gung-ho godzilla groupie 

Assorted linkery for April 1st (no, really)

Hah, yeah, I could sit on the sofa and read these magazines, or I could actually spend the entire evening surfing the interwebnet. Top picks:

Posted by chris at 11:56 PM | Permalink

Assorted linkery for March 27th

  • I can't wait for this to come true: Google in 20 years [via linkmachinego]
  • From the New Yorker archives on his own site, Malcolm Gladwell on SUVs: Big and Bad. Favourite part: the true significance of cupholders when choosing which car to buy. [via]
  • Interesting photo gallery of the deserted "giga industrial ruins" island of Gunkanjima, off the coast of Kyushu. I'd love to run around this place for a day or two with my DSLR. (The site itself is nasty Flash overkill, sadly, and mostly Japanese-language only. A plainer English site is here.) [via metroblogging tokyo]

Posted by chris at 06:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Taxi for a Mr. Haiku E. Contemporaneously?

You remember our recent spam-sending acquaintance Hildebrand F. Shenanigan? Well, I'd like to introduce you to a few of her friends, courtesy of a mammoth spam-purging session at work last week:

Hobbyist O. Crow
Ferlinghetti G. Headlight
Flank V. Disapproved
Spurts U. Nonaligned
Pushkin D. Outnumber
Fierceness U. Biologically
Repossessed T. Swish
Bouncer M. Frugal
Lamely A. Hopping
Contrivances H. Howell
Profited B. Omnibuses
Hastings D. Business
Haiku E. Contemporaneously
Transitive M. Brazzaville
Parlance B. Conductor
Joaquin P. Special

Almost makes receiving the damn stuff worthwhile, huh? Yeah, almost. At least I'll never be short of suggestions for baby names should I ever have kids. Ferlinghetti Transitive Jennings has a nice ring to it, wouldn't you agree?

On a related note, recently I've been getting a ton of what looks like Polish-language online poker comment spam. WTF? You'd think that whoever programs these bots would bother to check that a site was lacking an approval system for comments before feeding it into their hopper, but apparently not. "Setki foro'w dyskusyjnych, miliony odwiedzin" to you to, pal.

Posted by chris at 06:34 PM | Permalink

Tokyo Tales Glossary launched

Running late, about to dash out of the door for this month's blogmeet at Office in Gaienmae - Stu, if you're reading this, I'm on my way :)

But I just wanted to announce a new toy for you all to play with: the Tokyo Tales Glossary. So those of you readers who don't speak Japanese and find yourselves gnashing your teeth when I pretentiously drop terms like pachinko, pocky, and yoosh into conversation, gnash no more.

I've gone back through past posts and put posthumous pop-up pointers in where necessary - do let me know if you find any that don't work or lead to the wrong definition; it was all done in a recent 3am caffeine and ramen-fuelled rush, so might be a little buggy. Gomen ne. Enjoy.

Posted by chris at 07:11 PM | Permalink

Linkery for Feb 27th 2006

Some assorted linkery from the day's browsing:

Posted by chris at 11:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

In memoriam

Ok, I know it's been a little while since the last post. Some of you may have noticed a little activity on my Flickr account, but that's been it. Time to explain why I haven't felt like posting much recently.

I got some bad news regarding my grandmother near the end of last year. She'd been diagnosed with cancer a few months earlier, but was having chemo and seemed to be handling it ok. And then, suddenly, the prognosis took a turn for the worse. I say "suddenly"; I suspect it wasn't all that sudden, really, but that's how it seemed from this side of the world, with information filtered through long-distance phone calls and family members keen to put a brave face on things until the last possible moment.

So I booked an open-return ticket and we flew back to the UK for a family Christmas; I'm very lucky in that I can do my job from pretty much anywhere in the world with an Internet connection, so I arranged to work out of our London office for a few weeks. Many thanks to my boss (not that he'll be reading this, but still, it was appreciated) for that.

So I spent a couple of weeks staying with my parents, catching up with a couple of friends, getting used to commuting into London again every day. We made it to the Tate Modern, a pub quiz or two, had a nice, subdued family xmas and utterly uneventful New Year's Eve (sofa plus Jools Holland's Hootenspanner; fireworks over the Thames on the telly). And, of course, I made a trip up to see Gran.

The folks and I went up to see her on the xmas weekend. She was in a hospice by then, being very well looked after; the place was very modern, plush, the staff seemed friendly, and her room had a really nice view out over the garden and, beyond, the rolling hills of North Wales. She seemed fine, really; the only thing was that she couldn't talk for long before becoming noticeably tired. Otherwise you'd really never have known.

It was strange, but I realised that all these years, I'd never really thought of her as old - or even particularly mortal, for that matter. I'd never stopped and done the maths; she was just Gran, this constant, and it was only now that the number "87" started meaning something. We hung around and chatted for a while - just an hour, didn't want to tire her out - and popped in again the next morning before heading back south to London.

I regret now not going up to see her again the next weekend; not that there was anything else left to say, at that point, but after eight years on the wrong side of the planet you can't help but think that even just another hour would have been worth something. I guess that's part of the process, the second-guessing, the what-ifs. I was planning to go up the weekend after that; sadly, things didn't work out.

The funeral was a couple of weekends later. Despite the circumstances, it was actually quite... nice? Am I allowed to use the word "nice"? Well, anyway, that's what it was. I keep forgetting just how large that side of our family is, and it was good to catch up with people I hadn't seen for quite a while. It was also the first time in I don't know how long that we'd had all the grandchildren, i.e. my cousins, in one room together; maybe not quite the first time since we were all kids, riding our bikes around and around and around the garden in some two-wheeled homage to Wacky Races, but close.

I held it together, amazingly, until the airport, a week later. I've been back to the UK a few times since I started living in Japan, for the odd holiday here and there, but this was honestly the first time I've ever thought twice about boarding the flight back to Tokyo. Perhaps it was the funeral, perhaps it was just the length of the stay (exactly a month, the longest time I've spent in the UK for eight years), but I really didn't want to get on that plane.

I think that the sheer emotional distress of saying goodbye to my family at Heathrow this time might have been it, might have been the catalyst for a decision that I arrived at pretty much over the course of the 12 hours back to Narita, staring out of the window at the Airbus's Union Jack wingtip as Siberia scrolled by below. So here it is: I'm leaving Japan. This April.

I know that it must seem fairly sudden, but in reality it's been coming for quite a while. The main thing is that my girlfriend is planning to start a teacher training course in the UK this autumn, and is therefore moving back when her current contract finishes, in April, for interviews and work experience and so on. The question was always whether or not I'd move back at the same time, or stay behind in Tokyo a bit longer. Realistically, though, what was I going to do, hang around an extra six months to catch the cockroach season? I don't think so.

There are a number of other factors, of course. I've always known that I couldn't stay here forever; I always knew I didn't want to get married, have kids, settle down, get a mortgage, or retire here. Tokyo's a great place to be twenty-something, even thirty-something, but it's not where I want to be long-term. More and more of my friends have moved back to the UK in recent years, to the point where I think I probably know more people in London and the Home Counties than I do in Tokyo.

My job prospects are better in the UK, too. While my Japanese is ok, even pretty good, it's not quite at the level it needs to be in order to let me work here to the fullest of my abilities for anyone other than a western firm. And if it's still not fluent after eight years, you have to wonder if it's ever going to get there.

So I feel that if I want to make any progress towards my life goals - to grow up, if you like - I have to leave Japan.

I'm going to miss the place like crazy - already am, in fact. I've started thinking, "this will be the last time I eat at this restaurant" and "this will be the last time I go clubbing at Womb" and "this will be the last time a 4ft-tall obaasan elbows her way through me to get on a train" and the like; the last month or so has been like a series of mini funerals.

It's not all bad, of course - not at all. I do love London, albeit from rather a distance these days; hopefully it'll stand up to closer scrutiny, too. I don't have to change jobs, either; I'm keeping my current position, which is a godsend. I have friends and family to catch up with. I'm going to be able to walk into supermarkets and understand what everything is. I'm going to be able to rent foreign-language films without having to rely on Japanese subtitles. I'm going to be able to take walks (well, drives) in the country without seeing entire mountains sheathed in concrete. I'm going to be able to fence again. To buy decent sandwiches. The list goes on.

So, there we are. The end of one adventure, and the beginning of another. I'm not sure what I'll do about the blog; definitely continue it for now. (That was a big mark in the "reasons to stay in Japan" column, by the way: "But I just started the blog up again! I can't leave now!" Idiot.) but I already have another domain name picked out, so we'll see what happens. Watch, as they say, this space.

Posted by chris at 01:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Happy New Year

Happy New Year 2005 / 2006 from Tokyo Tales in, er... London.

I know, I know, I was surprised too. Bit of a sudden surprise trip, no fanfare or anything like that. I'll explain everything later. For now though, as I sit here watching the London Eye fireworks on the telly, I hope you all have a very happy 2006. Bring it on.

Posted by chris at 09:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

What's in a name?

Was clearing out spam from an old e-mail account earlier today and found the following delicious morsel - not the spam e-mail itself, you understand, but the obviously randomly-generated sender's name:

Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2005 1:39 AM
To: Chris
Subject: Cheap software
From: Hildebrand F. Shenanigan
Now *that* is truly awesome. I know what I'm putting the next time I sign in to a hotel.

Posted by chris at 12:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Photo gallery up at Flickr (despite tag woes)

Just a quick post to announce that I've got my Flickr account up and running at last:

Flickr's awesome, obviously, and like everyone else who's using it I'm extremely impressed with it all, blah blah blah... but I must say I'm extremely pissed off with their tagging system. It works okay in general but seems to have huge problems coping with two-word tags. It tells you to "use quotes" for multiple-word tags ("roppongi hills"), but then seems to arbitrarily concatenate the words anyway (roppongihills). It also seems to ignore underscores, so that roppongi_hills also becomes roppongihills.

I wouldn't mind so much if you were then able to search for roppongi hills, but this is patchy at best. I just spent 15 minutes tagging photos "for badge", only to have Flickr tell me that there were no photos thus tagged. My tag cloud told me that I had forbadge instead, so I clicked on that... only to be told that there were no photos tagged forbadge. For f**k's sake.

So I tried renaming them all to forbadge (no spaces), only for that tag to disappear completely from my tag cloud too. Then I tried tagging them all fbadge, at which point suddenly forbadge reappeared in the tag cloud. But no effing fbadge.

Time for me to give up and go to bed, and for you to enjoy the photos, tagged or not.

Posted by chris at 01:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Attack of the Giant Japanese Killer Hornets 2: Revenge of the Bees

Courtesy of National Geographic (and via Boing Boing, again) comes this great piece of wildlife documentary footage, giving an up-close look at the battle between Japanese giant hornets (fearsome scary great pincer-wielding assassin things) and honeybees (cutesy fluffy little wuvs who are totally going to get their arses kicked). Be sure to watch to the end to see the fascinating defense mechanism that the bees have evolved...

Posted by chris at 12:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

Quake? What quake?

Apparently we had a largish earthquake at 4:05 this afternoon... anyone?

I think I was sat in Benugo in Ebisu Garden Place around then, but didn't notice anything wobble. Mind you, I was probably tucking into my sandwich a bit too ravenously. I'm not supposed to eat for two hours before my yoga class, which means breakfast, if it were to happen at all, would have to be before 11:30am - hah! Like I'm going to get out of bed before midday on a Sunday for "breakfast". Hence the first meal of the day at 4pm.

Anyway, let me take this opportunity to tell you about the excellent earthquake page at Tenki (天気) is Japanese for "weather", and while I think you'd be hard-pressed to classify earthquakes as strictly meteorological events, I'm not going to argue with this very groovy little tool.

Use the drop-down menu just above and to the right of the main map image to navigate back through previous earthquakes; they redesigned recently and the new interface is definitely an improvement. The previous version listed not the earthquakes themselves but rather all the earthquake reports... so a single quake could be listed a dozen times as various different reporting stations around the country called in their data. Muy confusing.

Dots on the map represent the severity of the quake according to the Japanese seismic intensity scale, which ranges from 1 (Mild Flatulence) to 7 (Godzilla grabs rucksack of bottled water and Calorie Mate and makes beeline for nearest sturdy doorframe).

This is not to be confused with the Richter Scale, which measures magnitude (マグニチュード in the info table) and not intensity. The difference, if I remember correctly, is that the magnitude of a quake is a measure of the amount of energy released, full stop. So a magnitude 5 quake is a magnitude 5 quake is a magnitude 5 quake, no matter where you measure it from. The Japanese scale (shindo) is a measure of how strongly the quake is felt at the place where the measurement is taken. So a magnitude 5.1 quake (Richter scale) in Ibaraki might be a shindo 4 near the epicenter, a shindo 3 in Tokyo, shindo 2 in Yokohama, but a shindo 0 if you're sitting on a high stool in Ebisu, greedily wolfing down a gourmet sandwich.

