gung-ho godzilla groupie 

Return of the two-shower day

Well, there I was, kidding myself that maybe this summer wasn't so hot, maybe the humidity wasn't as severe as, say, a couple of years ago, maybe I could get away with going to work in a real shirt, not a t-shirt, maybe I didn't need to use the aircon all the damn time, maybe one shower a day would suffice.

Hah, right. Then suddenly the humidity hit with a vengeance. I think it was this weekend when I woke up to discover that my futon was actually damp, wet through from my sweating into it during the night. Yum. So, apparently, even sleeping is too much like hard work - must try to heat up less during all that energetic REM.

The slightest bit of effort makes my skin slick to the touch - so you can imagine what kind of a state I was in earlier tonight, after doing an hour's fencing training (I probably neglected to mention that I've started again, didn't I? - thought as much), jogging to the station with all my kit, fighting my way around the Yamanote Line to Ikebukuro and then hustling to meet a friend (ten minutes late, sorry) just in time to see Star Wars Episode II. One word: liquid.

And then, to add to my discomfort, I learn that Jar Jar Binks is responsible for setting off the Clone Wars. Senator Binks? What. The. Hell? All those lightsabres flashing hither and thither and no-one saw fit to decapitate the haddock-faced one. If "Oucha! Meesa hadsa my head cut off!" are the next words I hear him speak, I'll be *so* happy.

What's that? The *rest* of the film? Oh, that. Sorry, I was too busy muttering "Die, Binks, die" through a tight, feverish grimace to notice the awesome digital effects or epic battle scenes - though thankfully I did come round in time to see Yoda open a pint-sized can of whoop-ass on Count Doofus. I think Star Wars may even be, subconciously at least, the reason I started fencing in the first place, so I was happy as a pig in poo with that one, thankyouverymuch. Probably a good thing I checked my swords in at the front desk, else I might have tried to join in.

Die, Binks, die.

Posted by chris at 02:17 AM | Permalink


Moaning in the rain, just moaning in the rain

It's been raining steadily since yesterday, which I don't normally mind so much. Unfortunately at the moment I'm wet, cold, tired, agitated after a stressful week at work, pissed off with myself for finally giving in and *buying* a frikking umbrella (when did that happen? when did I suddenly become the kind of person who buys umbrellas?) and even though it's Friday night, all I want to do is curl up in a ball on my sofa and give up.

For christ's sake. Anyone got a feelgood mantra they could lend me? I don't need it for long, I'll give it straight back, I swear.

Posted by chris at 11:50 PM | Permalink


That's no moon

I've just missed most of Star Wars... the first thing on Japanese TV I've *wanted* to watch in four years, and I come in with five minutes to go. For christ's sake.

Chewie sounds very similar in Japanese. Some things you just can't translate.

Posted by chris at 11:45 PM | Permalink


Signs that you may be hung over, #24

Signs that you may be hung over, #24: you try to put the volvic cap back on the ibuprofen bottle (too small), realise your mistake, and then try to put the ibuprofen cap back on the volvic bottle instead (too large). Back to bed - somebody wake me when this "theenking" stuff has got appreciably easier? Thanks.

Posted by chris at 07:05 PM | Permalink


Tsujimoto admits receiving policy secretary's salary 'donations'

I just popped back online to see
how
many
recent
cases
of
corruption
involving
Japanese
politicians
I could remember off-hand / turn up with minimal digging, but got bored after I hit eight in as many minutes.

Bed now.

Posted by chris at 02:14 AM | Permalink


Mizuho Wank

This weekend saw, finally, the completion of the merger of Fuji Bank, Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank and the Industrial Bank of Japan. The new entity, Mizuho, is the largest banking group in the world, with combined assets of 145 trillion yen - which certainly sounds like a lot of money. Don't ask me how much exactly, because I'm hazy enough on the difference between American billions and British billions (especially given that most Brits seem to use the American system without realising it), let alone willing to bet on what system the English-language Japanese media use.

Very often with impressively large yen figures, you find that dividing by the UK exchange rate gives you a rather less impressively large amount; I've lost track of the number of times I've found myself reading that some junior level bureaucrat has been caught embezzling an obscene amount of money ("12.5 million yen! bloody hell!") with which to buy racehorses, only to do the maths and realise that in fact we're talking about a considerably less earth-shaking figure ("hang on - that's only 65 grand") - more Robin Hood than Nick Leeson. Sure, £65,000 is considerably more than most people make in a year and is certainly not to be sniffed at - it's just that it's no wonder that these kinds of fraud aren't spotted more regularly at the Japanese Foreign Ministry; your average career bureaucrat could drop more than that on a single sushi business lunch without rippling the surface of the Special Emergency Guest Luncheon Fund.

