I had my first regular kids classes. It was a help shift at a kids school. I had one class of each of the three big groups, Kinder (3-6), junior (7-9), and senior (10-12). It was exhausting. The juniors were the most exhausting. The classes had 5 kids for kinder, 6 for juniors and 3 seniors.

All of the kids were kind of into it, and had various levels of success. The kinders could name the things (presents, bells, other christmassy things), but usually dropped the "there are" from
"there are n items", but got the general idea. The juniors were a bit better, but their language for this week was a bit easier. I did get mixed up with the flashcards I was meant to be using, so for the first activities used some of last weeks. I realised halfway through so I just got the extra cards and put them in the pile. The kids didn't notice.

The seniors were OK. They got a bit mixed up when I said "How are you today?" instead of the expected "How are you?" (there's a bit of a ritual for starting the lesson that includes asking "how are you?" The rituals a bit different for each level.) so they answered "Monday", but I realised what was happening and rephrased. I had been told the seniors were not quite so outgoing and willing to compete, but this group were, although it is a smaller group. It's also odd that of the three, a boy and a girl have the same name.

The schools not far from my regular school, so travels not really an issue. It's just sort of a front desk and a room, and the teachers room is essentially a closet. I'm probably not going to spend that much time in there, in any case. The classrooms outer wall is a glass wall to a hallway, so I could see people (parents presumably) watching me and the kids, but I didn't worry about them.

On a related note, since I knew I'd need lots of energy for the classes, I had decided to load up on sugar, and the best source I had was a packet of musk sticks (thanks Justin). The staff member (I can't remember her name (Etsuko or something like that)) asked if the kids could try some. I said sure. Maybe one or two out of the 6-10 who tried some liked it. Most people over here (gaijin and locals) have not appreciated the taste.

I did make a bit of an impression while juggling some paper balls between lessons, so next week I'll take my juggling balls in with me.

Anyway, that's my adventure in kids classes for this week.

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Writing time: 17 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: iTunes shuffle of all the track 3s - currently Rock Me by Steppenwolf

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Repeal Day

As the ad at the end of The Onion's podcast has been telling me for a week or so, today is the anniversary of the repeal of prohibition in America. The ad has only been part effective, because while I know it was an ad for some type of alcohol, I have no idea what brand or type it is.

Anyway, prohibition was a bad idea, and seems to have inspired some of the modern prohibitions on other chemicals people choose to indulge in, which are just as effective as the prohibition on alchohol back then was.

Anyway, cheers (or kampai, as the locals say).

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Writing time: 8 minutes
Time since last post: a little while
Current media: Red Vs Blue

Rent A Coder No Longer So Attractive

Every so often, I check the newest jobs on Rent A Coder to see if there's any good jobs available. In recent months though, not much has shown up. Most of the jobs fall into one of three categories. 1) Bigger than I'm willing to do because of lack of knowledge and or time, 2) the maximum bid is too low to be worth my time, or 3) just plain scum.

It's category number three that is really making me think about not checking Rent A Coder for new jobs. When this sort of job is the majority of work available, I'm not so keen to be a part of it.

Some recent examples of less than noble jobs include someone's semester long project (with a deadline of 3 days), someone who wants their company on Wikipedia, and someone wanting you to run their Google Adwords campaign because they have been banned for breaking the rules.

I've taken one job where I went in not quite sure about the buyers intentions, and after doing a small job with them and then turned down further jobs because I didn't think they were doing the right thing.

I have heard of similar sites that I may check out, but I expect that they'll be of a similar nature.

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Writing time: 15 minutes
Time since last post: a few hours
Current media: Stargate Atlantis - 3x12 Echoes

It's Christmas in Japan

Despite not being a majority christian country, or a decent minority christian country, or even a we like to call ourselves christian but don't actually go to church or anything like that country, Japan is still getting ready for Christmas with lots of lights go up over the place, as well as other Christmasy things. The KFC near my place has Colonel Sanders is a Santa outfit.
This was taken from the staffroom at work on Friday night when there was some sort of event happening at around 7:30ish. In any event, it was all over by the time I got off work at 9. And if you look carefully, the decorations in the trees are indeed four leaf clovers. But, what the hey, they're foreign, right?
This is the Osaka JR station in Umeda. I meant to get some photos of the Hanshin station as well, but forgot to.
This is a house I can see from my balcony. It's the only one with visual range with such decoration.

This is just a photo of a big intersection in Umeda. It is intentionally blurry, to try and convey the sense of hustle and bustle (and not the fact that it's so cold my hands shake at night).