By the way, I love the haiku-esque nature of the JMA scale explanations:

5+: In many cases, unreinforced concrete-block walls collapse and tombstones overturn. Many automobiles stop due to difficulty in driving. Occasionally, poorly installed vending machines fall.
The neglected parking meter beeps;
Odaiba slides into Tokyo Bay;
Melancholy tremblor.

Posted by chris at 11:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

Welcome back

Aaaaaaand.... we're back. Miss me? Thought not. It's okay, I don't blame you. I've got some 'splaining to do, so here's what you need to know.

Tokyo Tales is back, after a three-year hiatus. I mothballed the blog in October 2002, as I didn't have time to update it any more. It sat unmolested all that time, with nothing but a simple holding page hinting at an eventual return. This is that return.

You should go and read the September 2005 posts. Although I've announced this relaunch for October 1st 2005, I've actually been going since the beginning of September. The blog has been hidden from the general public all that time, of course, so I've just been talking to myself for the last month, but it's been useful nonetheless. I wanted a bit of a head start, needed a bit of time to get up to speed with Movable Type, which is what I'm using this time around, and, quite frankly, needed to get used to typing daily thoughts into a keyboard again.

All the old posts from the previous incarnation of Tokyo Tales have been imported into this new version. This is, by my reckoning, the fourth version of Tokyo Tales. (In Doctor Who terms, this means we're up to Tom Baker.) The posts from v3.0 have survived the migration, but I haven't re-posted the original e-mails that comprised v1.0 and v2.0. I may go back and plunder these anew in the near future, but we'll see if I can be arsed.

If you want to leave a comment on any of the old posts, feel free. The v3.0 posts (March 2001 to October 2002) didn't have comments enabled when they were created, mainly because I never got around to finding a decent comments system that would work well with Blogger, which is what I was using at the time.

Happily, MT has built-in comments and thus, lo and behold, all the old posts now come with comments. Or rather they don't. But that's where you come in. It might feel odd commenting on something that's at least three years old, but don't worry, I'll hear you. And so will the other (I'm anticipating literally several) readers.

There might be the odd broken link. The oldest posts on here now date from over four years ago, so it's inevitable that some of the pages they point to will have disappeared. In particular I was distraught to note the passing of my beloved Swedish cockatoo scalextric game; I'm afraid that particular parrot has indeed run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible. So if you find a broken external link, feel free to let me know via the comments, but I can't promise I'll be able to fix it. But I will join you in a brief but respectful period of mourning.

Also, this website here is quite a different shape from v3.0; there's no webcam page any more, and I haven't rebuilt the gallery yet, for instance. So if you find a broken link to somewhere that no longer exists inside, then please let me know via the comments and I'll definitely try to patch it up the best I can.


I think that's everything you need to know (might have actually wanted to know is a different matter). If you want to catch up, check the September posts for details of what I've been up to since you last heard from me. If you'd like to get in touch, then please use the blog comments for now (just put "confidential" in the body of the comment if you don't want it made public, and I'll catch it before it goes live). I'll add a dedicated contact form to the About page in the near future, too.

And finally... welcome back.

Posted by chris at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Flash - He'll save every one of us

Just a quick word about the Flash banner that adorns the top of the site. It is the work of the polymathic Brian Smith, a.k.a. hooha corporation. I'd been thinking about using some kind of skyline motif for a while (a long while, actually), should I ever relaunch the site, and the final look and feel was heavily influenced by the Fuji Rock Festival 2004 website (sadly no long visible), which had a gorgeous slow-cycle mountain scene flash banner. Anyway, a big shout to Brian for putting up with my ever-more-niggling requests. I'm really happy with how it worked out.

If for some reason you don't have a Flash-capable browser, or perhaps you JUST DON'T APPRECIATE ALL OF BRIAN'S HARD WORK then you can choose a non-flash version via the right-hand toolbar (look for "disable flash banner") or just subscribe to the RSS feed instead. Personally I like to leave it running in a permanently open browser window, but that may just be proud-father syndrome at work.

The rest of the design of the site is the total sum of conscious and unconscious influences harvested over the last six months or so of intensive web browsing, but I'll happily admit that there are shades of the Gawker Media, Errol Morris and Mid-Tokyo Maps sites in there somewhere. Steal from the best, son. (Though I'd just like to point out that I was using right-hand side navigation, like, four years ago, dahlink.)

It should display fine in most modern browsers, though I'm not going to make any claims as to the validity of the code. I will say this, though - everything looks better in Safaaaaaaaaari.

I'm just saying, that's all.

Posted by chris at 09:31 PM | Permalink

Things I Have Been Doing Since We Last Met #3 - Getting My Yoga On

Er, yes. I don't quite know how it happened, but I started going to yoga classes a few months ago. Yoga's one of those things that I'd always been a little wary of, you know... it always seemed a little new-agey, drum-circley, trendy-cod-spirituality, macrobiotic-diet-zealotty... actually, I'm not sure half of those are even words, so I'll stop there but, well, perhaps you get my drift.

However, it's actually pretty good. I'm not big on the whole spiritual aspect of it, as you might have inferred from the above rant (the rest of the class chants "om", I mumble "umm..."), but as far as an exercise regimen goes it's certainly hitting the spot. I have something of a breakthrough to announce: after just three months of classes, I am now able to touch my toes for the first time in, I estimate, 25 years.

Seriously, I've just never been able to do it until now. It's not like I'm too tubby or anything - quite the opposite, I more closely resemble a particularly dehydrated grasshopper who's been on hunger strike for the last six months - but I'm about as flexible as one of those ice-ace neanderthal corpses they're always chipping out of the Himalayan permafrost.

So, I'm enjoying the yoga. I have my own mat and everything, though obviously I balked at getting one in organic, earthy colours. Luckily Nike do gun-metal grey ones with pseudo-pscientific "biomimetic grip matrix" patterns woven into them, which was suitably pretentious for my future-tech sensibilities. (It'll have to do until Apple bring one out, anyway - an iMat? Nevermind.)

A big shout must go out to Leza, May, Bibi and everyone at Sun & Moon Yoga in Meguro, to whom I dedicate my newly-reachable toes; thanks, guys - my toes are your toes (but much, much hairier).

Posted by chris at 11:07 PM | Permalink

Blogging in 日本語

I'm hoping to be able to post in Japanese occasionally, so this is a test of how Movable Type handles Japanese text: これは「日本語入力」のテストですよ。Tokyo Tales をよくアクセス下さい。

Here is some extended entry text, also in Japanese: こちらもバイリンガル入力のテストです。

Posted by chris at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Warming up

The last couple of days have been spent working on the relaunch of this site; slowly getting back into the vagaries of CSS and gently tweaking Movable Type templates.

I'm very much just feeling my way back into things at the moment; the site isn't due to launch for a week or so yet, so the entire blog is hidden in a password-protected directory for now. Talk about blogging in a bubble.

I've been spending the day marvelling at the lack of cool fonts that Windows 98-based readers users have at their disposal. No Trebuchet MS? You'll just have to make do with Tahoma, I guess.

I am of course dedicated to making sure that this site is compatible with all combinations of browsers, platforms, operating systems and shoe sizes, so I'm definitely not going to have one of those "Best viewed on Internet Explorer at 800x600 pixels and a colour depth of 4,096 with your neck craned slightly to the left and your feet in a bucket of tofu" messages up anywhere. Though I do have to say... everything looks better in Safari.

Posted by chris at 02:46 PM | Permalink

Three years late but moving fast

In last week's episode, Tokyo Tales went on a three-year hiatus. There was much wailing, a little gnashing of teeth, and of course the obligatory misleading holding page.

But now it's time to hum the Buck Rogers theme music and fast-forward to 2005. Tokyo Tales is coming back online. At the moment, the blog is hidden from public view while I get it configured and get the first few posts written. I'll probably take it live at the end of the month, but until then, I'll obviously be speaking to myself. (And boy, is it quiet in here.)

Why the relaunch? Well, I just felt like it. Also I'm hoping it will serve as a bit of an incentive to keep in touch with people a bit more, which is something I fully accept I've become absolutely awful at over the last few years. ごめんなさい。

But, more importantly, Tokyo is still frikkin' awesome. And I think I forget that sometimes. Re-starting the blog is an effort to force myself to take more notice, to do more, and to appreciate it more. And if writing about it all on a semi-regular basis for a patchy audience of a couple of dozen people who stumble across this site by mistake while looking for Tokyo Times is what it takes, then gosh darn it, that's what I'll do.

So, if you're reading this, then it's already October and I did re-launch after all. (Or you've nicked my PowerBook, in which case you can go screw yourself.) Assuming it's the former, welcome back.

Posted by chris at 11:00 AM | Permalink

Let me tell you a quick story

Tokyo Tales was essentially inactive from October 2002 to September 2005. Here's the holding text I had up on the front page of the site during that time.

Once upon a time (well, actually it was about six months ago) there was a man who wanted to take a brief break from his weblog.

So he wrote a couple of cryptic posts that hinted at his decision, and just sort of left the site alone for a while. A few people enquired and were reassured that all was well, that there would be more content soon. The site was not dead; it was, in the parlance so beloved of unemployable actors, merely "resting".

Then a very bad thing happened. The hosting company pulled the plug on the site, apparently without any warning whatsoever. What's more, they put up a site suspended message which hinted that the owner of the site might have been involved in credit card fraud, copyright abuse or even unsolicitated bulk mailing! Imagine his surprise!

Well, you can guess how worried he was. He thought people would see the suspension message (2), remember the cryptic posts (+ 2) and think that he had given up completely (= 5). So he knew he had to sort something out quickly.

The man made some enquiries and found out that it was because his hosting plan had expired. The people at the hosting company claimed that their system had e-mailed him a number of times to request payment, but that he had not responded. The man thought this was odd because he had not received any e-mails whatsoever from the hosting company for at least six months - but the company told him that their system had "definitely e-mailed" him, so he "should have received the e-mails". The man was very impressed by this logic, but also a little perturbed that the hosting company hadn't had the initiative or resources to try contacting him in some other way - such as via his other e-mail addresses. Or by postal mail. Or by telephone. Or by hiring small boys to throw rocks at his windows.

So, faced with the opportunity to sign up for another year with this hosting company who, on reflection, didn't appear to be all that good, the man ran away and joined the circus, where he was much happier. He learnt all kinds of things, such as why lion-tamers use chairs in their act (the lions are confused by the chair's four legs and don't know where to look) and how to walk a tightrope successfully (focus off in the distance and when you feel yourself about to fall, think and stretch upwards, not sideways to counterbalance) and lived happily ever after with his new friends.

No, not really. After all, he had a full-time job to hold down and couldn't really go running off to join the circus every time things got a bit hairy. Instead he signed up with a different hosting company, one with an excellent reputation.

Tokyo Tales will be back very shortly. How's that for a happy ending?

NB For those of you who don't like happy endings, a box arrives by parcel service. It is found to contain the head of Detective Mills's wife. The John Doe character (played by Kevin Spacey) tells Mills (Brad Pitt) and Somerset (Morgan Freeman) that he has done this in order to goad Mills into killing him, thereby enacting the seventh sin (wrath) and validating Doe's commentary (as espoused by the previous six murders) on the wickedness of man - which, despite Somerset's desperate exhortations, he does. Mills is arrested and the film ends.

Posted by chris at 11:12 PM | Permalink

I feel the Earth move under my feet

earthquake.... lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng earthquake...

run or blog... run or blog...


and now... run.


Posted by chris at 01:08 AM | Permalink

obsolescent, adj.

obsolescent adj. becoming obsolete; going out of use or date. obsolescence n.

Posted by chris at 10:21 AM | Permalink

torpor, n.

torpor n. torpidity. torporific adj.

torpid adj. 1 sluggish, inactive, dull, apathetic. 2 numb. 3 (of a hibernating animal) dormant. torpidly adv. torpidness n. torpidity n.

quoted from The Oxford English Reference Dictionary

Posted by chris at 12:40 AM | Permalink

neglect, v. & n.

neglect v. & 1 fail to care for or to do; be remiss about (neglected their duty; neglected his children). 2 (foll. by verbal noun, or to + infin.) fail; overlook or forget the need to (neglected to inform them; neglected telling them). 3 not pay attention to; disregard (neglected the obvious warning). • n. 1 lack of caring; negligence (the house suffered from neglect). 2 a the act of neglecting. b the state of being neglected (the house fell into neglect). 3 (usu. foll. by of) disregard. neglectful adj. neglectfully adv. neglectfulness n.

quoted from The Oxford English Reference Dictionary

Posted by chris at 11:57 PM | Permalink

Five Thai baht a minute

Five Thai baht a minute (about five quid an hour?) is really far too much to be paying for Internet access, no matter how comfy the plush leather chairs, so I'm going to have to find some other way to kill the time between now (11pm) and check-in (4:30am tomorrow). Damn United Airlines.

On the way back from an ultra-short-notice trip to Koh Phangan, Thailand. Had a great time, got a nice mix of a) techno-carnival-firespinning-eurotrash-backpacker-beach-rave action, b) sitting around doing very little, c) snorkeling and d) being forced into improbable contortions by a pro wrestler disguised as a squat middle-aged Thai masseuse. Photos of all but the last on the way.