But I digress. All of that aside, you can rest assured that 145 trillion yen is most likely a very large figure in whatever mainstream Western currency you feel happiest patronizing larger-denomination Asian currencies in.

Which makes it all the more frustrating that, over this last weekend, the largest banking group in the world was unable to open a single one of their ATMs for business. Not one. And now that today is Monday, the merger is completed and normal banking hours are upon us once more, does my old DKB card work in the local legacy Fuji ATM? Does it bollocks.

The merger was announced (wait for it) nearly three years ago. Now I will readily admit that I might be somwhat biased here, having spent the greater part of this Sunday cycling fruitlessly around Tokyo trying to find a legacy Fuji, DKB or IBJ ATM that would allow me access to my own money so that I could pay my rent - which of course has to be paid in cash because this is Japan and it's only the 21st century, after all - but I would nonetheless put it to you that after THREE YEARS of intensive planning (for there is no other sort in this country), it would not be unreasonable to assume that they could have had the collective brains to ensure that their ATMs worked as advertised.

In the end, what did I do? Went to the 24hr Citibank in Shinjuku.

I don't want to come across as a raving prick or anything (no more than usual, anyway) but I think it says something about the appalling state of retail banking in Japan when it's easier for me to get a cash advance, on a credit card, from a foreign bank with minimal presence in Japan, which I do not even have an account with, than it is for me to make a withdrawal from either of my common-or-garden debit accounts with the largest bank in the world, with 6,000 branches and ATM lobbies nationwide.

Rant over. And thanks to Christine for buying me lunch today - I'll pay you back as soon as the ATMs are working again...

Posted by chris at 11:53 PM | Permalink


Why do I watch this crap?

An instructional video on how to put pyjama bottoms on an elderly bedridden relative... a "talk" show hosted by what appears to be the corpse of a flour-faced harridan... guests perched awkwardly upright on the edges of their sofas... I get the impression she'd scold them if they even looked like they were trying to relax... interviews with the crowd at Ueno Park for the cherry-blossom viewing... enthusiastic vox pop: "I came to see the cherry-blossoms! They're really beautiful!"... maniacally enthusiastic vox pop: "It's the cherry-blossoms! They're beautiful!"... even more maniacally enthusiastic vox pop: "I wanted to see the cherry blossooms! They're really beautiful! It's so calming!"... this, in the middle of a frantically elbowing mass of 10,000 housewives and grandmothers... a travel programme featuring things to do in Korea - if you're Japanese and only like doing on holiday things that you could do in the safety of your own country, of course, such as going for a Japanese-style massage, sitting in a sauna, eating Japanese food, or walking underneath blossoming trees...

I *can* turn it off... I can... I have the remote control... I *am* in charge of the situation.... breathe... breeeeeeeathe.... I *will* turn it off...

help meeeeee...

Posted by chris at 01:57 PM | Permalink


Fw: FW: Re: Fw: Fw: OMG URGENT YOU HAVE TO READ THIS VIRUS ALERT

People who unquestioningly forward on hoax virus warnings to their entire address book in the name of "being helpful" make me want to throw them off a cliff in the name of "buying them flying lessons".

Posted by chris at 02:28 PM | Permalink


How to get your British driving license converted to a Japanese one

How to get your British driving license converted to a Japanese one:

