Monday, 19 February 2018

Almost Christmas!

So I'm fairly sure Christmas was yesterday, and tomorrow will also be Christmas.

I say this because it's been more than a month and a half since the holidays and yet it feels like minutes have passed.

As a quick recap of the year so far, I was surprisingly ill for a long time, even by my own lofty illness gathering standards.  This spiralled into a few hospital visits where I was brushed off (booooo Japanese healthcare!) towards finding a clinic that I actually think might be halfway decent.  The doctor seemed to care which was nice, and I have hope that I might actually be able to find pain medication now that I'm not simply laughed out of the facility.  Things are looking up!

Now that I've finished with rugby, I've started playing badminton and occasionally fishing.  I've only lost about 7gbp's worth of gear on the three separate occasions fishing has been attempted, which is pretty good in my books.  I've yet to catch anything but rocks, so I'm looking forward to working through shoes, boots and eventually towards shopping trolleys.  At some point next year I expect to get a nibble, then towards the end of this decade I expect a fish might bite.  At my current pace, this is actually the cheapest hobby I've ever partaken in.

I am terrible at badminton.  I cannot play doubles to save my life.  It doesn't help that there's a language barrier (in most other situations a half second pause to consider what to say is acceptable, in a game as fast as badminton that is less acceptable).  What I have found is that I am pretty damned competitive against any of my opponents (they're all either 80, or heavily pregnant) if I just play by myself and ignore my partner.  This is of course bad form, so I only do it when I've stuffed up a dozen previous shots and feel like I need to make amends - or once an hour, whichever comes first.  I am not a team player.

Awa odori festival from a few years ago

A tall building in London, it might be famous or something.  I don't think many people know about it though.  Weird that the tour bus would even drive past it.
I've also bought a scanner, and I'm in the process of digitising all my film.  The eventual aim is to get to my Grandads slides and 35mm, and digitise those before they disintegrate.  At the moment I'm doing mine so I can perfect the process.  If I end up faffing about with his slides and film, there's going to be a fair amount of damage done because some of the slides are fragile to an extent that leads me to suspect he used them to cover roof tiles, or patch up glass in his greenhouse.  Either that, or they're quite old.

I still haven't dialed in the settings for the scanner properly, but I'm getting there.  I'm probably a thousand pictures in at this point so the act of physically loading the pictures is easy enough, but I'm not quite sure of the settings I want to use.  You can scan the pictures to ridiculous sizes with zero increase in quality, to the point where a single picture runs towards 2 gigs.  This is plainly ridiculous, although there are one or two pictures that I really like, that have had this treatment.

I will write a blog post about the process required to ensure as little dust gets into the final picture as possible though, because it is unbelievable how much crap comes through to the end product.

My main monitor isn't colour balanced which is also another problem, because the pictures look completely different on both my monitors, and then when viewed on a phone look completely different again.  It's a tricky situation, so I'm trying to save the pictures with the highest quality, with the most neutral colour balance possible.  This leaves a lot of otherwise good pictures looking quite bland until they are edited.

I've also recieved half a dozen lenses from very old cameras (they still use screw thread mounts, that's how old they are) from a friend, so am in the process of finding adapters for those.  There's a totally radical (dude) 180 degree fisheye that I desperately want to try out, and a crazy 600mm telephoto.  I have no idea of the quality, but they were going in the bin until they found a home here.

Now I've written that, back to studying Japanese.

Friday, 12 January 2018

When Ears Explode

So I went to England and France over Christmas.

It was a lot of fun despite the ridiculous flights.

A quick word about the flight from Japan:

We went to Europe with Tianjin Airlines (I think).  They flew us from Haneda to somewhere in China, where we disembarked having all our stuff x-rayed (along with us) before we reached the baggage area.  We proceeded to pick up all our bags, walk around to departures, then go through the rigmarole.

We were then x-rayed again, along with all our stuff.  We're up to three scannings at this point.

We got on the second plane and flew to somewhere else in China for what was advertised as a 'technical stop.'  My understanding of a technical stop was similar to the scene in Airplane! where a crew kick the tyres, clean the windscreen and 'fill 'er up.'