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Writing time: 13 minutes
Time since last post: 4 days
Current media: none

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Good Lesson

Yesterday I had a really good lesson with a student. The main reason it was so much better was that she was really enthusiastic and put a lot of effort into the lesson. The differences between the lesson with this student and other students was remarkable. The lesson was about the news, headlines that sort of stuff. For this lesson I have started introducing the 5 Ws before introducing the rest of the language, as it's really useful for getting the language down. Normal I just tell the students the list, and then apply it to the language. But this student once I mentioned the 5 Ws started guessing them.

Anyway, having a student that motivated and keen was really good and it had an uplifting effect on me. Here's hoping there are more like that.

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Writing time: 21 minutes
Time since last post: 0 days
Current media: The Colbert Report- November 28

Friday, December 01, 2006

Final Word Count

As yesterday was the last day of November, it was the last day of National Novel Writing Month. This was the chance for my last ditch effort to reach 50,000 words. Since I needed about 47,000 words, it didn't really happen. The final total word count was 4,117 words. This included some words that came from the brilliant idea to present a long conversation as a transcript, which of course had to include a bunch of extra data such as time of recording, a list of participants and other formalities. The conversation was also formal, and so allowed the reuse of some of the extremely long names and titles I'd created for just such a reason. I'll try and keep working on it, but will slacken off the pace a bit.

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Writing time: 13 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: The Daily Show Nov 28

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A "Your Mum" Joke for the masses

More joy from the interwebs

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 0 days
Current media: Farscape - 1x02 - I, E.T.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Today I went to Kyoto for the first time. It's about an hour away on the train if you take the express from Juso. I walked around a few temples and also some just general walking. There's a few photos, but I'd forgotten to recharge my phone so it died halfway through the day. Anyway, here are some of the better photos of the day.

This is a creek going through Kyoto, with some nice sort of dock places for you to sit and enjoy the creek. It was flowing pretty fast (the ducks seemed to be swimming pretty hard just to stay still).

These are from Heian-jingu, the northern-most of the temples I visited (I spent the day in Southeast Kyoto).

A pretty tree I saw along the way.

These are from Chion-in. This is where the battery on my phone went dead.

After this I also visited Kodai-ji and Kiyomizu temples. Kiyomizu was very impressive with some lovely views. It's well worth a visit if you get the chance.

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Writing time: 22 minutes
Time since last post: 3 days
Current media: Kill Bill Vol 2

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Kids Lessons

During November I've had various training for the different kids classes that Nova teaches. The training was OK, but about half the time they wanted you to act like a kid. Learn to teach by being a student. While you can learn some things that way, teaching kids isn't one of them. The actual getting in and trying it for yourself was much more useful in my perspective.

Today I had chibikko training, which is for kids 2-3 years old (the earlier training was for 3-12 year olds). It also had the whole learn by being a student, but the guy doing the training was sensible enough to not force the whole process to be that way.

My big concern with the whole kids classes is that I'm not really that exuberant and energetic person, and so won't be that good as a kids teacher.

I had my first lesson on Wednesday at a different school (I was doing overtime), with two kinders (3-6 years), and I did sort of ramp up the energy to try and keep their attention. From December I'm going to have a regular set of kids classes on Mondays, so we'll see how they go.

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Writing time: 63 minutes (I got distracted with spider solitaire)
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: None

Saturday, November 25, 2006

And the Church House Burned, Burned, Burned

I saw this story the other day but was to busy to write something then, so will do so now. It's about a man who burnt down one church, and is implicated in the arson of another. And why did he burn the church down? Because he thought that they had deviated from the bible and the word of God.

Now I don't know why this man thought he knew better than they did, but this is another example of how absolute certainty can cause violence and danger. This man thought he knew the one true path, and because these other people weren't following that path, it was OK to burn down their church.

I think that the man involved believed he was doing the right thing, which really shows the dangers of believing in something absolutely. Had he taken a moment to think "What if I'm wrong?" he might have taken another moment to consider an alternative course of action.

The good part about this article is the response of the people who had their church burnt down. They have responded with forgiveness rather than vengeance, which is an attitude to be applauded.

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Writing time: 20 minutes
Time since last post: Indeterminate
Current media: Farscape - 1x01 - Premiere

Friday, November 24, 2006

Frankenstein Revealed

Being in Japan, my reading of books has somewhat declined, due to the general lack of availability of books I can read. I have greatly increased my reading of newspapers, but sometimes I just want to read a book.

About a week ago, after being told of its existence by some students, I visited a bookstore near my school. It's one whole floor in a rather large building, and has two whole shelves of English books. After discounting the children's books, romance novels, and books I'd already read, the main category of books that appealed to me were classics. Basically the 19th century stuff everyone knows the name of but few people ever read except when made to in high school.

The volume I picked up is actually three books. Frankenstein, Dracula and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. I hadn't realised that Robert Louis Stevenson had written Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde until reading the introduction.