1) Find the official Web page which tells you that you need to take your original license, passport, gaijin card and 3,000 yen to your nearest driving license examination center.
2) Decide that you'd probably better phone ahead to check, just in case.
3) Phone ahead, only to be told that in fact you also need a translation of your existing license courtesy of the Japan Automobile Federation. And no, they don't know where the nearest JAF counter is.
4) Phone the JAF, who tell you that their nearest branch is buried deep in the center of Tokyo, far from any significant population centre.
5) Go to the JAF office at 9am the next day and pay 3,000 yen (£16) to get "Expiry Date: April 2045" translated into Japanese.
6) Marvel at the fact that even in the austere offices of the Japan Automobile Federation, they insist on playing the kind of lame soft-rock dirge that Jeremy Clarkson and the rest of the Top Gear crew would no doubt approve of.
7) The next day (because the driving license center is only open from 8:30 to 10:00am) go to the driving license center, which turns out to be a ten-storey behemoth building packed to the gills with distressed-looking people clutching unnecessarily complicated forms being directed from counter to counter in some kind of bizarre bureaucratic homage to Kafka's The Trial and the works of M.C. Escher.
8) Present all the above documents and feel very proud of yourself, for about five minutes.
9) Start to have doubts when the clerk begins to mutter to herself worriedly under her breath whilst thumbing your passport and, you are fairly certain, also starts sweating lightly.
10) Have the clerk talk solidly at you in frantic but ultra-polite (and therefore largely impenetrable) Japanese for five minutes.
11) Ask her to explain, simply, what the problem is.
12) Endure another five minutes of largely confusing monologue, despite frequent attempts to get her to stop using keigo (honorific language usually reserved for addressing 13th-century feudal lords and emperors).
13) Work out eventually, with the help of an intricately-devised timeline charting your movements into and out of Japan over the last four years, that there is problem because your passport was issued at the British Embassy in Tokyo in 1998 and you have only spent a total of 53 days in the UK since then. Apparently this is "not enough".
14) Learn that that they need to be able to prove that you have spent at least 90 days in the UK since the issuance of your driving license (in September 1993, i.e. nearly nine years ago) in order to be convinced that you are an experienced driver.
15) Remember that you still have your previous (now invalid) passport at home. Ask if bringing it tomorrow will be satisfactory.
16) Patiently endure another three-minute answer, which passes you by in a babbling daze until you recognise the final word: "kamoshiremasen", lit. "maybe".
17) Give up, thank the clerk profusely, go to work, get a friend to phone and confirm that they need your previous passport. Wince in sympathy as your friend is subjected to a high pitched, rapid-fire ten-minute explanation, with their initially faintly unbelieving look slowly becoming etched into a pained rictus as they wait for the woman on the other end of the line to pause for breath so they can hang up.
18) Console friend.
19) Confirm that they need to prove you have spent ninety days in the UK since 1993. Reason that this shouldn't be too difficult; they need only quiz you on your encyclopedic knowledge of The Fast Show in order to have their fears allayed.
20) Return the next morning with two passports, your UK driving license, a Japanese translation of the crucial "Expiry Date" clause, your Alien Registration Card, a 2.4x3cm photograph of yourself, 4200 yen and a timeline you yourself have helpfully sketched on the back of an envelope, precisely detailing every foreign trip you have taken since April 1995.
21) Endure sinking feeling as the clerk takes twenty minutes to decipher your timeline and passport before calling you over to the counter.
22) Start to massage your temples in disbelief as she explains that, since there is no exit stamp in your passport from your trip to the US over the summer of '95, nor a re-entry stamp to the UK for that trip, nor re-entry stamps for either of your week-long trips to Hungary in October 1996 and April 1997, that she is only willing to believe that you spent a total of 73 days in the UK between 1995 and 1998, namely the two and a half months between the issuance of your passport and the date of your first trip abroad on that passport.
23) Point out (to no avail) that UK immigration do not stamp your passport on re-entry to the UK if you are a UK citizen.
24) Point out (to no avail) that entering Hungary a second time necessitates leaving Hungary first.
25) Point out (to no avail) that having a Japanese work visa issued in London in November 1997 virtually guarantees your having spent three consective months in the UK prior to that, as the alternative would be spending more than four months in Hungary. The clerk will be unable to take on trust the awfulness of this hypothetical situation.
26) Breathe a sigh of relief as she agrees that she can combine the 73 UK days on your first passport with the 21, 17 and 5-day UK trips on your second passport for a grand total of 126 proven days in the UK since 1995.
27) Do a double-take as she issues you with the relevant paperwork, along with an extra piece of paper explaining that you are only being issued with a "biginners license" (sic.) because you cannot prove that you have spent 90 consecutive days in the UK since 1993. This, obviously, makes all the difference between your being an experienced driver or not.
28) Resist the temptation to regale the clerk with ribald tales of how you misspent your late-teen years bombing down Hertfordshire country lanes in a succession of high-powered family cars in a late attempt to impress upon her the depth of your driving experience.
28) Take the form from Counter 1 to Counter 0 (which you find, of course, located next to Counter 1) to pay the 4200 yen fee.
29) Take the form and receipt to Counter 7 for an eye examination which involves sticking your head up against a pair of goggles set into somthing resembling an automated Brighton Pier optical illusion peep show machine as envisaged by Terry Gilliam.
30) Move on to Counter 8 to take an oral test administered by a very bored-looking civil servant. Civil Servant: "Do you speak Japanese?" You: "Yes, a little" CS: "A little's all you need, son. Off you go."
31) Have the form stamped at Counter 9.
32) Have your photo taken at Counter 10.
33) Proceed to the fourth floor to collect your actual driving license. Marvel at the sheer number of middle-aged gentlemen waiting for licenses and speculate about how many are re-qualifying as a result of drink-driving or similar convictions.
34) Examine your numbered ticket carefully before proceeding to the collection desk. Decide that, seeing as the queue counter is on 504 and you have ticket number 63,014, you might as well come back later. Much later.
35) Come back later; collect license. Worry about where on earth you're going to find a set of Japanese provisional plates - but that's another story entirely...