This is not the case.  We were ordered off the plane, through more x-rays (4) and immediately shuffled back onto the plane.  As far as I can tell we neither gained nor lost passengers.  An interesting side-note.  As we were walking to be scanned there was an empty, unattended scanning machine with its conveyor running.  Everyone was putting all their shit on this scanner, some were taking off their shoes and whatnot in preparation.

The catch was that there were no officials to be seen at this particular point, so I just walked past and onto the escalator.  Downstairs held the actual border guard and all their scanning equipment, so some people were potentially up to 5 scannings (I don't think the machine was even turned on).

We were shuffled back onto the same plane we were kicked off, then proceeded to fly to Europe.

I think this technical stop was for refuelling, but I don't know why they kicked us off.  The plane was not cleaned as far as I can tell.  I assume it's just the psychology of making everyone get up and piss about for an hour to ensure no one gets cabin fever, or starts complaining or something stupid.  I would much rather be left alone, asleep, in my seat though.

The food was hilariously bad.  I enjoyed it for the novelty factor, which is something I don't usually do.  Ironically liking stuff is the trend among people who would like to hide the fact that they enjoy objectively terrible things.  Like bad movies, rubbish music or Harry Potter.

The reason I enjoyed it?  Until this point I had often wondered what prison food was like.  Now I know. 

The flight from Japan to China had the attendants just throw down a small pack of crackers in a red packet.  Of course red.  There was no drink.  I think they forgot, or maybe they ran out.  Who knows.

It's not really dark to make an artistic statement about my view of the food - they just left the lights off for feeding time.  Presumably so we couldn't see what we were consuming.

The subsequent flights were hot food, on a tray even.  High fallutin' stuff.

It was very hot.
The foil was in the shape of the food holding pot thing, but was not actually secured.  It led me to wonder whether they were saving money by reusing the foil.  It was only gently placed on top of the container, the mere suggestion of cleanliness.  Nothing so gauche as crimping.  Presumably they do this at the factory and not on board, although the crew were strangely absent for most of the flight...

The orange things were food.  They were kind of crunchy.  Maybe carrots?  Maybe melon?  They were sort of dry, crunchy, entirely devoid of flavour.

The tissue packets were printed with 'welcome to this flight,' which was nice, but I could not help feeling that 'motherfucker,' was implied at either the beginning or end of that sentence, what with the abject lack of full stops or capital letters.

A quick note on chinese immigration.  They are, as you would expect, arseholes.  At every stop of the way they push, shove and shout at you for no apparent reason.  I don't know whether it was because our flight was coming from Japan, but at every given opportunity I was fingered by their security guards, shouted at for having a mostly empty bag and pushed into the wrong queues.  I suspect any non chinese visitor will get this treatment, but they are all horrible people.  I looked into the eyes of one of the 'organisers,' and saw the fires of hell.  I looked into the eyes of one of the men sitting at the scanning machine and saw a pit of despair I had only previously seen in fellow teachers.

A second note - when we left the plane in London, it looked like someone had left a window open.  The place was absolute chaos.  Chinese travellers are world-renowned for being disgusting, but the absolute filth the cleaning crew were been greeted with is utterly mind boggling.  I should have taken a picture but I was too tired to think of it at the time.

You could not walk a single metre without kicking wrappers and bottles.  Every chair had headphones thrown about them, discarded at the whim of their users.  Blankets were all over the place.  It turns out that the Chinese earn their reputation and reinforce their stereotypes at every given opportunity. 

There did not appear to be any fecal matter in the aisles, which is something to be thankful for.

After all this, I feel it appropriate to write a summary review for your consideration.

The food was comical.  The staff were acceptably bland.  The plane was a relic.  The trip time was actually decent.  The airports varied from dingy communist terror hole, to cutting edge touch screen zero personality cut and paste ultra modern boringness.