Posted by chris at 01:17 AM | Permalink


Ah, that's better. Much better. Blogging via cellphone / satellite uplink from a secret location...

Mmm, secret locations...

Posted by chris at 01:48 PM | Permalink

Smashing orangey bits

Oh for heaven's sake. Jaffa Cakes are clearly neither cakes nor biscuits. They are a food group in their own right and ought to be completely exempt from tax along with books and children's clothing. I just hope that local Japanese shopkeepers get into the spirit of things and start stocking them over here... I haven't had any for months.

If I remember correctly, my spies in the UK reported a while back that genetic tinkering had resulted in lemon and lime-flavoured jaffas... these are clearly abominations and must be removed from the face of the planet, preferably one by one. Orally.

And, on that note, a quick shout to the friend of mine (he knows who he is) who once managed to convince an Australian girl we met in a Shinjuku club that his name was in fact "Jaffa", due to a ficticious Arabian mother - despite his thick northern accent and unmistakably caucasian features. Mind you, I hope he won't mind my saying that he definitely has something of the look of a camel about him, in bad light at least.

Posted by chris at 01:55 AM | Permalink

Busy as a one-legged man at an arse-kicking contest

Busy, busy, busy.

How're you?

Posted by chris at 12:35 AM | Permalink

Golden Weak

So it's been Golden Week for the last, er, week. I had, theoretically, ten continuous days off to look forward to. I've been celebrating by going in to the office for the last four days straight, and working up-to-11-hour days. Not... sure... why...

So now it's Friday night, and I have three golden days left. I don't have any grand travel plans - it's far too late for that - but I plan to make the most of not having anything to do for the next 72 hours. Golden Week starts here - seven days late, but moving fast.

(Hmmm... it seems I've been here before...)

Posted by chris at 11:22 PM | Permalink

Thicker than water

I'm no expert, but it strikes me that the main reasons for having a hot shower after going for a run ought to be:

a) to get rid of all the sweat, or
b) to relax and loosen your muscles
but not
c) to wash the dried blood out from under your toenails.


Posted by chris at 01:42 AM | Permalink

Navel Academy

Oh *there* it is - I was looking for that.

The will to blog. Found it down the back of the sofa. I was afraid I might have outright lost it rather than just misplaced it, so that's a relief.

The last couple of weeks have been rather introspective... there have been some major developments at work which have left me if not depressed then certainly at least perturbed; add to that a couple of bouts of sickness and, I shouldn't wonder, a dose of bad Feng Shui, and the net result is rather more time spent gazing at my navel than usual. I mean, it's a nice navel, sure, possibly rather more hairy than it really needs to be, yes, but it does its job well enough - all the same, I'd rather not be staring at it 24 hours a day. That's what the PlayStation2 is for, after all.

So anyway. Every time I've found something worth blogging over the last couple of weeks, I've invariably gone "ooh, that would be a good thing to... nah. Let's have another go with this navel."

So this is not a relaunch - because I'm too lazy to redesign and people keep telling me they like the colours. It's more of a reassessment. I've been trying to identify what bits of the blog work well (that these bits should even exist may come as a bit of a shock to some of you, I'm sure) and what bits don't work so well. More of the former, less of the latter; more stuff I'm actually interested in, fewer fillers on slow news days. In short, more good Japan-related stuff and fewer teenage russian lesbians.

What about you, then?

Posted by chris at 11:42 AM | Permalink

Happy blogday to me

Oh - and part of me is 1 year old today.

No, not the bald spot. Grrrr.

Posted by chris at 12:55 AM | Permalink

Gold, eh?

Well, I finally accepted that I wasn't going to find anyone who'd taped the Olympic men's hockey final. So I pulled my head out of the self-imposed sand (and let me tell you, imposing sand upon yourself is pretty dashed difficult in this wired day and age) and exposed myself to the result, fearing the worst... only to find myself whooping out loud and, I dare say, pumping my fist emphatically in the air a couple of times. I hate sports bars but... even so... man, I wish I'd been in Montreal for that one.

It was also good to see a Brit finish in the medals in the slalom, of all things - I definitely didn't see that one coming. I suppose that's got to be the best result since way before even the Bell Brothers in the 80's, whose training regimen I seem to remember involved crouching on car roofs and being driven across disused airfields at high speeds, which to my mind should really have been a sport in its own right.

So GBR finished 18th, then, ahead of such luminaries as the Czech Republic, Sweden and even... Japan. The Japanese media have been pretty scathing about their athlete's performances after the glory of the Nagano Games four years ago, but I think some kind of reality check was inevitable after such a great performance last time, what with the home advantage and so on. It occurs to me that in order to climb up the medals table and compete with the Estonias and Hollands of this world (yes, that's right, the Netherlands, famous for their harsh winters and mountainous environs) we need to specialize in a single sport. All we need is curling made a compulsory part of the National Curriculum and we could be better than, ooh, Spain within a decade or so.

Posted by chris at 11:12 PM | Permalink

How do you eat yours?

I think I may have said this before, but one of the best things about doing web design jobs for friends is that you can neatly avoid any embarrassing discussions over payment by simply having them mail you chocolate every now and then. And on that note, a huge thanks to George for the Drifters and Cadbury's Creme Eggs. Mmmmm.

Posted by chris at 10:58 PM | Permalink

gung-ho godzilla groupie

New left-hand sidebar - decided it was about time I got around to rotating it again. Also I really ought to update the reading list... and the browsing... and the clubbing... oh, the whole damn sidebar, really.

The problem is that I've recently discovered the joys of PHP in concert with MySQL, and I theenk I'll probably be re-doing the entire site to take advantage of this in the near future. So, stuck between two horses at the moment. It hasn't really taken me that long to not finish How to Be Good, I swear.

Posted by chris at 09:46 PM | Permalink

Dem bones

And while we're on the subject of Olympic disciplines, I was heartened to see that the official title of the men's skeleton event, at least according to the results graphics at the bottom of my TV screen during the various heats, was not "Men's Skeleton" but in fact the much more excellent "Skeleton Men".

Anybody else want to join me in lobbying the IOC to get "Attack of the" added to the front of that in time for the Turin 2006 games?

(And I should at least thank the IOC for reminding me, indirectly, about this excellent Onion story, too.)

Posted by chris at 03:04 PM | Permalink

We can dance if we want to; We can leave your friends behind

Figure skating... I know that it refers to the fact that the music is the same for all competitors, and that they have to perform a predetermined sequence of moves, but even so... "Compulsory Dance" always struck me as an odd name for a sporting event. When the Athens 2004 games come round, I'll be looking out for the Generally Ambivalent Synchronized Swimming Duets and the Oh-it's-alright-you-don't-really-have-to-if-you-don't-feel-like-it Mixed Doubles Badminton.

Posted by chris at 11:47 PM | Permalink

Search function

In a moment of selflessness I added a search function to the site over the weekend, so now you can dredge my dross much more efficiently. Happy hunting. Japlish update coming as soon as I have half an hour to edit the reams of worthy entries from my pda...

Posted by chris at 04:30 PM | Permalink

Fridge update

Fridge contents updated - I now have only one out-of-date carton of OJ sitting there... must get around to throwing it away. You might have thought it would be just as easy to open the fridge, pick up said carton, empty it down the sink and then chuck it away as it would be to open the fridge, inspect the use-by-date on the packaging, make a note of it and then publish the information to, say, a personal Web site - but it never quite seems to work that way. Not sure why. Just goes to show how convenient Blogger is, I suppose.

Also just wanted to point out the superb Pocari Sweat sites I came across as I was looking for an appropriate, context-furnishing, background information link (for those of you who were under the assumption that it was a Chinese herbal remedy wrung from some kind of creature called a pocari). It's a sports drink, and it's nice that the manufacturers saw fit to set up this site, but I think their telling us how much moisture our bodies lose each day through, uh, excrement, was perhaps a little too much information.

Posted by chris at 03:51 PM | Permalink


Back from New York, yes; possessed of spare time in which to sit down, edit photos and compose a lengthy blog post about the whole thing, no. In the meantime, you could have a look at what I was doing on Christmas Day. Back soon, I shouldn't wonder.

Posted by chris at 01:16 AM | Permalink

Bad journalism alert

Bad journalism alert: New York Times blames comics for Japan's low literacy rate - what? 99% is low? Exqueeze me? Be sure to read down to the last paragraph and see what the American rate is.

Posted by chris at 07:52 AM | Permalink

That'll do nicely, sir

Oh yes, one last thing - if trying to leave the country for a ten-day holiday during which you will be relying heavily on your credit card for day-to-day expenditure, I can heartily recommend not realising at 4am the day you are due to fly that you have lost said card.

If, however, you're going to insist on such a course of action, you could probably do worse than realise you have left the offending card at a 24-hour karaoke establishment in Shibuya. At least that way you'll be able to cycle 25 minutes (each way) through the freezing cold pre-dawn streets of Tokyo to retrieve the bastard at 5am.


Posted by chris at 11:17 PM | Permalink

I guess I should just

I guess I should just clarify the festive season hiatus currently being suffered by this blog. Having been given a taste of "real" life by yours truly, Chris has decided to continue to prefer it to the solipsistic pursuit of blogging. In short, Chris has gone to America for New Year, no doubt to be very, very naughty. Also, he expressed a desire to see in the New Year amongst people for whom "Auld Lang Syne" does not excite a primal instinct to go to the nearest checkout and leave. It is curious, though, that he's never spent New Year's Eve in his adopted nation - this year, however, he was there for Christmas Day. I wonder what it was like...

Posted by dan at 10:06 PM | Permalink

I could have done with

I could have done with a rangefinding stapler last night, certainly. In a pub in Northwood, Middlesex (average house price - GBP200K, typical indigenous resident - pretentious middle income with unruly kids) I was watching my local football team being eviscerated in the Cup quarter final. As the second (or was it third?) goal rifled in, a random woman, ugly almost to deformity I might add, pointed at me and started laughing. I proceeded to do something you never actually expect yourself to do (right up there with carrying on running after you go over the edge of a cliff a la Wile-E-Coyote, or winking at an imaginary camera/audience) - I looked behind me, over my left shoulder, in a really exaggerated fashion.

Discovering that there really wasn't anyone else there, I inaugurated a polite dialogue with the female (species undetermined), calling into question her powers of identification and suggesting a more appropriate course of action. That is, I said "Who the f*** do you think I am? You don't know me. F*** off." At which point her "boy"friend (quite extraordinary that two of these semi-sentient lifeforms should somehow have dredged up the initiative to discover each other. God forbid they procreate and produce a whole litter of abominations sharing their genes, although like as not nature would ensure the majority of these malformed abhorrences do not survive their infancy) starts asking me whether I want him to come over to where I am. As I felt unprepared for an even closer look at him, and even less inclined to take in the halitosis and BO that no doubt accompanied his cosmetic unpleasantness, I strenuously endeavoured to decline his invitation.

So in the end, I didn't get in a fight. If I'd had a Muji stapler, however, I could have taken all comers. The relevance of all this gibberish is quite simply - that although I'm an aggro little sod much of the time I didn't encounter any "trouble" the entire time I was in Japan. None. God knows I put myself in the way of a couple of potential serious beatings (not least karaokeing Bohemian Rhapsody and Candle in the Wind in a Kyushu bar full of drunken salarymen and youths only trying to enjoy themselves, pestering yakuza while they were collecting the rackets from a pachinko parlour, openly and brazenly eating in the street etc) but never was there the sniff of a ruck. Nor, indeed, was I fleeced, conned, pickpocketed, attacked, knifed, lightened, raped, stabbed, racketeered, mugged or buggered at any point during my time in fair Nippon, despite spending a good portion of it wandering around it slack jawed and aimless, like an asylum escapee. No language skills, plenty of ready cash and saleable documents, all my worldly goods in an easily made-off-with container, identification almost certainly limited to "one of those yellow chappies". I may as well have been adorned with Perfect Prospective Victim in nine foot tall flashing lights - though in itself that might make the most hardened criminal just a trifle suspicious, I suppose.

So. No crime. No fighting. No trouble. I don't know how Chris can stand it.

Posted by dan at 12:21 AM | Permalink

Alternatively, there is the possibility

Alternatively, there is the possibility that the shop is only open during the full moon.

Another nice, relevant piece from The Onion this week. Reminds me of the Design Festa for some reason - an event Chris has been itching to blog about for a while now.

Posted by dan at 10:11 PM | Permalink

Crispy Edgy

Whoo! A new phoning-Pizza-Hut record: 44 seconds. I've been able to conduct the entire pizza-ordering conversation in just less than 55 seconds without a problem for a while now, but this evening marks a huge leap forward. The guy on the other end of the phone and I were both lightning-fast with our rubric tonight, throwing the arigatou gozaimasses, shitsureiitashimasses and kurisupii edjiis back and forth in perfect synchronization, a veritable whirlwind of aizuchi. Of course, it helps that, after a year and a bit of crispy edge medium size deluxe action, we both know exactly what the other person is going to say next, but that's half the fun.