Posted by chris at 04:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


Cough hack splutter

Cough cough hack splutter cough hack... man, that *hurt*.

I'm extremely bad at being sick. I don't do it very often, don't get very much practice, can't cope with it when it happens. I become grumpy, acerbic, and even more self-centered than usual - not the kind of person, in short, who's fun to be around. I wish I had the strength of character to put up with it without saying a word, but the thing about feeling miserable is that you tend to act... well, miserable. Der.

Anyway. Since last Thursday I've had the flu. Take one cough that feels like it's trying to rattle your liver up to street level, add a nose which swings back and forth between "completely blocked" and "niagara falls" with all the nervous energy of a ADD case study whose Ritalin has run out, throw in a few twisted back muscles, heat until sweaty even in a well air-conditioned room and deprive of sleep for up to 72 hours at a time, and you have a rough idea of my physical state over the last few days.

Still, there's far too many good things coming up to look forward to for me to have time to wallow around feeling crappy. So screw being ill. Sod it. I'll pretend that I'm fighting fit, and any pathogens who think otherwise can just bugger off. The recovery starts now.

*Hack*

Well, maybe tomorrow.

Posted by chris at 04:38 PM | Permalink


Attack of the Killer Rice Cakes

Yes, it's that time of year again - the annual New Year's rice cake epidemic is with us again. This happens every year - elderly obaachans and ojiisans choke to death on their mochi (sticky rice cakes, traditional New Year's fare).

Which begs the question... why eat them? I mean why? It happens every damn year, for god's sake. Admittedly, one of the victims this time was "only" in his fifties and might have been forgiven for thinking that he had a few years left in him yet, but the other chap was 90, for chrissake - talk about pushing your luck. I really don't have time for a whole anti-traditionalism rant right now, but oooooooh this kind of thing makes me mad.

Mad, I tell you.

Posted by chris at 12:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)


Politically correct jargon watch

Politically correct jargon watch: "extrajudicial killings". What a nice, sanitized way of putting it. Presumably we can't use words like "illegal" or "murder" because it's our allies doing the killing. What a mess.

Posted by chris at 10:43 AM | Permalink


The kanji for carburettor

"He doesn't suffer fools gladly...Well who does?" "Hello I'm a fool!" "Come in! Come in, you crazy fool!" "And this is my friend, he's got Jam for brains." "Whooo hooo? Ooo hoo hooo hoo oooo!" "Come in!" Ahem. Anyway, yes, actually I probably used to suffer fools rather more gladly than I do now.

People who send me requests for kanji ("Please send me the character for computer hacker - thanx") used to get polite rebuttals. I don't mind looking up and mailing people the kanji for individual Japanese words, as long as they tell me the Japanese word they want. It's all very well asking me for the kanji for "chaos", but do you mean konran or ranma? So I put a disclaimer on the site, asking people to research their own translations using other more suitable means... and still they come. "Please send me the kanji for 'The Four Musketeers'." "Please send me the kanji for illiterate so I can tattoo it onto my forehead." For christ's sake - read the disclaimer.

So now I have a standard polite rebuttal e-mail which I ping back to the ones who fail to RTFM - until I got one the other day which read simply, "monk". Three deep breaths, resist the urge to scream at the keyboard... at least he got instant attention, as opposed to having to wait a couple of weeks while I got around to him. My instant reply?

"ey"

I think I may be about to lose it. Bigtime.

Posted by chris at 11:32 AM | Permalink


Ishihara: "Chinese live like animals"

Christ, this man is an imbecile. Worse, he's a dangerously popular imbecile whose thinly-veiled racism is misinterpreted by a large proportion of the general public as patriotism.

Some renegade right-wing isolationist? Nope - he's the mayor of a city of 12 million people, of which I am one: Tokyo. Welcome to the real face of Japanese populist politics.

Posted by chris at 11:05 AM | Permalink


Not to scale

Note: The following post first appeared on fictionsuits.com [?]. Reproduced here in full but without original comments.

The Japanese need for context, the desire to have things explained to them in a precise, detailed manner, manifests itself in some odd ways sometimes. Few TV news features, for example, are complete without one of the presenters holding up a little placard bearing some important statistics, which they then have to hold steady as the camera zooms in on it.