Last night I finished Frankenstein, and was really amazed at the difference between the vague ideas I'd picked up from popular culture about Frankenstein and the actual novel. I already knew that Frankenstein was the name of the professor, not the monster, but that's not the big difference.

The main misconception I had was that the creation of the monster was the main ambition of Frankenstein, and the main plot of the story. There's also the matter of the harnessing of lightning, grave robbing for parts, Igor the assistant, but these are details that flow from the main misconception.

The story actually glosses over the creation of the monster, and looks at the consequences of the creation for both the creator and created. Both are locked into a bitter cycle of reprisal, and each lets their pride cause them to be unwilling to see the others point of view. Frankenstein refuses to see the monsters humanity, and shows it in his cruelty towards it. The monster on it's part is all too ready to harm others so as to hurt Frankenstein, and kills a number of innocents while seeking its revenge against Frankenstein.

I'm still trying to decide if there's a greater moral to the story, something about being wary about one's creations, or if it's just meant to be a story to scare the reader, as is suggested in the introduction by Mary Shelley.

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Writing time: 18 minutes
Time since last post: 30 minutes
Current media: iTunes Shuffle - Muse - Stockholm Syndrome

The Second Great and Bountiful American Empire

So yesterday was rather cold. And at lunch time (about 5pm) I was feeling like a warm drink. Due to my aversion to both coffee and tea, this pretty much leaves me hot chocolate as my beverage of choice (not that I'm complaining, I like hot chocolate).

Now over here, if you like coffee or tea you are spoiled for choice. Hot and cold coffee of different strengths, flavours, varieties, celebrity endorsements, brands and what not, from shops and vending machines. But not much in the way of hot chocolate.

But, I did see one possible source of that which I desired. An organisation I have never really felt much desire to visit, as they concentrate on beverages I don't desire, and in most places there have been alternative sources of warm chocolate drinks. But in this land, I did not see much by way of an alternative, except not having a warm drink.

And so I went to Starbucks. Except for the prices being in yen, and having katakana above the English on the menu, it seemed pretty much identical to the Starbucks I walked past a lot in the Myer Center. At lunch I got a grande premium hot chocolate for 480 yen (I usually pay that much for lunch). It was pretty good, which was a bit of a surprise, as I was expecting something a bit more average. I ended up going back after work finished for a tall one, which I drank on the train (they're a lot less paranoid about that sort of thing over here, although I did get odd looks from one lady).

Anyway, I've just looked and there does seem to be one near my usual work (I was doing overtime in a school far away yesterday), so I may be frequenting the Second Great and Bountiful American Empire a bit from now on.

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Writing time: 13 minutes
Time since last post: 4 days
Current media: iTunes Shuffle - Rasputina - Dig Ophelia

Oh yes, bonus points for whoever identifies the source of the phrase Second Great and Bountiful Empire.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Burqa Ban Bad Move

OK, blogger just screwed me over with a longer version of this (spell checking a link and then clicking on it to change it doesn't quite work as expected), so this is the rough and ready version.

The Dutch government is proposing a ban on wearing burqas in public places just before the election next week.

This is a bad idea for many reasons.

1) it's persecution based on religious beliefs. The law is written to include some non-religious items like covered helmets, but the government's only talking about the burqa and Muslim women when discussing the issue. This is bad in and of itself

2) Such persecution is a bad idea for those who want respect and tolerance for people of all creeds. such persecution leads to marginalisation and division between groups within society.

3) The Dutch immigration minister says that "It is very important that we can see each other and can communicate with each other. Because we are so tolerant we want to respect each other." Respect or lack thereof based upon what someone wears is superficial at best.

4) Most importantly, it's a violation of individual freedom. Everyone should be free to choose what they want to wear. Wearing a burqa, jeans and t-shirt, a suit, or any other garment only affects the person wearing it, and they should be allowed to choose whatever they want. Freedom is easy for the things you like. Your commitment to freedom is tested when you have to stand up for things you don't like.

My position is this: I don't wear or want to wear a burqa, but if anyone else does, they can.

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Writing time: 57 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None

Saturday, November 18, 2006

OJ Simpson is the biggest idiot ever

OK, so a long time ago, some people got killed, and someone was tried and found not guilty. There was a lot of controversy, perhaps some legal shenanigans. Following the trial where he was found not guilty, a there was a civil suit against the person by the family of the people killed, and due to different standards in civil and criminal suits, some liability was found and he had to pay a lot of money to the families. There was a lot of doubt about the whole thing, and there were many different opinions about his guilt.

Now, more than a decade after all this happened, you'd think this person would be trying to avoid anything related to this unpleasant series of events. But no, O.J. Simpson is about to release a book called "If I Did It", which tells how he would have gone about committing the murder of his wife and another man, if he had done it. He features as the central character, and the book goes into significant detail.