There's a timer on my phone, y'see - it's not like I'm standing there with a menu in one hand and a stopwatch in the other or anything. Although just in case I ever feel the need to measure it to the nearest hundredth of a second, I'm not ruling anything out.

Posted by chris at 07:55 PM | Permalink

Letting me post on this

Letting me post on this blog was a little like Chris giving me the keys to his flat (which he also did). Though now back in England there are loads of pertinent observations that I just darn well didn't make yet, so I guess I'll be hanging around a little longer - whether y'all like it or not. Rather like a bad smell. In any case, my suspicion that blogs only exist as a rather pitiful replacement for a real life rather than the documenting of one have been confirmed by the sporadic nature of Tokyo Tales of late (from the "how to offend everyone on the Internet at once" manual, p.92).

I think it's my duty to point out that, after a rough calculation, I deduced that Chris's average sleep hours per night while I was there came out at around four and a half, including a couple of real corkers like 45 minutes the night before his Level 2 Kanji Exam and two consecutive nights of 2 hour sleeps. They say Sleep is the Thief of Time, but in Chris's case, it seems Sleep's been caught in the act and sent down. No wonder he always seems to blog at the absurdest of times.

Posted by dan at 03:46 AM | Permalink

Dear departed houseguests

Right, yes, sorry, I'm back now. In fact, I never left - I've just been neglecting the blog for a few days. If you noticed, then, well, "sorry", whatever. If not, forget I said anything.

Anyway, Dan came back safe and sound from his travels around south-eastern Japan, loaded down with tales of derring-do, sacred islands, yet more big buddhas and all kinds of other stuff that I'd better let him try to explain - as soon as he a) touches down (should be somwhere over western Siberia as I type this) and b) recovers from his jet lag.

Meanwhile, it's suddenly become cold enough to ice up my stubble if I cycle fast enough. December's here (I'm *sure* that can't be right - didn't we just have one of those? Back me up, someone? Someone?) and I'm reminded of why I like Japanese winters so much - the beautiful cloudless blue skies, the weak but warming sunlight, and the lure of the snowboard resorts only an hour away by shinkansen. Hee hee hee. 'Tis the season to be throwing oneself down a mountain with an ironing board strapped to one's feet, fa la la la laaa, etc.

So much to do. I'll start right away.

Posted by chris at 08:38 PM | Permalink

Radio silence

Still no word from Dan... my houseguest has headed off south for a few days, armed with a few choice Japanese phrases and a rough itinerary scribbled drunkenly on the back of a flyer for a kabukicho "gentleman's club".

I'm sure he'll be fine...

Posted by chris at 01:12 AM | Permalink

Chris's music collection is, in

Chris's music collection is, in general, very good. Some of it is less good, however, which suits me fine, because my music taste is pretty horrific anyway. He has, for instance, helped me rediscover the magic of Jane Wiedlin. At present I'm listening to Alanis Morissette.

I wonder about her. I don't know anything about her, or really want to, but my half-understood impression of her story really contains the seeds of any number of interesting potentialities. Transition from parentally overdriven under achiever cum incredibly unhappy chewed up and spat out reject of the one stop judgement shop that is American high school for most people as ugly as she is to grillion-grossing-gross-grillionaire - now THAT'S ironic.

None of which affects the serious business of mishearing lyrics. It's not fair, to remind me, of the cross-eyed bear that you gave to me (You Oughta Know). A quick check with the often mediocre and made up but occasionally scream with laughter, fall on floor crying, need to be taken away database reveals me not to be alone. Quick tip - the stories section is generally much better than the flat lyrics database.

Posted by dan at 04:24 PM | Permalink

Even better still, If I

Even better still, If I was a work of art, I would be Heironymous Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights.

I am decadent and depraved. I have an eye for small details and love to fit in as much hedonistic pleasure as possible in everything I do. I buck authority and am not afraid to make a statement outside approved channels.

Which work of art would you be? The Art Test

Posted by dan at 03:35 PM | Permalink

Chris, sadly, has forced me

Chris, sadly, has forced me to confess that if I was a James Bond villain, I would be Max Zorin.

I enjoy horse racing, pretending to be sane, and setting off cataclysmic earthquakes.

I am played by Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill.

Who would you be? James Bond Villain Personality Test.

Better far than the disease test, which had me as gonorrhea, even though I made it clear that I was not sexually transmitted.

Posted by dan at 03:02 PM | Permalink

I suspect there may be

I suspect there may be some secret sport in Japan, perhaps a relic from the old samurai days, involving extensive throwing of very sharp things. Rather like the traditional Northern English pastime of catch the bottle. I say this on account of the extremely high number of people (maybe one in a thousand?) whom I've seen wandering around Tokyo wearing a gauze eyepatch, secured with medical tape.

Last week, Chris made me watch Fight Club (recommended), so perhaps this is influencing my perceptions somehow.

Yet this phenomenon is as nothing compared to the indigenous practice of wearing a cotton face mask in public when suffering from orally transmissable infections - a cold, cough, tuberculosis, pneumonic cholera etc. Very laudable from a public health point of view, but it is rather unnerving to sit between two of these masked murderers, sorry passengers, on a train, and to have them both turn to you making laboured breathing noises.

I wouldn't be surprised to hear that both these cultural tendencies - eye patches and face masks - were fashion trends sparked deliberately and specifically to counteract the growing recession in the pivotal Japanese cotton gauze industry, and its affiliated corporate partners.

Posted by dan at 01:30 PM | Permalink

That would be more true

That would be more true if I hadn't already eaten all the chicken pies. (Cue song). No doubt my innate self-preservation instincts are better than most - I was well prepared for being buried in rubble for six days, waiting for rescue. Continuing the theme of my trip to Japan / entire life, I was in the toilet when all the fun started, thought it is difficult to "miss" an earthquake. Perhaps the weirdest thing about it for me was how weird it didn't seem. Oh, the entire building, usually something entirely fixed and solid, seems to be swaying quite pronouncedly from side to side. Oh, look, the loo roll has fallen on the floor and is rolling around. Wheee!

Turns out the earthquake did do some damage after all - it made the milk curdle in *very* unusual ways (picture to follow... patience, patience).

Posted by dan at 12:33 PM | Permalink


It's a real pity the acronym SAE has already been taken by those selfish postal guys, as it's perfect for describing the default conversation mode of the young Japanese female. SAE - Single Adjective Exclamation. Actually, it's a very pure method of communication. Involving either pointing or waving-hands-palms-forward-by-the-face-elbows-fully-bent, the staple SAE is "Kawaii!" (Cute!), followed closely by "Kirayi!" (Beautiful) and "Sugoi!" (Awesome!); however, normal as these are, they are only the tip of the iceberg, as the SAE can extend as far afield as Big!, Frightening!, Blue!, Painful! and no doubt every other short adjective in the language.

How awful it must be. Confronted with a gigantic and majestic ancient religious artifact, or a breathtaking panoramic sea vista, thousands of conflicting emotions must well up and vie with each other, until finally, confused, tumultuous but utterly stimulated and excited, you've just got to say something... Kirayi! No... that's not enough... wait... Kirayi kirayi!!! (copyright random girls looking at Rainbow Bridge and Tokyo by night 2001)

Posted by dan at 01:42 PM | Permalink

Strolling back to the flat

Strolling back to the flat today, I saw a man (at work) in a suit standing behind a desk. So what? He was in a car mechanics' workshop. In a suit. Unbelievable. I don't fancy his dry-cleaning bill.

Posted by dan at 06:08 PM | Permalink

For those of you who

For those of you who only know Chris by his web presence, it is my duty to inform you that he is as witty in the flesh as he is in print. Strolling through Kabukicho, we were accosted, not unusually, by a dirty old man. "You want Japanese sex?" he cried. Quick as you like, Chris replied "With you? No thanks." at which point his cronies all start falling about laughing. Witty, yes, although I must say I was half expecting a yakuza shuriken to burst out of the front of my chest as I wandered away, chuckling.

Posted by dan at 03:41 PM | Permalink

After the Cavern Club, we

After the Cavern Club, we went on to a nooomeeeejaaaaa bar, where we met a great bloke called Terry. I'm sure Chris will tell you all about him.

I came to Tokyo for a multi-cultural experience, but as yet I have very little experience of anything other than its bars, pubs, clubs, restaurants and supermarkets. This is a terrible thing, and all Chris's fault. Left to my own devices, I am an abstemious person, as innocent as a baby and jaw-droppingly naive. In this club the other night, some folks we met asked us if we wanted anything. This is not the naive part, as I knew what this meant (actually, the Tokyo bartenders keep asking if we want "something" - one chap made a complete mockery of the term "euphemism" - "Here's your tequila sunrise. Can I get you anything else, something more, something a bit different, something a bit stronger, perhaps, you look like you'd like some, if you ever need something I'm your man, oh yes, just say the word... (cont. p. 94)")

In any case, we politely declined (natch. Apart from the obvious moral wrongness of such extra-curricular activity, the words "arrested and deported" just aren't really me, you know?) Nevertheless, Chris observed pointedly, they almost certainly were on something. In no more than the time it takes for a swathe of brain cells to wither and die, however, for some bizarre reason the possibility that they were all high as kites had taken its leave of me, and I proceeded to come across as a person almost literally born yesterday.

"Drink? What'll you have?" " I don't like to mix" "Okaay... so what did you have first?" "Pardon?" "To drink?" "What? Oh. *Sigh* Rum and coke then"

"That ___, she wasn't really dancing at all at the beginning, but she's really getting into it now, isn't she?"

"Chris, man, is that ___ a bit of a psycho? She keeps grinning and gurning at me like she's deranged, like she's going to murder me or something."

"Wow, I'm knackered. You've been on the dancefloor twice as long as me - you must be whacked."

Stupidly pure? Or purely stupid?

Posted by dan at 05:33 PM | Permalink

That certainly was a good

That certainly was a good thing for all the little Japanese boys, anyway. The bar Chris refers to, however, was no ordinary "bar". Oh no. Rub, rub me do; She's got a chick-eh to lie; See - how - dey - lun! All are available at the Cavern Club, Roppongi, courtesy of Wishing, a five-man Beatles tribute band with a keyboardist and a drummer who, in tribute to Ringo (Lingo?), has no doubt deliberately not learned how to play. On learning we were English, our Japanese tablemates started in on us. "Are you from Liverpool???" "No." "Have you been to Beatles museums?" "No." "I am chief sub-vice President of Japanese Beatles Fan Club, South-East Tokyo Division. Are you Beatles fan?" "Er...yes?" That piece of quick-thinking dishonesty at least meant we got out alive - after the karaoke "Imagine", of course.

Posted by dan at 03:26 PM | Permalink

At university, there was an

At university, there was an ongoing game we used to play. The sole objective was to get ourselves into as many Japanese tourists' photographs as possible - in the background normally, but sometimes the opportunity arose to crash the photo altogether. Ludicrous poses ("Thinker" a favourite, or deeply studying a book) were non-mandatory but preferable. Suffice to say, I've shot into the lead.

Posted by dan at 02:20 PM | Permalink

There is an advert around

There is an advert around the place for some PC game with the entirely humourless strapline "Typing the Psychogun". So when we caught an arcade game called "Typing of the Dead" out of the corner of our eyes, this evening, we thought little of it. Typical Japlish? Not so. This is the new incarnation of "House of the Dead" (a standard shoot-the-ghouls arcade game) - except that where the guns should be, forlornly rest two very plain and dirty keyboards. Intrigued, we played. Up jump the undead. Rrrargh! Each wearing... a word. A Japanese word, in English script. KAZANA-SEIKOJI might trip off the fingers of a Japanese copy-typist, but not mine. In any case, you type it, they die (again). Crazy, sure, but a bit too much like early learning spelling games to be fun... but wait! The cut-scene hoves into view. Your characters lean and crouch over a grateful rescued civilian, in typical cool and besuited fashion. Instead of wielding guns, however, they carry firm slung perpendicular keyboards, Stephen-Hawking-stylee, along with Ghostbusters-like backpacks for good measure.

Your turn beckons. POSAJIMURUI!. Hahahaha.

Posted by dan at 03:18 AM | Permalink

At least 2000 words

I sincerely doubt that I'll be any good at this blogging business. In general, I'm kinda long-winded. Keats could see a falling leaf, and suddenly rush off to write a sensational fourteener. I see a falling leaf and can't contain myself for at least 2000 words. Same inspiration, different sorts of execution. (If you ask me, it was all that rubbish prose Keats kept bottled up inside him that killed him so young. It's all very well distilling brilliance out of your incoherent gibberish thoughts, but if all you ultimately produce is the pure essence where does all the rubbish go? Answer - nowhere. It lies around inside you, clogging your arteries like a caramel quiche buttie).

So it's decided. It's healthy to blog. Soon, my longer contributions to the field of English literature will appear in the "tales" section of this site, for everyone to freely ignore. This area will be reserved for shorter, more gnomic utterances, hopefully enigmatic and curt enough to conceal the arrant imbecility that will have spawned them. Here's one now.