It's not that they can't, or don't, use digital graphics, it's just that sometimes they feel the need to make the presentation of this information more personal, more involved; they'd rather hold the viewer's hand and talk them through something, pointing out the salient bits along the way. Hence the subtitles (yes, in Japanese) on every late-night variety show, making sure that no-one misses a single joke, that everyone shares the experience, that no-one is left behind.

I used to think it was odd; now I just think it's Japanese.

All the same, last week's mission on the part of the TV networks to explain the events of Tuesday to the masses left me a little shocked.

One of the networks on Wednesday used an intricate little desktop model of the World Trade Center complete with scale-model 767s on stalks, which they manoevered, by hand, up to the sides of the buildings. The aircraft nudged lamely to a stop and I noticed, with a mixture of approval and despair, that they'd set the heights of the stalks to correspond to the exact heights of the collisions. Christ, why not go the whole hog? If only they'd bothered to make the towers out of paper, they could have had the planes actually ripping into the interiors of the skyscrapers. Thank god, though, that they stopped short of rigging up pyrotechnics, or pushing scale-model people out of the windows of the immolated floors in their quest to elucidate.

Not to be outdone, one of the other networks followed that the next night with seven-foot-tall models of the towers on the studio floor, with the relevant scorched storeys painted black. Fair enough, they were detailing the respective locations of the many Japanese banks located in the building, a number of whom lost staff in the attack, but still - do you really need a walk-through model to accomplish that?

But the piece de resistance was the network which put a female "reporter" (one of the ones that don't do any actual reporting) in a flight training simulator, the kind that are mounted on massive hydraulic jacks (I'm talking about the simulator now, not the reporter), and had her fly a virtual 767 into a building. Twice. She hit the first one okay but fell short of the second one, grunting as she tugged at the controls and then giggling at her own ineptitude as the plane ploughed into the ground. I will admit that I started, briefly, thinking "Oh, that's a good idea", until I was suddenly overtaken by an angry desire to throw the fucking TV out of the fucking window.

Insensitive? Or just another example of cultural differences? Bit of both, I guess. Maybe I'm all wrong, and there's nothing odd in any of this, but I'm sure that kind of reporting would bring immediate outrage back home or in the States. Someone please tell me I'm mistaken, and that Channel 4 News had Jon Snow throwing airfix jumbo jets at a model of the Pentagon?

Posted by chris at 06:47 PM | Permalink


JLPT application

Thank god for my Japanese teacher and her impeccable sense of timing. Thursday is the deadline for applications for this year's Japanese Language Proficiency Test - a fact of which I had no clue until she telephoned this morning to "remind" me. That's the good news, anyway - I'll be taking the test in December.

The bad news, of course, is that I've spent the last hour or so filling out the frigging forms. My address, in kanji, how many times? I've lost count. Let's see...eight? four of which on the same piece of paper. Thank you very much, Association of International Education, Japan - I would point you towards their Web site but, frankly, it's shit and they're clearly bureaucratic tosspots who couldn't administer a nationwide language examination in a bakery - or something. You get my point.

"bridge" as in "a steady bridge is essential for good cueing technique"Thankfully I've moved since I took the level 3 exam - my previous address involved the kanji for "bridge", which I could never remember how to write correctly. For old times' sake, there it is on the right, the bastard. Doesn't seem so bad now, but I remember it being an absolute pain to reproduce legibly at normal handwriting size.
lit,:"north-new-lodging" Kita-Shinjuku (left) is actually a far less daunting proposition, though I'm sure my stroke order is complete bollocks. The three coffees and two cans of coke probably aren't helping matters either.

Possibly the most pointless part of the form is the part where you have to enter a code number for how many hours of nihongo study you've done. Ever. I've been studying on and off for four years now - was I supposed to be counting? Shit. I guessed at option 06, which is "501-600 hours"; and I hope I'm being totally inaccurate and screwing up their precious statistics.

Sigh. All this hassle for a test I'm going to fail, too. Realistically there's no way I can pass the ni-kyuu ("level 2"); even my kanji, which I normally do well on (>90% on both levels 4 and 3) aren't ready. It's more for the experience than the shiny certificate.

Though it *is* an awfully nice certificate...

Posted by chris at 01:17 AM | Permalink


Bags of fun

Good grief. The staff who work weekdays in the Cafe Danmark near my office are actually pretty used to me and my odd foreign ways by now. Standard practice when a customer orders a cappuccino and sandwich is to put the coffee cup in a paper bag, sellotape it shut, put the sandwich in another paper bag, seal that shut, and then put both into a third, plastic bag which has handles (ooh!) for easy toting by said customer.

Now I'm not a raving conservationist or anything, but this strikes me as rather a waste. Japan's pretty bad at this kind of thing - environmental concerns don't seem to register terribly prominently on the nations's collective mental radar.