I'm curious if the investigators who worked on the case will read the book, and how close it comes to the way they thought events happened.

While Simpson cannot be tried again for the crime, this does seem a rather foolish and or callous thing to write.

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Writing time: 11 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None

Friday, November 17, 2006

National Chapter Writing Month

So, my partaking in National Novel Writing Month is progressing, but at nowhere near the needed 1667 words per day. So far I'm at just above 2000. I think I'll aim to double that. Today I reached a kind of finishing point for the first chapter. I'm thinking of creating a bit of an interlude before starting chapter two. I'm thinking of a kind of future historical document hinting at what is to come, a bit like the quotations at the start of each chapter in Dune, but I don't know if I can write enough to make it worthwhile without giving away too much of what's to come (which of course would mean I'd have to make it up now as well, instead of as I go). Actually I've just thought of maybe writing something that's a current history book in the story, giving a bit of information as to where the stories set (like the bits and pieces at the end of each chapter of The Watchmen).

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Writing time: 6 minutes
Time since last post: 15 minutes
Current media: iTunes Shuffle - Weird Al - Amish Paradise

Fit to be tied

So, I think most people who know about my job know that I have to wear business clothes every day, and this includes wearing a tie. In previous times I did not wear a tie ofter, and did not relish the prospect. When I started work here, I would take my tie off as soon as I left the building work was in. As time has gone by, this has changed taking the tie off on the train home, to really loosening the tie and undoing the top button, slightly loosening the tie and undoing the top button, to today where I didn't do anything to my tie until I was home and changing my shirt. I guess this is partly just getting used to it.

I also think part of it is that the good outfit I used to wear back in Australia for interviews and other formal events actually included a shirt that was bought for my high school graduation, which while still mostly fitting, it would appear that my neck has somewhat widened since then. So the neck on that shirt is so tight it's hard to do the top button up, whereas the new shirts I bought just before leaving are quite comfortable around the neck. The fact that my shirt doesn't suffocate me has made wearing a tie more bearable.

Anyway, it's just a thought, nothing too significant.

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Writing time: 8 minutes
Time since last post: 12 hours
Current media: iTunes Shuffle - Patty Mardina - Still Life

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More YouTube goodness

Fun with Non-Newtonian Liquids.

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Iran Doesn't Get It

While I was reading over the news this morning I came across this piece about how Iran is unhappy with Google. You might wonder, why would Iran be unhappy with Google. Is it helping faithful Muslims find blasphemous texts, or those cartoons of Muhammad.

No, they're hosting someones video on Google Video. And the video gets some geography mixed up, and says that the city Tabriz which is part of Iran is part of Azerbaijan. Looking at the summaries at Google Video, the video is a bit biased, but Iran is complaining about the wrong people.

Google did not make the video, did not endorse the video, did not fact check the video, or do anything other than let the video's makers express themselves. Don't go shooting the messenger.

I also don't think Iran should be as upset about this as it is. The city in question is quite close to the border with Azerbaijan, has a large population that speaks Azeri, was historically part of Azerbaijan (and they even call it Eastern Azerbaijan). Perhaps the video makers were just trying to make a point, albeit in a tactless way.

Add in the free speech aspect of this and Iran doesn't really have a leg to stand on on this issue. They can complain (freedom of speech cuts both ways), but they shouldn't expect to get anything changed.

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Writing time: 35 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: iTunes shuffle - Capture of Trillian

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The difference between science and blind faith

I found this at The Funniest Thing. It's very insightful.

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: a few hours
Current media: None

Helsinki Complaints Choir

Another fun video from YouTube

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Writing time: 1 minute
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: None

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sucks to be in Australia

This to everyone in Australia who's missing bananas because they're so expensive. Yesterday I bought 4 bananas for 138 yen. That's $1.53. The last bananas I bought in Australia was $13 for three bananas.

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Writing time: 3 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Battlestar Galactica 3x07 A Measure of Salvation

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sore Throat

I woke up yesterday with a really sore throat. It feels like the top of my throat is inflamed, and swallowing aggravates the problem. Fortunately talking doesn't, or work would be really crap right now. I was hoping it would go away overnight, but it didn't. If it's still a problem tomorrow I'll try and find a pharmacy and attempt to make myself understood, and hopefully get something to help the problem.

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Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None

Colbert is Awesome

I've just watched Wednesday's Colbert Report, and The Wørd was absolutely awesome. Everyone should watch it.

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Writing time:
Time since last post:
Current media:


Today I had my probation observation, which is where my immediate boss sits and watches me give a lesson. It went pretty well. It was a mid level lesson about the news, and it ran smoothly. I avoided a big conversation at the start, so I had time to actually get through all the activities. After that was a bit of feedback, some advice on how to have the students interact with each other more, and that was about it. I should be off probation at the end of the month. I'm actually lucky in that I arrived near the end of a month, so I'll only be on probation for two months. Most people start early in the month, and so are on probation for almost three months.