Japan seems a lot like what America would be like now if rock and roll (and by extension, to be socially narrow-minded, the attitudinal rock revolution) had never happened - or, more precisely, if it had happened, just to someone else a long way away and in a completely incomprehensible language. Unfortunately, now I have thought this, my experiences around the place feel rather silly, a bit like finding yourself in one of those deeply implausible alternate-future novels or movies where the Nazis won WW2 or some such nonsense.

Posted by dan at 03:05 PM | Permalink

As I write, my host

As I write, my host is watching the late night Japanese TV he blogs about so often - all talentless talent shows, elaborate adverts involving people with animal body parts and bad cartoons. "You've been here a week, drinking my sake and sleeping on my cold, hard, inhospitable floor", he says. "You haven't tidied the flat; at least have the common courtesy to fulfil your other promise and post on the blog." Hello. My name is Daniel. I'm a reader of Tokyo Tales just like you. (That's not too presumptuous is it? We only just met, after all). I won the Tokyo Tales competition several months ago and now I've used the free plane ticket Chris provided. I've come to provide this blog with the one thing it has so desperately needed. Perspective. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.

Posted by dan at 01:59 AM | Permalink

Daniel is travelling tonight on a plane

Well bugger that for a game involving little green plastic figurines frozen into about-to-throw-a-grenade postures. Blogger's invite function ain't working, so you are denied the pleasure of my houseguest's trenchant observations on the marvel of modern Tokyo.

Time to explain what the hell's going on. Daniel, an old buddy from school (since I was... 13?) is staying on my floor for a little while... a month, actually. He has the luxury of being able to work from home... i.e., my home. We were hoping, oh yes, hoping that I'd be able to invite him onto the Tokyo Tales blog... but sadly not. Damn thing appears to be bust. I'll try and knock up a parallel blog page for him at some point over the next couple of days... hang on for much dual-blog, twin-cam action.

Right now, though, we have to get the hell out of the flat and restore our circadian rhythms. Remind me to tell you about our fortuitous discovery last night... I said, our FOURtuitous discovery... and when you find out just how weak that pun was, you'll hate me for it.

Posted by chris at 02:52 PM | Permalink


The Japanese for "Belgium" is berugi - pronounced "belgy" with a hard "g". Belgybelgybelgy.

I think I must be bored. Must stop watching late-night teach-yourself-Japanese TV programs.

Posted by chris at 12:45 AM | Permalink

Japanese Language Thumb-twiddling Proficiency Test

Oh, cool - sort of. My test card for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test arrived today; I'm taking the Level 2 at Risshou University in Gotanda on December 2nd. It looks like the same deal as always - ridiculous lengthy gaps between rounds. 50 minutes of kanji and vocab, then a maddening two hour break, then an hour of listening comprehension followed by another hour's break, followed by about an hour and a half of reading comprehension; I'd rather just get the damn thing over with.

At least this time I live quite near the test site; no more hour-and-a-half slog in each direction. I have fond memories of the journey down from Omiya to do the Level 4 a couple of years ago... hung so far over I could practically see Australia, stopping every twenty minutes to find the nearest restroom, fighting the urge to regurgitate the previous night's ramen and praying that I wouldn't fall asleep during the listening section. Mind you, I passed that one pretty convincingly (80% overall, 91% on the kanji) so perhaps I ought to try something similar this year. My houseguest (though shoeboxguest would be more fitting - almost liderally, mate) will be around at the time, though, and he's proved himself to be a more-than-capable partner in crime over the years, so we'll see how things pan out.

Meanwhile, back to the grindystone. Have a play with this (via lukelog) while you're waiting.

Posted by chris at 11:38 PM | Permalink


Too tired to blog much recently... much work, much Japanese study. Not much sleep and not many interesting internet tidbits that you haven't probably already seen = dearth of posting.

Big news is on the way, though. It's going to be houseguest time again soon here at Tokyo Tales Towers, but with a difference. I'm looking forward to it, but I'll tell you why later. I realise that I'm not being deliberately mysterious so much as regrettably vague... patience, Luke.

Posted by chris at 01:18 PM | Permalink

If you should see your mom this weekend...

Now, of course, bootlegging live gigs onto MD is naughty and quite possibly illegal. But, hypothetically, if I were sitting here listening to a recording of Orbital playing at this summer's Fuji Rock Festival, I would probably be nodding along to Chime with a fond smile on my face. Call it a hunch.

Posted by chris at 01:02 PM | Permalink

Note to self

Note to self regarding possible future leisuretime project: learn to count cards.

Posted by chris at 01:14 AM | Permalink

Is roachophobia even a word?

My overriding fear of cockroaches manifested itself in a rather strange way last night... I had a dream where I owned a lizard. Seriously. I had a pet lizard in my flat, and I watched, gleefully, as he hunted down and ate two cockroaches. I attribute this to someone telling me a few months ago that, when they lived in Florida, they found that keeping a pet lizard was the best sure-fire, hassle-free way of dealing with the little buggers.

The only problem is... I don't much like lizards either. Oh well.

(I would just like to point out that I haven't actually seen any roaches in my flat since July. I have no infestation; it's merely an irrational fear that I *might* have roaches somewhere behind the skirting board. Just leave me to it - I'll be fine. Really. <scuttle> What was that? Shit. Phobias - you gotta love 'em.)

Posted by chris at 12:06 AM | Permalink


There is one specific resident of New York I would like to "decentralize" over to, say, Tokyo on a more permanent basis, but that's another story.

Posted by chris at 12:15 PM | Permalink

Worried noises

I always get nervous when I see members of the personnel department measuring things. They sidle into my corner of the office armed with a long tape, make worried noises, measure a patch of wall, make more worried noises, and leave without any attempt to explain what's going on. We can't be moving again, can we?

Posted by chris at 10:45 AM | Permalink

A dab at life

I really ought to get around to updating the Japlish section of the site... The neglected state of the page certainly isn't for want of material; it's more to do with my being a lazy tyke. I have a palm pilot memo practically bursting with great little tidbits like "relaxing in the nature / having a fine time with friends / you must be a dab at life" and "THINK POTATO" but it's a case of the mind being willing, the flesh being weak, and late-night TV being terrifyingly watchable after a day spent bathed in the glow of my office PC.

Posted by chris at 09:02 PM | Permalink


Oh, man - so *this* is what a hangover feels like... *now* I remember. Gak.

Posted by chris at 12:48 PM | Permalink

6am shambles

6am, freshly returned from Blue in Minami Aoyama, on the occasion of Richard and Minako's wedding party. Smashed. Absolutely trolleyed. I have a Japanese lesson tomorrow, too, at 2pm, and I know even now that I'm not going to be up to it. But then again, I got plenty of nihongo practice in tonight at the bar, so I guess I've made up for it already. Sort of. Ach. Drunk and tired = bed.

Excellent evening, though. Vague memories of meeting a girl called Kate who works for Disney here in Tokyo, enforcing the global company's standards onto the Japanese operation - she described herself as part of "the Mickey Police", which I fear speaks volumes for Disney's corporate ethic.

Bleaugh, caught myself using the word "ethic" in the singular form - I *must* be pissed.

Posted by chris at 06:11 AM | Permalink

Keep shovelling

Phew - e-mail mountain reduced to 222 messages (59 unread). Nearly there now.

Posted by chris at 04:55 PM | Permalink

Postcard from Faizabad

Postcard from Faizabad, courtesy of The Economist Cities Guide.

Posted by chris at 11:24 AM | Permalink


breeeeeeeathe.... breeeeeathe.... calm, calm, calm....

Got in to the office this morning, turned on PC, tapped in network password, hit enter key, nearly fell over with shock.

A freaking cockroach, dead on his back, collapsed on my keyboard between the F12 and the PrintScreen key. Only a little one, mind, about 15mm long, and clearly very dead indeed, but still. AAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRGGGHHHHH!

Had a (laughing - the bastard) colleague scoop it up and throw it away - I can't even touch the damn things through tissues. And yes, I can laugh at myself about it, and it's ridiculous really, a grown man of 26 (oops - nearly typed 25 there) vs a dead 15mm insect - but that's the bloody point. That's what a phobia *is*, for god's sake. And I'd rather be petrified of something tangible like roaches than suffer from, for example, keraunothnetaphobia (fear of the fall of man-made objects).

Fear of the fall of man-made cockroaches... let's not even go there, please.

Posted by chris at 11:38 AM | Permalink


Troubleshooting colleagues' Excel skillset deficiencies: not at all sexy.

Troubleshooting colleagues' Excel skillset deficiencies in Japanese: mildly sexy.

Posted by chris at 06:00 PM | Permalink

Dime bar?

I got home a few days ago to find a post office non-delivery slip waiting for me, telling me that there was a parcel from a "G. BENNGY" waiting for me at the Takadanobaba depot. It didn't take much for me to work out who it was from, but the thought of some Japanese postal worker getting BENNGY from BENNET made me chuckle anyway. The parcel turned out to be emergency birthday British chocolate supplies from George - Drifters, Boosts and Dime bars. (Dime bar? Dime? Bar? I can't be the only person who remembers those ads, surely?) Yum. The fridge sidebar has been duly updated - domo domo, Benngy-san...

Posted by chris at 11:00 AM | Permalink

Outlook Not-so-express

A quick tour of my various Outlook Express identities and inboxes yields the following unpleasant metaphorical realisation: I am standing in the middle of a room, surrounded on all sides by a pile of 576 e-mails (215 unread) armed with a filing cabinet, shovel, fountain pen and incinerator. (Just a normal incinerator. Not a fountain incinerator. That would be silly... but also rather useful... hmm...)

I'd like to come up with something witty and apposite to describe my sense of dread, but I think a simple "Oh, shit" is going to have to suffice.

And I haven't even thought about checking my web mail accounts yet.

Oh, shit.

Posted by chris at 08:19 PM | Permalink

Back from Kyoto

Back from Kyoto, blissed out and just in time for the Tokyo weather to brighten up for the weekend. Kyoto was ace, better than I remember it being last time, though there are a couple of particularly obvious reasons why that might be. (The company, for one.) I'll fill in the gaps later.

So, I'm still alive, my visitor's still alive and being held hostage; it's been a great week for exploring the Stockholm Syndrome. Big thanks to everyone who posted greetings of the birthday variety, arigatou gozaimashita and I'll be in touch with you all soon. Priorities elsewhere at the moment, unsurprisingly.

Okay, the sun is shining and it's a beautiful lounge-in-the-park kind of day. Heh: a song which I think might be Mr E's Beautiful Blues by the Eels has just come on my playlist, which I'm going to take as a positive omen - goddamn right it's a beautiful day...

Posted by chris at 12:33 PM | Permalink


Oh, yeah - and it's my birthday tomorrow. I know it's the kind of thing you're meant to make sneaky references to in your blog for weeks and weeks beforehand, touting your Amazon wishlist (mentioning no names), but... er... not my style, in as much as I even *have* a style.

Besides, don't do wishlists.

Posted by chris at 12:01 PM | Permalink

Brad? Who's Brad?

Do I know anyone called Brad in Shimo-Kitazawa? No? Why do I have a crumpled piece of paper bearing those words and a mobile phone number among my latest piles of discarded wallet lint?

*no* recollection.

Posted by chris at 02:53 AM | Permalink

I've fallen and I can't be bothered to get up

heh - no, I haven't fallen off my chair; that's me being subsumed by the huge sentient pile of laundry next to my desk.

Posted by chris at 11:55 PM | Permalink


Hmmm. I had something which felt like it belonged in a Haruki Murakami novel happen to me last night... I tried shrugging the weird feeling off, but it's lingering despite my best efforts. It's nothing major, just utterly perplexing.

I took the bike out for a ride last night, just up the road to my local ramen joint. I decided to take the long way back... a heck of a long way, actually - detoured down through the skyscraper district of West Shinjuku and then further south into Yoyogi. I was just exploring, really, threading through traffic and veering off down side streets, building up my mental map of the area at a far faster rate than walking allows. Nothing out of the ordinary, just cycling along, minding my own business, not cutting anyone up, sticking mainly to the streets, only pavementing when absolutely necessary, front and rear lights switched on, not going too fast.

On one stretch of pavement, I squeezed between two pedestrians, an office lady on the left and a salariman in a dark suit (surprise) on the right. It didn't take much squeezing, actually - they weren't in a pair or anything, one was moving faster than the other and there was enough space to get through without my giving it much thought. Sure, it might be a little unnerving to have a cyclist suddenly appear past your left elbow, but that's about it - I wasn't even going at much more than a brisk walking pace myself. I passed them and thought nothing of it - until about twenty seconds later.

I heard something behind me, so glanced back over my shoulder... to see a guy in a dark suit, running along about ten meters behind me. Probably running for a train - we were both heading toward Yoyogi Station, after all. I looked forward again, but something was already nagging at me. There was something odd about the way he had been running... so I glanced back again and, sure enough, he wasn't just running for a train, he was running for his *life* - absolutely full steam, legs pounding, arms pumping, literally sprinting... but that wasn't even the strangest thing. I sped up slightly and checked again... yes, there was no doubt; it was a fairly wide sidewalk, but he wasn't aiming to get past me... he was aiming... straight *for* me. For *me*.