So I'm always trying to get shop assistants to refrain from excessively wrapping things for me. I prefer just to carry the coffee in one hand, and the sandwich bag in the other. My opposable thumbs are the result of millions of years of evolution - it seems a shame not to try using them for things other than PlayStation2 gaming occasionally.

The weekday cafe staff, as I said, are quite used to this eccentricity by now. The only reason I mention it is because today it's Saturday: Different Staff Day. Different staff who tried to wrap the coffee up in a clear thin plastic bag(1), then in a paper bag(2). Then I'm pretty sure they were going to try to put that into the large plastic bag(4), along with the paper bag(3) containing the (already individually wrapped) sandwich.

Thankfully I spotted the wrapper-upper trying to secure the thin clear bag(1), and politely intervened as she was attempting to manoeuver it into the paper bag(2). One cappuccino successfully rescued, two bags unwasted. Then I had to intercept the second member of staff doing the sandwich, although I couldn't quite get to her in time. She presented me the plastic bag(4) containing the sandwich's paper bag(3) so, with a polite "I don't need the plastic one, thanks" I just took hold of the paper bag(3) and tried to lift it out of the plastic bag(4). She was obviously a little confused by this, as evidenced by her unwillingness to actually help remove the plastic bag(4), instead continuing to proffer it higher and higher as I tried to extract the paper bag(3) from it. I was taller, though, so eventally I won.

The day's final score: three bags unwasted, and two more Japanese sandwich makers bemused by a weirdo foreigner. Now if I could just get the MOS Burger staff to stop giving me eight napkins every time I buy a single chicken burger, we might actually start getting somewhere...

Posted by chris at 05:24 PM | Permalink


Multiple exclamation marks

Oh, Jesus H Christ on a bike. I hope my employers aren't planning to hold a bunfight in a bakery any time soon. Based on today's farce, they'd need all the help they could muster. I don't normally do this, but pardon me please for a moment while I vent.

Today we reorganized the office slightly; one of the departments was being relocated, so a new desk cluster had to be fashioned for them. This meant "rationalizing" the neighbouring department's desk cluster; unfortunately, I got rationalized at the same time.

Until today, I was sitting with the same department I used to work for. I changed jobs back in February but we couldn't be bothered to move me - there was nowhere else for me to sit, anyway. Finally my boss has reclaimed me; as far as I can tell, I've been moved nearer to him so that I can be summoned to fix his e-mail without his having to stand up and come get me.

Seriously, that's really pretty much the fundamental building block of our professional relationship: his e-mail stops working, I come fix it. Some of the ingenious and challenging ways I have "fixed his e-mail" in the past include:

  • turning the ethernet router on
  • pointing out that his Caps Lock was on, thus rendering his password invalid
  • sitting down in his chair and typing the password in myself
  • sitting down in his chair and clicking on "send and receive mail"
  • sitting down in his chair and moving the mouse fractionally, thus bringing the computer out of sleep mode
  • sitting down in his chair
  • coming within six feet of his workstation
I'm not kidding about the last two - either I have some kind of mystical IT support aura going on here, or he isn't really trying very hard to fix it himself. I'd prefer the former, of course. User tries to send e-mail: nothing. User fetches Chris. Chris stands near computer, bids user try to send e-mail: success. Office falls silent, people back fearfully away as curious electrical discharge plays over Chris' suddenly powerful form, music from Highlander starts playing, etc.

Ironically, I've actually been working with the old gang more than ever before; I'm consulting on a couple of Web projects that they've undertaken and it would have made far more sense to leave me where I was - instead, I am suddenly more fully exposed to the whims of my boss's luddite lapses. Swapping Flash and Director authoring for Outlook Express troubleshooting... not good. Not good at all.

So anyway, I got to swap my seat in the main, open-plan office with huge windows and nice sunsets, alongside a bunch of people with whom I enjoy working very much, for a spot facing into the corner of a windowless, enclosed enclave. I am actually now the nearest person in the office to the door but, unfortunately, making a dash for it without going past the boss would mean scaling the seven-foot wall my desk is set against and then vaulting down into the lobby - so I'm trapped until I can fashion a crude ladder from twisted paperclips and ingeniously folded pages from my Access 2000 and Dreamweaver manuals.

I have a promise from my old team that they will come and evacuate me for lunch at precisely one o'clock every day, which is touching (*sniff* thanks, gang) but I have the feeling that if I'm not ready to move on the dot of time, the helicopter may leave without me, stranding me in my shared cell. We get fluorescent desklamps to compensate for the lack of natural light - and boy, do they make up for it!!!!!!!!!! That's how bad it is - I've had to resort to multiple exclamation marks to denote sarcasm. Fuck.