I've got a meeting with the area boss on Sunday week, which I gather is a more how are you settling in, are your immediate bosses helping you get into the job, that sort of thing. They call it onboarding, which I think means the people who came up with the idea have been working with Japanese people too long, as it is very engrish.

After that, I'll have another observation lesson at about the 6 month mark, so around my Birthday.

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Writing time: 18 minutes
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: none

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

And don't forget your booties 'cause it's cooooooold out there today

Yesterday and today were significantly colder than the rest of my time in Japan, prompting me to always wear a jacket outside and a second shirt. And this is only the middle of autumn. It was a rather sudden change, which caught me a little surprised. I have heard from those who've been here a bit longer that so far autumn has been very warm, and that winter is usually much colder than I'm used to (not much chance of snow in this area, but still colder than any part of Australia I've lived in).

My strategies for keeping warm are basically limited to wearing a jacket, an extra t-shirt, and in days gone by letting my hair down to cover my ears and neck. I may look at getting some sort of hat soon to keep my head warm, as I noticed last night that my head and face got very cold outside.

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Writing time: 14 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Battlestar Galactica 3x06 Torn

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

More Photos

Some more photos from my phone.

Christmas has come to Japan, just a few days after Halloween. At least it's better than Australia, where Christmas stuff has been on the shelves for two months already.

Part of the train station/shopping complex at Kobe-Kasuko, where I went for Kids training today. I thought this part looked pretty nice, especially the fountain between the escalators.

Hankyu Umeda, the platform to catch the train to my place.

A fountain in the Hankyu Umeda complex.

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Writing time: 6 minutes
Time since last post: 15 minutes
Current media: None

National Novel Writing Month

For those who don't know, November is National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRMO for short). While it's a bit late, and I have major doubts about my abilities, I'm giving it a go. Actually a second go. A few days ago I set up a blog to use to write it, and after staring at a blank screen for half an hour, gave up. The next day I saw a notepad at the convenience store near work with some words that go together grammatically but don't mean much, which I bought and started writing in. The words on the cover of the notebook are currently serving as a title, so don't read too much into the title. I've now set up another blog (pretty much the same as the earlier one, to which my writings will be added. This also act as the first stage of editing.

Given that I started 5 days late, I'm currently falling well short of the 2000 words per day I'll need to make it to the target length by the end of the month.

So far it seems to be sci-fi, which isn't really a surprise. A vague and somewhat pretentious prologue came out first. It almost reads like something that would go on my blog, which isn't really that surprising.

I'll probably involve the Extended Kingdom in the setting, but I don't know yet exactly what's going to happen.

So far, the idea I have is that it's some sort of first contact scenario, and the main character is an auditor, who discovers something odds going on on a colony planet, and investigates thinking it's corruption, but finds something more is going on.

Anyway, for those brave enough to read, the story has its own blog here.

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Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: 10 minutes
Current media: None

Monday, November 06, 2006

Noisy Bars

Not much to report this week. I've worked, gone out a few times, stayed in a few times. Yesterday was a going away party for one of the other teachers at my office/school, which was OK, but the place was so noisy I wasn't really about to follow a conversation, so I mostly just sat around. This actually happens most times I've been to bars and clubs, and is part of the reason I don't really like going to those sort of places. I think that the smaller places I've been to over here are better, because even when they're full, which I haven't seen, you're still able to hear other people without shouting and such.

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Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: 8 days
Current media: None

Sunday, October 29, 2006


So this "weekend" (Wednesday) I visited Osaka castle, or as the natives call it, Osakajo. I feel reasonably safe in assuming that 'jo' is the Japanese word for castle.

Osaka castle is near the centre of Osaka, and in the middle of a park. I get the impression that 95% of all the trees in Osaka are in that park. The castle itself is actually a reconstruction built about 50 years ago, the actual castle having been ruins for quite some time. The castle grounds were a moderate size, taking maybe 30 - 40 minutes to walk around the outside of all the moats, and there were two sets of walls and lots of empty space that are now used as parks. The castle itself though wasn't that big.

It was 8 stories tall and maybe as big at the base as the house I lived in in St Lucia, maybe a bit bigger. There was a lift going up to the 5th floor, and some steep stairs up to the top floor for a view out of the castle (pics are at the end). Inside the castle going down is a bit of a museum giving the history of the castle, when it was built, who built it, who destroyed it, who rebuilt it, who destroyed the new one, etc. This was mostly in Japanese, so I mainly just looked at the pretty pictures, and fancy armour.

Afterwards I caught up with some friends in Umeda and went to the 280 bar (everything on the menu is 280 yen) and the B-Trip, which was almost crowded.

Anyway, here's some photos of the castle.