Would I fly with them again?  Absolutely.  Not only were they the cheapest by a stretch, they offer an experience like no other.  They are the airline embodiment of the Shakespearean comitragedy (sic).  From the 1960's plane interiors, to the gruelling immigration experience, nothing about the flight was dull.  Everything was something I have never experienced before.  In a world of unrelenting homogeneity there are few places to see the abutting of so many conflicting systems, from analogue/digital to communist/capitalist.

Rating:  0/10 and 10/10

(I ended up writing way more about this than I though, I'll have to save photos and stuff for another time.)

Friday, 8 December 2017

Good God, Is This What Being an Adult Feels Like?

For the past month and a half I've been back in school, formally learning the language I've muddled with for the past few years.  I've never really sat down to learn Japanese properly, which is a sign of my laziness, but also a sign of my financial situation.

Learning is not cheap.

Learning should be cheap, but it is not.

As a result, I've penny pinched my way to Shinjuku Nihongo Gakko.  This is not an advertisment for them, but I thought you might be interested in where I've ended up.

I chose them for two reasons.  Firstly, they're on my line which means a forty minute ride with no changes, giving me ample opportunity to do some work to and from school.  This is great, because a lot of the busy work when learning language is memorisation.  There really isn't a lot of logic, problem solving or argument construction when trying to learn a language.  This is obvious if you think about it, but you can't argue your way out of a grammatical error until you get into exceptionally high level arguments over the correct usage of obscure particles or whatever the case may be.

Unfortunately, the stuff I loved about studying in university is the construction, deliberation and execution of a well (sometimes not so well) thought out argument that oftentimes ended in me looking like a pillock.  For the sake of coming to understand the impetus behind a particular literary trend, I will suffer that indignity.

The astute among you may have come to realise that I am (in a long winded way) saying that language learning is boring.

There is literally no challenge in it.  I have to memorise verbs, nouns, adjectives (of two varieties) and a smattering of other stuff, then learn how to put them together.  Learning a language is more like learning a bizarre alternative maths, where all the rules are already known and you are told to plug in components to get an already known outcome.  The most rewarding part comes when poking at the boundaries and seeing what sticks and what doesn't, which is absolutely infuriating as a teacher, particularly when you're teaching a low level class like mine.

Coming from the other end of the profession, I know how tempting it is for a simple 'BECAUSE IT JUST IS,' to slip out of the mouth without really thinking about it, but to their credit, the teachers do their best to explain their way around the problem.

Being one of the oldest, if not the oldest student, and coming from the workforce, has also had a profound effect on my understanding of the learning experience.

I haven't stopped working.  I am working so much.  This past month my schedule has been as follows:  Wake up.  Study.  Get on train.  Study on train.  Study at school.  Get on train.  Study on train.  Get home.  Study at home.  Make dinner.  Study.  Clean clothes, then study until bed.  Sometimes there's a shower in there.

One of the facets of learning Japanese is learning Chinese too.  Their writing system is based on 2 alphabets of their own, and Chinese.  It's difficult to explain without spending hours on the who's where's and why's for's, because I'm not sure of the rules myself, but the upshot is that there are literally thousands of characters to learn.

Each one of those characters will have up to four different sounds attached to them.  If we're counting, we are already up to very many thousands of sounds and meanings and whatnot.  Combining this smorgasbord of characters gets you the words that are used every day.

The Japanese and Chinese will tell you there is logic behind the way the kanji are constructed and subsequently combined, but that's utter bollocks.  It's all a hodgepodge of lines and squiggles.

Anyway, I have to learn about 2,000 I think?  I'm going for a specific test, and while I have done the research, I can't remember off the top of my head what the requirement is.  Those 2,000 will then combine among themselves to give words and meanings and make an entire language.  So I'm told.

So far I have about 300 under my belt, from a month or so of trying to memorise them.  If you say the meaning, or show me how they are spelled, I will be able to write those 300 kanji, with about a 5% error rate.  Reading those kanji is harder, but is what I am focussing on at the moment.  Next week, I start on the next 300 and then so on and so forth until I die, or learn the 2,000.  There are way more than 2,000, but that's what they decided is the level for competency.