I'd better get some sleep, try to clear my head. The saga of the move itself I'll have to leave till tomorrow - if I'm not too busy slitting my wrists, that is.

Posted by chris at 12:22 AM | Permalink


Typhoonic tedium

I can't complain, really; I had a sick day yesterday, after all, but it still surprises me that some people apparently managed to avoid going into work today because of the typhoon.

Here's how typhoons work in Japan: They hit the Pacific coast somewhere around Kyushu (one of the southern islands of the main archipelago), they cause a couple of landslides, a couple of dozen families are evacuated from their homes, some poor bugger is killed while trying to clear leaves and branches from his roof gutters (happened again this year), and there's lots of flooding.

This all happens down south, of course, and then the typhoon moves up the coast towards Tokyo, where it rains a lot and maybe gets a bit windy for a day or two, and... that's it. Just that. No landslides - there's nowhere left for any land to slide to in Tokyo, it's so flat and densely packed. And no-one ever dies while clearing storm damage from their gutters, because we have large, intricate spider-like robots that crawl all over our high-rise futuretech buildings, clearing them for us.

If it gets reported to death in Tokyo, it's most likely because the Japanese love making a fuss about impending natural disasters (beats soccer as a national sport - less hooliganism) and Tokyo is home to the highest concentration in the country of people who make those animated graphics for news bulletins, showing navy-blue, crystal-clear rivers (why are they never brown and raging?) neatly bursting their banks and octogenarians falling smoothly off roofs.

Back to the above-referenced post, though - the laughing thing. I thought I'd share with you my (albeit limited) accumulated wisdom on Japanese laughing methodologies. If a Japanese person laughs, it means he or she is one (*at least* one) of the following:

  • amused
  • unamused
  • nervous
  • petrified
  • unsure
  • flattered
  • embarrassed
  • mortified
  • comprehending
  • baffled
  • listening
  • awake
Hope that clears things up a bit.

(Just kidding about the robotic spiders, by the way. But I hope I had you going, even if only briefly.)

Posted by chris at 09:12 PM | Permalink


Come back, Richard and Judy; all is forgiven

Well *that's* a first. I'm taking my first sick day off work - ever. It's an odd feeling... I don't feel guilty, as such - and nor should I, given the state of my throat and my sinuses - but still... I *ought* to be in the office. I just oughta.

But instead I have Japanese daytime TV to look forward to... yum. Lessee...

Channel 1: News. News about rain. It's raining somewhere. Oh, there's a typhoon coming. Great. People trying to catch shinkansen in Osaka are worried about possible delays. Not actual delays, as far as I can tell... just possible delays. Shocking.
Channel 3: Documentary with manic-haired hyperactive thirty-something showing us how men load fish onto conveyor belts. Fascinating.
Channel 4: Home shopping channel... ugly handbags embroidered with teddy bear designs. (Man: "See how convenient the clasp is to operate!" Woman: "Wow! It's so easy!")
Channel 6: TV drama (like a UK soap opera, only worse) with extremely poor acting and cheesy background music.
Channel 8: More shopping. Handbags again.
Channel 10: Anime. Muscled basketball players undergoing some kind of sporting crisis.
Channel 12: Real-time stock market report; commentary in whispered tones, as if to try and convey the seriousness of the situation (Nikkei at lowest level for 17 years).

I now understand why Japan had such a powerhouse economy for so long - faced with daytime TV like this, wouldn't *you* rather be in the office?

Posted by chris at 11:35 AM | Permalink


Dull AIM chain-mail spam

I don't mind receiving random instant messages from complete strangers, as long as they have something to say - even if it's just "hello, I think your site is awful"; that's why I made my AIM screen name public in the first place, after all. But if it's dull chainmail then I can be a really miserable bastard.

RoLy1PoLy3:A kiss blown is a kiss wasted. The only kiss is a kiss tasted. Kisses have germs and germs are hated, so kiss me baby, im vaccinated!" This is a chainletter through im's. You must send this to 30 people within the next hour. If you do, you will get kissed by your crush in the next 24 hours! If not, you will have bad luck with kissing forever. Good Luck! Just simply copy and paste this message
chrissan7: if I don't know you, then sod off
Grumpy old sod? Me?

Posted by chris at 09:58 PM | Permalink


Database abnormalization

Hmmm. Today's lesson from the University of Life: Access 2000 programming skills are inelastic with regard to lack of sleep. It doesn't matter if I get ten hours' sleep or three; database design does not become quantifiably any worse or any better. It's just... there.