Oh, shit.

I arrived at a number of conclusions fairly quickly:

  1. He hadn't tried to attract my attention
  2. He wasn't trying to return something I'd dropped
  3. He wasn't trying to overtake me
  4. He was trying to catch me
  5. It was unlikely that he'd want to make friends with me once he'd caught me - no-one wants to befriend random strangers on mountain bikes *that* badly, surely
  6. He was either pissed (British English) and racing me in a moment of drunken madness, or he was pissed (American English) and he wanted to catch me and beat the shit out of me
Had I clipped him without realising it or offended him somehow? Was it even the same guy I had just passed? Either way, I wasn't about to hang around to find out. I changed gear and sped up again, drawing away from him quite easily. I glanced back - still there, still powering after me. What the hell?

I was comfortably ahead of him, and he wasn't gaining any more. The possibility of just stringing him along for a while occurred to me, as did getting far enough ahead to stop and get a good look back, as did shouting back "ore no koto desu ka?" ("is it something to do with me?"), any of which would have made for a better story than what I actually did, which was pop onto the road, accelerate again and get the hell out of there. I bombed past the station entrance, shot left through the Yamanote Line tunnel, glancing back again as I did so - no sign of him - screeched left out of the tunnel and only calmed down when I was safely heading back north past the DoCoMo tower.

Any other alternative would have made for a better punchline, sure, and I was insanely curious to know exactly what the hell was going on - I'm positive I didn't clip him or cut him up - but, to paraphrase The Matrix slightly, if Chris has the shit kicked out of him in Tokyo Tales, he gets hurt in real life too.

So, that's my Surreal Murakami Moment quota hopefully taken care of for the rest of the year. Though I wouldn't bet against getting home tonight to find amandressedinasheepcostumewhospeaksjustlikethis sitting on my sofa, just in case. What the hell did he want?

Posted by chris at 06:11 PM | Permalink


Things I found myself thinking about while on the treadmill at the gym this evening:

  1. 45 minutes at 14 km/h is three-quarters of 14 km which is 7 km plus 3.5 km which is 10.5 km

  2. 10.5 km is... um... divide by eight and multiply by five... one and a bit... 2.5 over 8 is five sixteenths, which is one sixteenth more than a quarter... 0.25 plus...uhh... half of an eighth.. 12.5 percent... 0.0625? that and a quarter is.... 1.3....1...25, multiply that by five... oh, shit...

  3. 10.5 km is a long way

  4. I'll do 50 minutes, not 45. I can take it.

  5. I'll do 45 minutes if I survive the next two

  6. I could just stop after 15 minutes and no-one would be any the wiser, would they?

  7. I can't believe I only looked at the timer 45 seconds ago

  8. that guy really needs to wear looser-fitting shorts
You can read a little about why the hell I'm subjecting myself to this here.

Posted by chris at 12:19 AM | Permalink

Has anyone got any salmon?

Dan has pointed out a previously unnoticed drugular reference in the New Order lyrics below: "This E was very rough". Hmm. Followed by talk of hits and not being able to get enough, being alive vs. just surviving... hmmm. Ebeneezer Goode clearly has a lot to answer for.

So, Mancunian pop-rockers in pro-drugs shocker - never seen *that* before, have we?

Posted by chris at 02:10 AM | Permalink

It beats arithmetic

Slow Jam by New Order:

The sea was very rough
It made me feel sick
But I like that kind of stuff
It beats arithmetic

I don't want the world to change
I like the way it is
Just give me one more wish
I can't get enough of this

What it is to be alive
And not just to survive
To hit and not to miss
I can't get enough of this

Posted by chris at 06:34 PM | Permalink

Gallery update

Okay, a few photographs added to the gallery section: some of the first shots taken with my digital camera, and snaps from a typical Saturday night out in Tokyo. New York photos coming soon.

Posted by chris at 07:41 PM | Permalink

Well that ain't right

Well that ain't right.

Plan for last night: go to Tim and Sarah's leaving do at the Dubliners in Shinjuku, get slightly tipsy, rock home about midnight, blog extensively about my excellent weekend and take care of some Kanji SITE admin, retire to bed happy.

Actuality: go to Tim and Sarah's leaving do, develop nagging stomach cramps, move on to iizakaya, be unable to eat anything, feel really rather sick, start shivering, take taxi home, go to bed fully clothed at 24:30, have totally bizarre, restless dreams and wake up feeling better but still kind of icky at 1pm the next day.


Posted by chris at 06:23 PM | Permalink


It's been crappy weather for the last few days; pissy, noncomittal rain in fits and starts all weekend, and somehow the climate's managed to be uncomfortably humid without being noticably warm. Tokyo's been feeling the leading edge of the latest typhoon (nowhere near as much damage as the last one, thankfully) and it finally hit the capital properly today.

This morning I caught myself doing something I swore I never would: fighting to control an umbrella in the high wind. I hate umbrellas, won't normally use them, but I must have gone soft over the last few months. I battled it into the lee of a doorway, flapped around with it briefly and then just stopped and thought, no pun intended I swear, "blow this". I stuck it under one arm, made sure my trenchcoat was fully buttoned, and strode the remaining two hundred meters to the office through the thick downpour. I got soaked, but I will NOT let myself be humbled by a 200 yen piece of shit plastic parasol. No. It ends here, and it ends now.

The torrential rain carried on all day, until suddenly at about 5:30 I got dragged out onto the fire escape by a colleague to witness one of the most spectacular sunsets I've seen in a long time. The storm had passed just like that and the view west across Tokyo, back along the line that the typhoon had travelled, was superb - the sky over the horizon was red and amber, the ranged buildings were varying shades of brown and ochre, and the clouds were tinged orange against a darkening blue sky. Freaking awesome. We jogged up six flights of stairs to the roof and realised we could see Tokyo Tower and the NTT DoCoMo building in Shinjuku, right on the other side of town.

Oh yeah - and Mt. Fuji. Partly hidden thought it was by a nearby apartment block, there's no mistaking it in silhouette: a chuffing great, perfectly symmetrical trapezoid, towering on the horizon and always, always far bigger than you expect it to be. Just awesome.

Posted by chris at 10:19 PM | Permalink

My new office PC arrived

My new office PC arrived today, so I'm spending most of the day restoring backed-up data and reinstalling software. Not exactly thrilling, but hardly stressful either.

Working in a largely Japanese office, with a Japanese personnel department, means that things are often set in stone for inscrutable reasons. The company's policy on purchasing computers, for example, is as follows: it depends on the size of your desk. If you have a big desk, you get a desktop. If you have a small desk, you get a laptop. Remarkably practical on a certain level, granted, but still... Laptops are of one make, and one make only. They are ordered in bulk and take two months to arrive. English-language machines have to be bought from a particular supplier and take even longer. Things are done for you, without consultation. You mention that you need a new PC, are asked to use a Mac in the meantime and hear nothing back until one arrives on your desk three weeks later with the wrong language operating system on it. And so on.

So I was due to be bought a nasty little Toshiba laptop (despite having a huge desk) with, bizarrely, 56MB of memory. (Is this what I think it is? Advertising a machine as having 64MB of memory and 8MB of video memory but actually meaning "64MB including 8MB video memory"? Bastards.) Instead I intervened and pointed out that I really needed a tower system (because of the size of my desk, of course) and Dell were doing English operating systems on certain models... this was met with consternation until I mentioned that the machine would cost 40,000 yen (£230) less than the laptop they had in mind, at which point the sweet self-explanatory logic of economics took over.

The Dell arrived within a week.

Posted by chris at 03:10 PM | Permalink

Major changes

Good grief, it's today, isn't it?

My little brother, Andy, (little in the 6ft-something-tall-but-still-3-years-younger sense of the word) starts at Sandhurst today... wow. But... he's only twelve, for christ's sake. I know, I know; he was born in January 1979 which means he ought to be 22 by now, and being three years younger than me, at 25, also points rather strongly at the 22 hypothesis... but even so. I still end up thinking of him as some short-ass with a horrendous bowl cut and thick glasses, not the 185-cm chiselled hunk that he actually is - the bastard.

So, forgive the oblique Status Quo reference but he's in the army now (whoa-a-whoa he's in the army... naaow. - sorry) and I wish him the best of luck with his first few weeks of boot camp, when he won't be allowed any contact with the outside world. Starting a new school, college, job, training course, whatever, is always a bit of an unknown quantity but when the start of the course also signifies the start of such a radically new lifestyle... well, it's going to be a darn sight more interesting than a group of middle managers running around a forest in Wales in bright blue kagoules trying to build a rope bridge across a 3-ft stream as some kind of teamwork exercise, isn't it?

I can only wonder how he feels, and how his instructors are going to want to make him feel by the end of the first day, the first week, and finally the end of the 42-week course. Excited? Cocky? Scared? Serenely confident in his own abilities? Gung-ho? Humble? Patriotic? I can't wait to see his diary, anyway.

Posted by chris at 02:45 PM | Permalink

Sidebar update

Added a few more long-overdue links to the disperse sidebar: evhead and many of you will have heard of already, is written by Anna Pickard, sister of's Meg and is the distilled genius of Mike Sugarbaker, a fellow Fictionsuit and all-round polymath (is there any other sort, actually?). Mike's gibberish is also worth a look.

I also decided to split the blogs from the tokyo-referency-whatsit-guidebook-resource-thang links; I ought to try coming up with a couple of sub-titles for the two parts of the list now. Thoughts will be had over long island iced teas after work tonight. (Pardon me while I think out loud for a second - note to self: remember to update the links page, and add those photos to the gallery. And re-launch The Kanji SITE. And finish that Fictionsuits post. And put the Fuji Rock Festival write-up online. That is all - dismissed.)

Posted by chris at 04:47 PM | Permalink

urg - one last thing

urg - one last thing. reminder to self to tell you about the massive coincidences that came out to play on friday night. tokyo is a city of 27 million. this kind of thing simply shouldn't happen. later, though. much later.

Posted by chris at 05:22 AM | Permalink

Are you experienced?

Much of Saturday night was spent chatting to Cath, who's heading off to India for a few weeks. Dave and Anita have already been, spending nearly three months there a few years ago, and it sounds like an amazing experience - if rather hard work sometimes.

One of the more unexpected things they mentioned seeing was William Hague on honeymoon, being paddled around on the lake surrounding Udaipur's "floating" Lake Palace Hotel (used as one of the sets in Octopussy). Apparently they were close enough to have shouted something to him, but were unable to think of anything suitably witty at the time. Neither were we on Saturday, actually, but what's wrong with a simple "oi, tosser!"? Sheesh. The well-prepared world traveller should always be ready to hurl invective at smug creepy dwarven balding imbecilic right-wing political failures - something they *don't* always mention in the guidebooks.

Posted by chris at 09:31 PM | Permalink


Just-recalled moment of drunken shame from last week: in a bar, the DJ playing lots of rock, metal, god knows what, certain members of our group collectively gritting our teeth, and the intro to "Lay your hands on me" by Bon Jovi becomes faintly audible as it starts to be mixed in... and I recognised it, just like that. Straightafreakingway, less than two seconds in.

I am *so* ashamed.

Posted by chris at 06:06 PM | Permalink

Laid low by bad cod roe

wtf? nothing for three and a half years, and suddenly *bang* - two days off sick in one week. The first one was a head cold, but today I just feel ready to yak. Maybe it's morning sickness. Or, more likely, the sushi I had last night.

Bugger - today was going to be productive, too. Instead I managed only to leave the house and travel one stop in the direction of work on the subway. Swaying. Swaying bad. I gave up, got off and walked slowly back home, overground. I've spent most of the day asleep, actually - anything rather than watch any more Japanese daytime TV... please don't make me... nooooo....

Suppose I should do some more work on The Kanji SITE, try to get the freaking re-design finished. I've pretty much done the hiragana and katakana sections now, which was a major stumbling block. Just the links page to go, I think... and a few loose ends to tidy up, but they can wait till my freshly-assembled team of beta testers points them out.

Posted by chris at 05:00 PM | Permalink

Big freshwater fish

Woke up this morning to some of the heaviest rain I've ever seen; Typhoon Pabuk is making its way up the Pacific coast towards Tokyo, and we've been getting the leading edge of its storms all day. I had to dash out to the dry cleaner's, a 45-second sprint from my front door, to pick up my shirts before work and basically got drenched, despite the umbrella.

By the time I actually left the flat, it had abated from "monsoon-strength" to merely "torrential". Torrential I don't mind, as long as it's roughly vertical. Horizontal rain - something ain't right there. The downpour had nearly stopped completely by lunch, and the streets were smelling strongly of the sea - unsurprising, perhaps, given how much of Tokyo Bay had been dumped on them by that point. I was half expecting having to pick my way through a shower of frogs, or pavements piled high with shoals of fish, but given the office's proximity to Tokyo Disneyland I suppose it was equally likely that we'd end up with a freak downpour of Mickeys and Donalds. It's a small world, after all... *thump* it's a small, *splat* small *thunk* world...