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Writing time: 37 minutes
Time since last post: 3 days
Current media: iTunes Shuffle (VAST - Dirty Hole)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Another Photo

Here's a picture of the view from my apartment's balcony.

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Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None

Monday, October 23, 2006

Some maps

here are some maps of places I've been in Japan
My office
My apartment building (the building with the green roof)

Both are pretty much in the centre of the map in question.

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Writing time: 5 minutes
Time since last post: 90 minutes
Current media: None

Natasha Retires

I saw this on Google News last night, but was too tired to write about it then. Natasha Stott Despoja has announced that she won't stand for re-election when her current term in the senate ends.

I've followed her career since I first saw her as a regular guest on Good News Week. When I started university, I signed up to the campus Democrats group since they said there would soon be an event that she would be attending (I ended up not going, but it was only two dollars). She quickly rose within the Democrats (a big fish in a small pond), becoming the leader, but only staying in the position for a few months.

Stott Despoja has been a strong selling point for the Democrats, someone seen as being willing to stand for something, when others in the party have caved and made deals with the government.

I'm afraid that after this the Democrats decline will continue further, and they may even end up not having a member in the senate after the next election. Which is a bad thing, as they have managed to play a vital balancing role in Australian politics, holding back some of the excesses of the Coalition government. Their decline started when they compromised on their principles and did a deal with the government on the GST. Since then a voter backlash over that issue and almost perpetual internal conflict over the leadership have seen them fall from respected moderators in politics to a bunch of bickering babies.

At the moment there doesn't seem to be a party to take the place of the Democrats. The Greens are increasing their popularity, but they are not a moderating influence, their agenda and goals are different to that of the Democrats, and while I support them, it is not as whole hearted as I once backed the Democrats.

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Writing time: 35 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Doctor Who 2005

Sunday, October 22, 2006

An Empty Sky

There are a number of differences between living in Japan and living in Australia. The trains are better over here, I can't read the signs, the money is different, the chimes that are used to strike the hour on some clocks is used as a class bell with intervals of 10, 15 and 40 minutes instead of 60, and more. There is one big thing that I've noticed that speaks on a different level.

The difference is that I can't see the stars. When you look up at night all you see is a dark grey. On some occasions, I might see one or two, but no more than that. This feels to be a rather depressing sight, and I can't help feel it reduces the awe and majesty of space. I can remember looking at the stars when I was young, and then much later (about 17 or so) when I first really saw the Milky Way I was even more awestruck, and realised just how much of the night sky you miss by living in a city. And here, the loss is almost total.

I think that not having such a view I think must necessarily reduce one's sense of wonder at the universe as a whole, and the smallness of the Earth within the universe. As I'm writing, I'm wondering if some of the lack of interest in the world , and the universe in general, among people these days is due to the lack of opportunity to see the beauty of the night sky.

I wonder just how many Japanese children have grown up not knowing the beauty of a sky full of stars, and the inspiration such a sight provides. Hopefully, such visions can be seen in the less urban parts of Japan (I've been told they exist). More people should see such sights.

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Writing time: 40 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: Battlestar Galactica 3x04 with podcast commentary

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Tax Strategy Patents

Today I got my second article up on Slashdot. This one is about a rather absurd consequence of the American policy of allowing patents on business methods as reported in the International Herald Tribune. A number of smart tax lawyers have realised that under this policy, their clever schemes to avoid tax can be patented, and they can prevent other people from doing the same thing without paying them money. So far the USPTO has granted 50 patents for such schemes, and more are being processed.

Now I'm against patents on methods in general for several reasons, but these patents go an extra step further in being so much against what patents should do. The truly ludicrous part of patents on tax reduction strategies is that once someone has a patent on a scheme, I am no longer allowed to follow the law without getting their approval. So they are able to take advantage of the tax law, but I'm not. This goes against a rather fundamental principle of an ideal government whereby everyone is treated equally under the law.

Fortunately some groups are realising this is an issue. Unfortunately it's mainly other tax lawyers who are feeling the sting. They are lobbying the US congress to create an exception to patent infringement rules to prevent them from being restricted in this manner, similar to the way there are restrictions on the patenting of medical procedures.

The whole idea of patents on methods is rather dangerous. A patent is for an invention, a device, a thing that does something. Anyone can come up with the idea "there should be a machine that does x". The person who comes up with the idea "there should be a machine that does x" does not get the patent. The person who makes a machine that does x gets a patent on that machine, and only that machine. They get a period of having a monopoly to make that machine. They do not get a monopoly on doing x. If someone else makes a different machine that does x in a different way, they're free to do that, and can even get a patent on their machine, if it too is original.