All in all there's a long, long way to go.  I've not even mentioned the grammar which is bonkers.  How many ways can you conjugate a verb?  You would be surprised.

I'll leave that for another post though.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Literally, the Best Picture Ever Taken by a Human

This is literally the best picture taken by a human being in the history of mankind.

I qualify human, because I'm sure in my lifetime a robot will have taken a better picture.  Perhaps it will be an automated drone type thing, perhaps it will be floating in the ocean when an elusive giant squid floats by, being chased by a school of ocean faring piranha somehow.  Maybe there are aliens involved.

Anyway, without further ado, here is the picture:

Actually, before I get to the picture, just note that I've made some modifications to it, to ensure that no one steals this amazing picture and puts it on facebook with some misattributed inspirational quote.

Please feel free to e-mail me for a copy of the original.  (Only 2500 USD, one copy, digital, 240px by 320 px.)

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Blue Planet 2, Electric Boogaloo

So the new blue planet is out, to some amount of interest.  The only reason I know about it is through the internet, via osmosis, so I assume it has gained a fairly sizeable viewership despite only being one episode in.

The videography is amazing.  It's absolutely stunning.  I can barely fathom how long it must have taken the cameramen to capture the images they did, especially when filming migratory behaviour.

Of course a lot of it is fake - the last series was renowned for using footage from inside aquariums and passing it off as the real deal, but what programme isn't a complete lie in this day and age?  For the sake of the overwhelming majority of the footage being spectacular, it's easy enough to overlook the lies for a few scenes.

The voice over is done by David Attenborough, who we can only assume isn't writing what he says.  We can hope, at least, because the script is entirely forgettable.  As in, it just narrates what's on screen and doesn't offer any insight into the animals we see.  For example there's an extended sequence where a fish uses a rock to open shellfish.  This is incredibly cool to watch, and something I had previously assumed was reserved for mammals.  Or at least animals with thumbs.

But the voiceover for this section consists of, 'this is cool, we didn't know fish were intelligent enough to do this, but look he has no hands and he keeps dropping the thing.  Oops.  Oops.  Dropped it again.  Oops, he dropped it.'

Insightful stuff.

But I'm skirting around the real issue.  The sound work is fucking atrocious.  Holy shit.

I don't know what their budget was, but the producers spent literally all of it on the visuals and had their toddlers do the sound for free on their TOMY (tm) Copyright 'my first animal phone.'  You know the ones, they have a picture of a cow, you press it, it plays a recording of what is obviously a bored man saying 'moo.'

I can't believe how badly they fucked up in this department.

Every.  Single.  Shot.  Is accompanied by the sound of roaring ocean, regardless of whether the shot is ten miles underwater or ten miles above it.

Fine.  You are making a documentary about the ocean.  Let's assume it's more of an art piece.

Some dolphins rub up against a coral to clean themselves of parasites or whatever.  Quite interesting - but why does it sound like sandpaper rubbing against a wood railing?

A fish flings itself at a bird that's in mid air and manages to grab it.  Really, really cool shot that must have taken the video guy ages to shoot.

The sound effect they use?  I implore you to watch it because no one who hasn't seen it will believe me, but they dub over the sound of a lion or tiger, or some kind of monster, roaring.

I shit you not.

Go to one minute and 10 seconds.

The very next scene.  THE VERY NEXT SCENE, has a bird preparing to fly for the first time.  It kind of gently puts its foot on the ground while it stands in place, as animals are wont to do.

The narrator makes it sound like it's preparing for a fight against Mike Tyson in his prime, and the audio fucknut plays a sound effect of a HAMMER BLOW, AS THE FUCKING BIRD STEPS ON THE GROUND IN SLOW MOTION, TO MAKE IT SEEM LIKE THE FUCKING BIRD IS PSYCHING ITSELF UP. 


The producers were one meeting away from playing eye of the tiger at this very moment.

Christ, this garbage isn't a documentary.  How dare they call it anything other than populist trash dressed up as science.