Posted by chris at 05:28 PM | Permalink

PHP perfection

excellent - it all appears to have worked. blogger and my ftp server are now playing happily together on the swinging tyre, picking fleas out of each other's fur - and eating them. bless.

one thing, and one thing only: please don't link to any more, as it doesn't exist. I'll put up a re-direct tonight, but I'd rather people just linked straight to the php page, which is the default page anyway: should do fine. much thankingness.

Posted by chris at 03:26 PM | Permalink

PHP paralysis?

Quick warning - I'm about to go all php, so bear with me for the next thirty minutes as I slowly coerce blogger into playing nicely with my FTP server ("blogger wanna banana?" [waves banana] "nice banana, look, yum!" [mimes eating banana, smiles exaggeratedly, etc. blogger refuses to budge or do anything other than sit huddled in corner, hugging own knees and rocking slightly back and forth] )

Fingers (and bananas) crossed...

Posted by chris at 02:21 PM | Permalink

Permalinks now working

It's been a productive, if dull, day. I finished exporting the remainder of the 755 level 2 kanji (don't ask), built my first php page, and got the archives working properly. The permalinks should all be working if (and I realise it's a big if) you find yourself wanting to link to any of the dross contained withinhereinforthwithbelow. I can't be bothered to change the template yet - click on the timestamp at the end of each post, or right-click it and select "Copy Shortcut". Mac users can work it out for themselves, I'm sure.

Posted by chris at 07:09 PM | Permalink


Christ, I'd forgotten how boring holidays could be.

Screw this - I'm going into the office tomorrow.

Posted by chris at 02:37 PM | Permalink

This is expressly *not* a hiatus

Busy busy busy. This is not a hiatus - this is merely work pressure. I have at least four things I'm working on simultaneously right now, and probably one or two that I've forgotten about. The Fuji write-up is being delayed accordingly... damnit. I know you're all itching to hear how the Hothouse Flowers went down, after all.

Luckily, the Obon holiday starts in two days - then I'm free to work on the site twelve hours a day, pausing only to stroll through the park every now and then to refresh myself and get away from the radiation source that is my monitor.

Or I might just spend most of the week asleep.

Posted by chris at 10:51 PM | Permalink

A goddamn long way

I now know exactly how far one lap of the stretch of river next to my flat is. I've measured it diligently over the last few weeks, jogging from my flat south to Ome-Kaido, north all the way up the opposite bank to Waseda Dori, and then the final stretch back south again to the flat. I have yet to confirm this with GPS technology, but I can confidently state, after rigorous testing, that one lap is exactly half of A GODDAMN LONG WAY. (Plus or minus 2%.)

This is based on the discovery, earlier tonight, that two laps is precisely one goddamn long way; eventually I hope to build up to three laps (one unbelievably long goddamn way) or even four (one-and-a-third unbelievably long goddamn ways). I'm sure there's a way of doing all this in metres, but part of me doesn't want to know.

No left sock filling with blood this time, either - progress.

Posted by chris at 01:22 AM | Permalink

Bloody socks

I took off my socks after getting back from my run last night, and found that one of my toenails had been digging into the adjacent toe, dyeing the inside of my sock a nice rusty red. Lovely. Of course, it only started hurting *after* I saw the damn blood, didn't it? Ow.

Posted by chris at 10:31 AM | Permalink

and then BOOM!

and them BOOM! here it is...

torrential rain, thunder and lightning, the kind you feel before you hear. awesome. reminds me of a storm we had last year when we worked in a different building, one with no windows. we all downed tools and stood outside on the stairwell, getting damp from the spray and watching the fabulous green sky, daring the lightning to hit nearer and nearer.

it's somehow less interesting through a window.

Posted by chris at 02:50 PM | Permalink

rumble rumble rumble

rumble rumble rumble here it comes..... here it comes......

Posted by chris at 02:32 PM | Permalink

Virus-like activity

Well that explains it. Next time I get virus-like activity on my hdd and think, "Hmm, time to run scandisk", I have to stop myself and think "virus-like activity is probably a virus" instead.

Here's a short list of things that you should never try to economise on. Always buy the highest-quality variant you can afford of the following items:

  • medical insurance
  • toilet paper
  • internet connection
  • vodka
  • audio speaker wire
  • anti-virus software
A short, but distinguished list. Disagree? That's half the fun.

This razzinfrazzinscrassafrazzin virus, sircam, sends itself to everyone in your mailbox (sorry, guys) with a random file from your hard drive (well, er, *my* hard drive, specifically) attached, renamed with an unrecognisable double file extension, such as .xls.pif or similar. Whatever you do, don't open the damn file unless you run a site which accepts e-mailed pictures of kanji from random strangers and you think you're being sent some weirdass Mac-formatted graphics file for analysis. Or if you fancy having your hard disk contents eaten from the inside, of course.

I found a would-be fix this morning and it's now waiting patiently in my bag, saved on a reassuringly low-tech floppy and wrapped in an envelope clearly labelled "virus-like activity is probably a virus".

This, kids, is how we learn.

Posted by chris at 03:41 PM | Permalink

Tokyo-trashing tyrannosaur

I've swapped the left-hand-side banner over again; so far we've had "pacific rim pretentiousness", "nine-to-five noodle ninja" and now "tokyo-trashing tyrannosaur". Grrrrrr! Rrrrowwwwlll! I have a few more up my sleeve, but if you'd like to suggest one yourself, dear reader, then please do so.

Anything catchy that references life in modern Tokyo will be considered - preferably alliterative, but don't let me crimp your style. Winners get featured; I might try to rotate monthly from now on, so get your scribbling caps on.

Posted by chris at 10:17 PM | Permalink

Liquid skin / sore-throated hell

A scorching day today; it's got to have been the hottest of the year so far. My electricity bill is going to be mammoth this month, what with all my extravagant air-conditioning. Having Chris and Chris staying over, sardine-stylee, has meant sleeping with the aircon on and window open, hoping that the two mechanisms will balance each other out and create a pleasant half-way house between liquid skin and sore-throated hell. Fingers crossed.

So it's boiling hot outside, I'm working at home and have shitloads to get finished before I can go out to meet Raju for dinner, and I can't frigging concentrate because the work is going badly and I'd rather be reading the newspaper or just listing to music, and then suddenly I get an e-mail from someone special which puts a huge smile on my face, makes my day, and sets my mind wandering somewhere very different from where I'm physically sitting - and suddenly I couldn't care less that I'm now even less likely to get the work done. Life rocks.

Posted by chris at 06:48 PM | Permalink

How many macrocyclic chemists does it take to change a lightbulb? No, me neither.

I'm going to have to catch up and do Wednesday and Thursday's NY write-up tomorrow - no time this evening after the arrival of Chris and Chris (that's right, there are three of us now), kipping on my floor on their way to a macrocyclic chemistry conference in Fukuoka next week.

How do you get three fully grown men into a flat the size of an Austin Princess? With difficulty / practice / a shoehorn.

Posted by chris at 11:25 PM | Permalink


Tuesday morning, back in the office. No appreciable jet lag yet, and I'm feelin' fine.

The usual odd dislocation; I feel refreshed from the holiday, I know I've been away for a week, yet the old daily furniture - my flat, the commute, the office - is of course exactly familiar.

Handed out the omiyage - funpacks of mini tootsie rolls, hershey's kisses and goetze's caramel creams, all of which make a welcome break from the standard Japanese mochi-balls that usually gets brought back from colleagues' trips. According to all my various colleagues, "Nyu Yorku wa sugoi!" - and I had to agree.

Posted by chris at 12:10 PM | Permalink

What have I forgotten?

Monday morning, train to the airport leaves in four hours... what have I forgotten... what is it.... damn. I have no idea, but I know there's something I'm about to forget - if that makes sense.

Posted by chris at 08:29 AM | Permalink

Oh, god, no wonder it tastes so awful

Oh, god, no wonder it tastes so awful. I've just read the small print: Calpis is a "cultured milk drink" - eeeeeeuuuuuuuuwww. Cultured? Meaning it knows which cutlery to use with which course at a posh dinner party? I think not. "Cow piss" turned out to be rather too close for comfort. Yuk.

Posted by chris at 04:27 PM | Permalink

Cow piss

Bleargh! This Calpis (pronounced, for very good reason, "cow-piss") strawberry-flavour drink is grim. It tastes like the strawberry creme bit out of the middle of a Quality Street (good) but somehow pale, offensive and bitter (very bad).

Gak yuk gak. Would you like some?

Posted by chris at 04:11 PM | Permalink

Rafael Vinoly Architects

It turns out that Rafael Vinoly, the architect who built the awesome Tokyo International Forum (see my photo gallery for some pictures), has a Web site, and some ongoing projects in New York. Hope you're reading this, Swerd - I'm starting to compile a list.

Posted by chris at 12:58 AM | Permalink

It's a two minute game...

Time to pull on the full-length wellies and wade into the mess that is my inbox... jesus... Out of 136 messages, 53 are actually from me - reminders to look for Goon shows on Napster, zipped batches of files from work, URLs deemed too important to consign to my browser's favourites list (396 addresses in 32 folders and growing) and emails backward-and-forwarded between home and office.

My target is to get the entire inbox down to twenty messages or less. I plan to achieve this by actually replying to people who have written to me (what?), being ruthless with the delete key and copious amounts of painkillers. It's a two-hour game and your time starts... now!

(Chris: "There's a lot of e-mails in a big pile on the floor... there's a shovel, an incinerator and a filing cabinet... I can't see what to do... I'm coming out!" Will someone please tell me if The Crystal Maze is still showing in the UK? Thanks.)

Posted by chris at 04:01 PM | Permalink


Wow. A meeting which, despite being held half in Japanese and half in English, was concise and productive, with all questions answered and clear courses of action decided upon. Why can't they all be like that?

Plus I just found out that the first corporate website I ever designed is now getting upwards of half a million hits a month. Admittedly, that's more due to their marketing department than it is to me, but still... <sniff>... my baby's all growed up.

It's in danger of becoming a good morning.

Posted by chris at 12:53 PM | Permalink

Destroy Tokyo

Oh, and the current cam shot, if you're asking, is a recently purchased t-shirt. I'll return to the legions of the camned myself as soon as the reality of having shaved off my dodgy goatee has sunk in. G'night again.

Posted by chris at 01:31 AM | Permalink

Feeling Like a Dummy - for Dummies

Not much to report today - Monday mostly spent trying to clear up my hard drive, backing things up onto CD-RW, analysing one of our corporate sites, performing CPR on Doraemon (one of the office PCs, not the cat-like robot from the 22nd century), wrestling someone else's HTML in order to fail to get a Flash movie to embed correctly, and not installing Access 2000. It can take quite a while not to install Access, actually - it depends on how much reading you feel you have to do first. Might take all week not to do it at this rate.

I found myself torn between an "Access explained in words of one syllable but without offering you any real insight into what is, after all, a fairly complicated and powerful piece of software" book and an "Everything you'll ever need to know about Access so you'd better be damned sure you're ready for this as you'll feel pretty bloody stupid if you have to buy another, simpler book later" tome in Kinokuniya this evening. Chose the latter. I have some pride, after all, though it may well turn out to be misplaced. I may even install the software later. I'm quite down on the Dummies books as the last one I bought made me feel like, well, an idiot. Go figure.

Posted by chris at 01:00 AM | Permalink

Fridge contents

Time to resurrect one of the classic features of the old-style Tokyo Tales - the fridge report. The right-hand-sidebar will now list the contents of my fridge. I predict that, unlike the reading and listening to lists, this one will be dead easy to keep up-to-date - because the contents never change.

Really. The vodka's been sat there for at least a couple of months, the orange juice is at least a week or two past its quaff-by date, and the marge has got a nasty shock coming if it thinks I'm making sandwiches at home any time in the near future. And I don't even like beer.

The Drifter, on the other hand, may not see out the evening.

Posted by chris at 10:40 PM | Permalink


Ah, smugness. You can't beat it.

A crushing 11-3 victory, made all the sweeter by the fact that we were both playing out of our skins for most of the two hours.

The best thing about living alone? No-one objects when you boogie around your flat in a victory dance with a self-satisfied grin on your face. Which is precisely what I'm about to do now.

Posted by chris at 10:24 PM | Permalink

All hail Santa

Okay, the secret's out.

This website is in fact named after a 1993 live album by an obscure German power metal group.


No, of course not. It was christened Tokyo Tales because I was writing about Tokyo and I needed something alliterative, rather than out of homage to the artists behind Battalions of Fear, Welcome to Dying and, of course, Nightfall in Middle Earth, the 1998 Tolkien-inspired concept album.

Time to break out the Napster, methinks.

Posted by chris at 11:30 AM | Permalink

Evil hair accessories

Why is it that work crises have a habit of waiting until 45 minutes before you're due to finish for the day before rearing their ugly heads?