Patents on processes are very much giving patents to the person who says "there should be a machine that does x", and they are usually so vague that they get used as a patent on doing x. This then prevents other people who come with a new way of doing something, they get sued for infringing the vague patent that shouldn't have been given. Patents should only be given for specific devices that have been actually created.

The biggest area these types of patents are a problem is patents on software. Any software patent is process patent, as there's no device or machine involved. And they are used to prevent others from making programs that do the same thing or using certain technologies. Also, all software is essentially a mathematical algorithm, and it has long been a principle of patents that mathematics cannot be patented. 2 + 2 is a natural fact, and cannot be controlled by anyone, nor can any other piece of mathematics.

Anyway, with the tax patents the problems of process patents are now closer to affecting those who actually make the laws, so hopefully we are a step closer to getting patent laws closer to what they should be.

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Writing time: 50 minutes (less time talking to Mum on the phone)
Time since last post: 2 days
Current media: Doctor Who 2005x02 The End of The World

Friday, October 20, 2006

Hit Counting

I've always been kind of curious how many people actually visit my blog, while at the same time not wanting to know exact details. Last week I was doing some work for someone else's site, and I got a bit more interested in knowing how many people do visit, especially as I'm now doing this for others to read instead of for me to write. Anyway, to make a long story short, I've added a hit counter to the sidebar of my blog. It's down below the archives, links, and labels. It was the first one I found that didn't require an ad for the people providing the service. In fact, I'm kind of surprised that blogger doesn't provide the ability to do this themselves, as it's the only thing I've really wanted to do with the blog I haven't been able to without resorting to another company.

Anyway, just be warned, I'm watching you (in the sense that I now know if someone (anyone) has had a look at my blog since the last time I checked).

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Writing time: 6 minutes
Time since last post: 26 minutes
Current media: iTunes Shuffle (Riverdance - Riverdance)

Tripping on the B-side

On Monday after work I caught up with one of the guys I've met over here. He's a friend of my housemate, and he invited me to join him on his regular Monday bar crawl (we both have Tuesday and Wednesday off, so Monday is party night).

We met up in Umeda and met up with another friend of his outside a Family Mart (a convenience store chain) which they've renamed the Hottie Mart, due to frequency of hotties who walk past or into it. We bought some cheap booze there to start the night.

After a while sitting talking on a bench outside the Hottie Mart, we went to Captain Kangaroo, a bar that serves very good burgers and served Fosters beer, which I had a hard time convincing them that people don't drink Fosters back in Australian. Anyway the burger was quite good, and after happy hour at Captain Kangaroo ended we headed over to the B-Trip, one of Japans many small basement bars.

The B-trip has red decor, a nice bar and some darts machines. We hung out here for the rest of night just chilling out. I played two games of darts, winning the first (before I started I was feeling a bit of form, and before my warm up throw I said I'd be lucky if I hit the board, then proceeded to get a single-bull, a double-bull and something else). The second game was later on and I lost by a much larger margin than I won the first by.

While we were there, some German tourists came up to us and asked us if the part of town we were in was the red light district (they weren't exactly subtle about it). The guys I went with were able to tell them where nearby to go, but the bartender told them where the best place to go was (no I didn't pay attention to what they were told), and even showed them a website for the place, which was apparently a fair way away.

Anyway, that's about it. Overall a good night out.
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Writing time: 12 minutes
Time since last post: 30 minutes
Current media: iTunes shuffle


Last night I went out to dinner with a large It group of people from work, as it was one of the teachers' last day, and a few people have started recently (four in the last month or so), so we went to a Yakinomi restaurant.

Yakinomi is a novel concept (which I've since been informed was imported from Korea), whereby each table gets a large pot filled with coals and a metal plate shaped like an overly large orange juicer on which you cook meat, other animal parts (for some reason guts and stuff was listed as hormone on the menu, I still didn't try it), and vegetables. Dinner was quite nice.

The yakinomi cooking thing

It was a fun evening, and a good chance to get to know some of the other teachers better (especially since none of the bosses went). Some of the Japanese staff who handle sales and lesson bookings (everything but the teaching really) came along as well. I hadn't really noticed at work, but in a casual setting not wearing office type clothes, some of them were pretty good looking.

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Writing time: 26 minutes
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: iTunes shuffle

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Some random photos

Just a few pictures that have been lying about on my phone.

The pseudo Italian place that I've had dinner at most nights (20 out of 27 including tonight).

The Sunday before last a group of people (including me) went to an all you can eat and drink restaurant in Juso, and afterwards went down to the river to hang about for a bit before the last train. This is a view looking across the river.
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Writing time: 6 minutes
Time since last post: 3 days
Current media: Geeknights

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Just met a neighbour

This evening while I've been messing about on the computer, the doorbell rang. I went out to check it, as the few times I have heard it ring, it has been someone delivering stuff for me (not that I expected this to happen this time). It turns out it was one of my neighbours who had forgotten his key, and wanted to climb across from my balcony to his balcony to get into his house. At this point I'll point out I live on the sixth floor, so he's a bit braver than I am. As it turns out, the door to his balcony was also lost, so he climbed back over and called his housemate to see when he's getting home.