Posted by chris at 05:41 PM | Permalink


Snot funny

Gak. My snot is not only copious, it's yellow. That ain't good. I'm waking up these days with odd popping and squeaking noises emerging from my sinuses. I wonder if I should send Autechre a demo tape...

Posted by chris at 04:06 PM | Permalink


Animal or plant?

Tokyo's restaurant scene is vibrant, diverse and cosmopolitan. So why can't most places tell the difference between an animal and a plant?

I really empathized with the author of this short article - not because I'm from Vegetaria myself, you see, but because of the hoops I've watched vegetarian friends jump through in order to get the ham picked out of their vegetable salads. He speaks the truth.

Posted by chris at 09:36 PM | Permalink


Behold the Aerosol of Instant Death

I am so tense right now. For the last few nights, I've been at war - with my uninvited houseguests: cockroaches. I'll put up a longer post when I've had a chance to calm down, and stopped looking over my shoulder every time I leave the relative safety of my futon. I seriously can't cope with them - I'm petrified.

I literally haven't taken more than two steps away from my futon over the last couple of days without taking my Aerosol of Instant Death with me. I eye the floor suspiciously with every step I take, trying to prepare myself for a sudden scuttling shock. The area round my futon has been swept clean (I mean in the FBI / SWAT Team sense of the word, rather than the more literal "broom" sense) but I've still got a few piles of clothes / papers near the bathroom that could be providing refuge. It takes time to clear a pile of underwear when you have to gingerly pick up each piece individually with one hand, whilst training the aerosol on it with the other, convinced a cockroach is going to drop out on you.

And you think I'm kidding. Oh no.

The only roach I have any time for at all is Archy - and I'd probably still run a mile on meeting him.

Posted by chris at 01:05 AM | Permalink


Scottish themepubs

The occasion of my leaving the house yesterday was Mike Coleman's leaving do - one of the few people for whom I would consider switching off the PlayStation. We started off at a mock-British pub, one that appears to have sprung up in the last few months, as I don't remember seeing it before.

It's sited, rather incongruously, amongst the strip clubs, pornographic video shops and hostess bars of Kabukicho, the area of Shinjuku that much of the street scenery in Bladerunner is meant to be modelled on. Restaurant kitchens backing onto narrow alleys, pimps and hustlers loafing in doorways, neon, litter, ramen, shopfronts apparently advertising 5-by-7inch glossy pictures of numbered schoolgirls - and then this place. A mock Scottish (Mottish? Scockish?) basement bar. Tartan tablecloths, fine whiskies (and whiskeys) behind the bar, pamphlets from the sacred distilleries of the Highlands tastefully adorning the walls, and the usual shelves of dark brown, weathered items carefully chosen to scream "authentic".

They never get it quite right, though. Whisky yes, Scottish beer no. Guiness is Scottish, apparently. As is Carlsberg. And when was the last time you saw a Scots pub landlord in a bow tie and waistcoat? Who wipes the outside of the beer glass after pulling a pint, with a deadly serious expression on his face? Do locals really leave there thinking that this is what Scottish bars are really like? (Only one of the three bar staff behind the bar at any one point was actually allowed to do any serving, of course. The others just watched. Not lazily, though - attentively. Like they were on guard duty. This happens everywhere, though, and is a topic for another day.)

I know, I know; I'm being picky. Japan is as susceptible to bad imitation Scots and Irish pubs as Watford High Street, or anywhere else for that matter. This place was just horrid, though. Obsequious staff who will do everything for you short of actually serving you. 1050 yen (£5.97) for a pint. 630 yen for a Coke, for Christ's sake. The company was good, though; I met some interesting people and we lasted for a good few hours before rebelling, politely, and moving on to Footnik in Takadanobaba. Phew.

Footnik was much more fun. Watched the end of the Derby / Manchester United game; Derby won 1-0, actually, meaning they stay up next season. Which was nice. Then we tried to watch Arsenal / Leeds, but sort of gave up at half time and had a table football tournament instead. Modesty forbids me from boasting too much but, thanks to the solid skills of Alan at the back and some dogged attacking play, "Pain & Torment" triumphed over "Team Name", "London FC" and whatever the hell Alex and the other Chris's team was called. All in all, a fitting send-off for Mike and Yoko - they will be missed.

I finally wandered home at about 5am - the best thing about Footnik is that it's within easy walking distance of my flat. Today has been pleasantly hangover-free. The only affliction is the usual panic attack when I stray more than 15 feet from my PlayStation - so, nothing to worry about, really.

Posted by chris at 08:02 PM | Permalink


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