I'd like to be able to claim that I immediately and swiftly dispatched said crisis with a masterful flourish and contemptuous twist of my pencil-thin arch-villian moustache, but in fact I had to fight through a series of false starts, dead ends and computer crashes to find a half-baked, intellectually unsatisfying workaround, with nothing more dastardly than the odd scratch of my uncomfortably itchy goatee.

I need a better evil hair accessory. Mail me your evil hair photos, so that I may begin my scheming...

Posted by chris at 09:07 PM | Permalink

Who's a pirate's favorite French existentialist who isn't Camus?

Question: What's the third letter in "pirate"?


heh heh heh heh heh.

Posted by chris at 03:38 PM | Permalink


Yummm. Half a box of cookies discovered under pile of clothes - let there be breakfast.

Posted by chris at 03:33 PM | Permalink

Beautiful from 35,000ft

Gshnarglarsh. Just woken up, 2:45pm, mouth feels like bottom of proverbial parrot cage, knackered after late night and early morning. Actually the second time I've got up today; the first was at 6-fricking-15-am to escort Andy to Shinjuku for his train to the airport - put him safely on Narita Express with suitcase of stuffed clothes, rucksack of assorted crap he might find useful on a twelve-hour flight (books, water, anti-DVT socks) and a nearly-four-foot-long katana. Blunt it may be, but there's no way he's getting that on board as hand-luggage.

By now he'll be over Siberia, maybe looking out of the window and marvelling at how big it is. Because it is. Hour after hour of wideness, mountain ranges and plains, terrain that doesn't so much have features as textures. It's beautiful from 35,000ft, anyway - less sure about closer up.

I'm meant to be going to Brian's gig in.... shit. In wherever the hell the Star Pines Cafe is. Koenji? Ogikubo? Kokubunji? (I would usually swear these are all real placenames, but they seem somehow remote at the moment...) Definitely somewhere Chuo-line-ish. Could have sworn I had a flier. But it starts at five or six and I have stuff to do... flat looks like, well, like it's had two complete slobs dossing in it for the last week and a bit. Can't imagine why.

Okay: time to spring into action. The best bit about futons is that, to get out of bed, you just have to stand up.

Posted by chris at 03:05 PM | Permalink

Impending brotherhood

This whole "leave work on time" stuff still weirds me out. If I leave at 6, I can be home by 6:45. 6:45! That's practically lunchtime! Tonight I got home, did some washing, went out for dinner (Asian restaurant on the 49th floor, spectacular views of Tokyo's sparkling black expanses, dulled to grey by cloudy rain), came home again and it was still only 9:30pm. That leaves room for a solid four hours of PS2 before bed - unbelievable. And to think I used to work late! What a fool. This is the way forward - I'm reclaiming my free time as my own.

Getting excited about next week, too: I've taken all of the week off, as my brother, Andy, is visiting. I could just let him wander around on his own for a week, but that would hardly be fair - on the Japanese, anyway. We'll probably spend most of our time catching up on what the hell's been happening in each other's lives, drinking in the kind of bars that tourists never get to find out about, snowboarding (yes, I know it's summer) and tripping over each other in my palatial (not) flat. No doubt I shall try to convince him that he really ought to listen to more Underworld, and he'll only be interested in hearing naff eurobeat. Ah well. My flat - my music.

I'm sure we'll also wind each other up by referring to each other as "my little brother" - me because he's three years younger, and him because he's three inches taller. Grrr. I can feel my hackles going up already.

Right - must keep tidying, or there'll be nowhere to put him. There's always the balcony, though.

Posted by chris at 10:24 PM | Permalink

Whoa there, pickle...

The perfect hangover cure: sleep till lunchtime, drink a shedload of water (it has to be a watertight shed, of course) and watch Spaced all afternoon.

Spaced is a Channel 4 sitcom which Nigel's been absolutely evangelical about since it first aired in 1998 - and which of course I'd never seen. So, a big "thanks" goes to Mum, for taping the re-runs of both series and mailing them to me - finally I got to see what all the fuss is about.

Heh. So many smart little movie references, flashes of knowing humour, montages of endearing wackiness, slick camerawork - and a lot of PlayStation gaming. My favourite bit was probably the scene where their obsessed clubbing friend comes around, and starts hallucinating a techno soundtrack to the rhythm of the phone ringing. Priceless. Or maybe it was the bit where Tim (aged 27) has to burn all his Star Wars toys... we see him dressed as Luke Skywalker, setting fire to his stuff a la Darth Vader's funeral pyre. Genius.

I haven't had such a pleasant hangover in ages.

Posted by chris at 01:38 AM | Permalink


I'm better now.

Posted by chris at 11:15 PM | Permalink


God what a boring day. Grey, crappy weather. It was so dull in the office that I found myself praying that my latest software order would arrive so I could start work on the next big project - and the software in question is Access 2000. How pathetic is that?

<sob>What have I become?</sob>

Posted by chris at 11:15 PM | Permalink


Reasons to be happy:

  1. I got granted the time off I requested, so I'm going to visit Swerdloff in New York.

  2. I'm meeting a fellow Tokyo blogger tomorrow night - Rumi of rumi.nation.

  3. The latest additions to the line-up for this year's Fuji Rock Festival include Ritchie Hawtin, Autechre, Squarepusher, Coldcut and Yoshinori Sunahara. I am definitely excited about going now.

  4. The days are getting warmer, without being unpleasantly humid. Yet.

  5. I've just learnt the Korean for "Hello"

Posted by chris at 02:06 AM | Permalink

Gallery update

Okay, thumbnails are up on the gallery page. If the weather is still good come the weekend, I might take the camera and go for a wander. Maybe Odaiba - somewhere with a sea breeze, anyway.

Posted by chris at 10:31 AM | Permalink

Trying again

What's up with blogger? This is just to force the previous post to re-publish. Trust me - it's worth it. Well... um... maybe not. But it's the principle of the thing.

Posted by chris at 01:41 AM | Permalink

Signs that you need sleep, #34

Christ, I must be fried. I just plugged my landline phone back in to the wall, after disconecting it from the mains while I bombed my flat (with the roach equivalent of sarin). To check that it was still working (I have a fairly complicated phone / PC / ISDN terminal adaptor setup) I tried dialling the landline from my mobile - and got an engaged tone. Bugger.

What's the problem? Check the dialtone... check the wires... check the lights on the terminal adaptor... check the PC... so what's the problem? What's the damn problem... the problem... the problem is, I suddenly realised, is that I had dialled the first six digits of my home number, follwed by the last four digits of my mobile number. I tried again and, of course, this time the phone rang. So I picked up and had some choice words with myself.

I don't spaz out often, but when I do - boy oh boy.

Posted by chris at 01:33 AM | Permalink

Gallery launched

Okay, the gallery is up and running. I'm definitely not much of a photographer, but I hope you'll find some of the pictures worthwhile.

If you're interested, the camera is an ancient Olympus OM-2 SLR, probably almost exactly the same age as me. Thanks, Mum. Now you get to see what I've been doing with it.

Posted by chris at 12:08 AM | Permalink

You can't be that busy

One of the target phrases on the English conversation TV program tonight:

"You can't be that busy!"

Actually, I am. So there.

Posted by chris at 11:28 PM | Permalink

A Scanner Quietly

Hmmm. It's the first Monday of Golden Week, a national holiday, but I've come into the office to use the scanner. I was expecting the place to be deserted, but in fact the entirety of the accounts department are here. And working. Silently. Counting beans, or whatever it is they do. You've got to love that Japanese work ethic.

The drum'n'bass CDs I brought in to listen to while I scan will have to wait, I suppose - don't think the lead on my Sennheisers will stretch to the scanner, and I'm not about to go through some kind of Mr. Bean-like routine as I try to find out by edging slowly away from the PC, only to have them yanked off my head in comedy fashion when I take one step too many, accompanied by a dubbed audience laughter track. No sirree.

Posted by chris at 04:40 PM | Permalink

Life's a drag

Whoa. I 've got some catching up to do, but I'm knackered. Just back from playing footy for what must have been the first time in around a year - and boy do I feel it. I'll fill you in on the weekend so far after soaking myself prunelike.

The bathroom's a long way from the computer... but the advantage of sitting on the floor the whole time is that if you can't be bothered to stand up, you can just crawl. Or, if crawling's too much, simply lie down and drag yourself across the floor.

scrape.... scrape.... scrape.....

Posted by chris at 09:30 PM | Permalink

Weather (or not)

What dull weather. I wish it would make its mind up and rain properly. Or just get nice again, of course. When Tokyo has a grey day... it really has a grey day.

Posted by chris at 05:36 PM | Permalink

Don't let it slip away

It's a beautiful day - what the hell am I doing inside? I'm gone.

Posted by chris at 11:57 AM | Permalink

A Jedi craves not these things... chocolate's ok, though

I wonder if I get counted in the forthcoming UK Census, what with not actually living there any more? Maybe I get included on my parents' form... in which case, I must remember to phone them up and make sure they get my religion right...

Posted by chris at 10:37 AM | Permalink


Euw. A female bodybuilder in a really skimpy bikini. Doing press-ups. That ain't nice. Be grateful that it's TV and I can't link to it.

Posted by chris at 01:43 AM | Permalink

Good news, bad news

The good news: Monday was sunny and warm, perfect weather for strolling along the river without needing to dodge the weekend crowds of inebriated picnickers.

The bad news: Monday was actually spent inside, in a room with plastic advertising hoardings painted over the windows to stop sunlight sneaking in and anyone else sneaking (or even just looking) out. Not only am I ordered to sacrifice a day off, to help pull the company out of a self-dug, teacher-shortage-shaped hole, but it has to be a nice day, doesn't it? Arse.

Posted by chris at 02:40 PM | Permalink


Got some catching up to do on the weekend's events.

Saturday night was another reminder of the transitory nature of ex-pat life in Japan. The Japanese regard cherry blossoms (which are currently in bloom) as a symbol of the impermanence of life - they flower, they last a couple of weeks, they die. My reminder was slightly different: I went to a colleague's leaving party.

The company I work for (doing geek things) is a chain of private English schools. We employ mainly Brits, who fly out to Japan, teach for a year (sometimes longer) and fly home, leaving the rest of us thinking, "Shit - they were here a whole year? I'm getting old." So Saturday was farewell to Jill, a lovely Scots lass who had been here for exacly a year. Where the hell did it go?

Posted by chris at 12:33 PM | Permalink

...tables botched.

Hah. "Solved" as long as you define that to mean "completely misaligned so that your right-hand side toolbar appears half-way down the damn page". Arse.

Posted by chris at 11:30 PM | Permalink

Fingers crossed...

It is freeezing tonight... how? Bright sunshine for three days straight, stroll-around-in-a-t-shirt-at-9pm kind of weather and suddenly my teeth are chattering. Go figure.

Just back from seeing England beat Albania 3-1. A thoroughly undeserved victory, really. Of course I'm glad we won, and it's great that Andy Cole finally scored his first international goal (in the final minute of injury time) but still... we were pants.

Anyway, consoling myself with a final (all being well) colour test... think I've solved the problem of the right-hand-side toolbar. Maybe. Time to suck it and see...

Posted by chris at 11:21 PM | Permalink

Colour me unimpressed

Bloody hell. There just aren't enough colours to go around. Testing the links and css styles for the righ-hand toolbar...

Posted by chris at 03:37 PM | Permalink

Blogger template... oh sod it

Okay, larger font size and different colour for the dates, plus no more rampaging javascript errors, please...

Posted by chris at 02:00 PM | Permalink

Blogger template clank

Okay, time to see if the ampersnads (like ampersands but sort of malicious) have been successfully reined in. Hit me.

Posted by chris at 07:32 PM | Permalink

Blogger template clunk

Right, right, got it. Should have listened more closely. I forgot about the escaped ampersands. It looks like I've unwittingly let loose a herd of the buggers, rampaging through my carefully prepared javascript.... they are actually multiplying.... how cool.

Screw this, I'll wait till I get home and re-load the clean copy of the template from my desktop.

Another important lesson learnt the stupid way.

Posted by chris at 04:48 PM | Permalink

Blogger template lunk

Shoot. The date is larger but I've got me a javascript error. On with the goggles and out with the blowtorch...

Posted by chris at 04:37 PM | Permalink

Blogger template funk

now the date should be larger - I assume I need to post in order to force this change... so this is it.

Posted by chris at 04:32 PM | Permalink

Blogger template fun

So that works too. I knew it would, of course.

(sort of)

Now I need to play with putting line breaks between posts.... lemmee see... and increasing the font size of the date headers.

Posted by chris at 04:21 PM | Permalink

Big Bang

Well, here it is. Sooner or later one has to put down the HTML editor, resist the temptation to tweak the template that bit further, and actually see if the damn blog woks (which is Jonathan Woss speak for "rocks", of course - or maybe I can't spell "works").

So that's what I'm about.... to do....... NOW! Go! Go! Go!

Where's that damn button gone....? Ah, yes.....

Posted by chris at 12:36 AM | Permalink

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