Anyway, that was my first meeting with someone from my building who doesn't share my apartment.

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Writing time: 5 mintues
Time since last post: 5 minutes
Current media: iTunes on shuffle

Starmaking Quidditch

I'm currently reading a Harry Potter novel (no 5 to be precise), and in the process had a new thought, which I'm sure more keen and literary readers had a long time ago, but nonetheless I will discuss and elaborate upon here.

The main team sport in the novels is Quidditch. A team is made up of a goalkeeper, 3 chasers (a bit like forwards and are the main ordinary scorers), 2 beaters (they distract the other team by trying to hit them with some of the balls), and a seeker, who tries to capture the smallest of the several flying balls, which is called the snitch.

There are two ways to score in quidditch. The first is by throwing the main ball through one of the three goals, which is worth 10 points. The second is that the seeker scores 150 points when they catch the snitch. This also ends the game.

It should be rather obvious that the team that catches the snitch has a significant advantage when it comes to comparing the scores at the end of the game. This is especially the case in the games presented in the Harry Potter novels, where the scores before the capture of the snitch rarely get anywhere near 100 (the first game in this book has the snitch captured while the score was 40-10 against Harry's team). The seeker is very much the person who determines the outcome of the game.

And for those of you who haven't read the novels, can you guess which position Harry plays? The seeker. Thus, Harry is in the position of being a major part in the success of his team.

I believe the game of quidditch was designed in such an unbalanced way so that Harry can play such a major role in the games. This thus emphasises his importance in the stories, and makes him more special and amazing.

It does however detract somewhat from the game of quidditch as a sport. I can think of no other team game where one position is so blatantly more important than any other in determining the games outcome. It must be extremely depressing for the players on a team to have a significant lead over the other team lose the game because their seeker didn't catch the snitch.

Anyway, that's the idea. Quidditch is a severely broken game designed more to build up a character than be a realistically designed game.

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Writing time: 30 minutes (minus a distraction, see next post)
Time since last post: 15 minutes
Current media: iTunes on shuffle

Mathematicians have a sense of humuor

A newsletter I subscribe to on cryptography I got today pointed out this gem of a book. It's called A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates and is by the RAND corporation. The title is pretty self explanatory, but for the real fun, check out some of the reviews people have put up on

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Writing time: 10 minutes (mostly setting up the links)
Time since last post: 5 days
Current media: None

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Sky Tower

Today is the first day of my weekend (I get Tuesdays and Wednesdays off), so I decided to do a little sight seeing. Since I'd heard of it I decided to go see the Osaka Castle. While I was on the train into Umeda, I read my copy of Lonely Planet Japan and found out that the Osaka History Museum is close to Osaka Castle, and thought that would be a nice double feature. Then I read a little more and found out that the Museum is not open on Tuesdays.

Since at the moment I'm trying to live somewhat frugally, what with only having an advance to live on until mid November (it's enough to get by on, but I can't really do a lot of the tourist thing on it), I decided to leave the castle and museum for Wednesday next week (only one touristy thing a week at the moment). But since I was in Umeda already, I looked to see what else I could do, and found that the Umeda sky tower is only a few blocks from the Hankyu (train) station.

So I made my way over to the Sky Tower. It's a complex of four buildings, one small, one mid sized, and two really tall buildings, plus two gardens and a lot of open space. At the top of the two tall buildings is a viewing area. So after having a look at the gardens on the ground, I paid my Yen to get a lift to the top. The lift starts out inside the building, but after a few stories, is just enclosed in glass, allowing you to see out on the way up. The elevator takes you most of the way up in the western tower, and to get to the observation level you take a glass enclosed escalator up another few stories and across to the eastern tower. Then an inside escalator to the enclosed observation level, which has a very good view (photos are below). The western side has a nice cafe area and a sign telling you when sunset is, and it would be good to see the sunset up there, and maybe hang around a bit longer to see the city at night.

Finally you can take a set of stairs to the very top, which is open to the elements, but doesn't really show you much you can't see from the level below.

Looking out on Osaka from about 147 meters up, you really see just how much of a sprawl it is, with hardly a gap in sight. Except for about a hundred meter wide stretch along the river bank, there was hardly an empty bit of ground that isn't road or railway track.

Anyway, without further ado, here are some of the better pictures (these are much better than the ones from last night, I've played a bit with the settings, and of course the light was better) (OK, maybe some ado).

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Writing time: 1 hour 4 minutes (I got distracted while adding the photos)
Time since last post: 1 day
Current media: None