It's an absolute crying shame because the producers have rightly surmised that we, as a population, have the collective IQ of a pickle farm, and need a story to make it interesting for all us idiots.  We need these animals to have human traits, otherwise they're not relatable, and we need ridiculous sound effects because that's what hollywood does.

Go fuck yourself producers.  Go fuck yourself David Attenborough, for putting your name to yet another soap opera dressed up as a documentary.

The funny thing is that this will win hundreds of awards for being the most realistic, lifelike documentary ever to have graced a human eyeball.  Idiots will lap it up as the most spectacular, honest, truthful stuff ever sent over the airwaves.

It's garbage.

But, just as trash humans get by on looks alone, so will this.

I might go back and watch it muted, while listening to music.  But for the love of god don't spend money on it.  Pirate it and mute it, play Beethoven or some classical shit over the top.  All the amazing slow-motion scenes will go great with some classical music instead of the Godzilla soundboard the director decided upon.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Fly, My Dragon

So part of my Grandads camera gear were a set of lenses.  There were enough that I might even call them a suite of lenses.

One of the highlights is a macro lens that lets you get within centimetres of your target, allowing a really large photo on the other side.  I was interested in getting a macro lens before I came across this one because they're way, way cheaper than their telephoto counterparts.

Note that I'm talking about stuff for getting up close and/or magnifying macro, not the type to take photographs of people.  I'm sure there's a name for the different types, but I don't know them.

Anyway, as a bonus to buying the adapter to see if I can get Grandads slides onto the computer, I can also use his cool macro lens with my digital camera.  The result is this:

And this:

The video shows how hard it is to keep this thing still.  Modern cameras have image stabilisation, some in the body, some in the lenses.  Canon have chosen to put their system in the lenses, and because I'm using an old lens, it most certainly does not have image stabilisation.

The colours are also wonky, so I had to pep them up in my video software.  The result is an imperfect picture, but I quite like the image even in video.

Getting up close with a dragonfly is hard, especially at arms length without a tripod.  Next time I'm going to try to find a co-operative insect that's at waist height.

I don't know what the green insect is, but it was a piece of cake to take a picture of.

Luckily for me I managed to take a few more pictures at the park we went to, and I still have a ton from the UK to go through.  Tons more pictures to look at on a rainy day!

Friday, 6 October 2017

Cameras and Whatnot

So I recently came into possession of a bajillion 35mm slides.  They were my Grandads and are a chronicle of his time as a photography enthusiast.

Unfortunately, no one looks at slides anymore and the only way for me to check them out would be to find, or fashion, a projector.  This would happen exactly once in my lifetime, then the pictures would be stored away, never to be seen again.

The solution is to digitise them.  This presents problems, all relating to money.

If I send them away to a company to digitise, it will cost a fortune and the quality will likely be pants.  If I send them away to a company to do them properly it will cost more than buying my own studio in the Bahamas full of photography equipment, yachts and supermodels.

Clearly, these are infeasible.

The second solution was to buy a scanner and scan them in myself.  My time is worth nothing to anyone, so I win on that front.  Unfortunately I don't win on the buying a scanner front.  For the kind of scanner I would want (top of the line of course) it would be just shy of one thousand dollars.

Clearly this is also unfeasible.

To make scanning matters worse, in order to get the best quality scans possible, you have to employ a wet scanning process.  Once you've invested in the 1,000 USD scanner you behoove yourself to go the whole hog, buy the fluid and gloves, and scan everything in properly.

This is terrible and I would hate myself every time I squirted a tenners worth of mineral oil all over my scanner.

For psychological reasons, then, scanning is less than ideal.

The final alternative is something Grandad unwittingly provided for me.

Back in the good old days, the easiest way to reproduce a slide, enlarging areas or changing the shot, was to buy a big tube with a slide holder on the end, which twisted and turned every which way to line the slide up correctly.  You could then twist the cheap, plasticky barrel to zoom in and rearrange the shot.  Hold this monstrosity up to the light and presto, you have a new negative or slide of your original photo.

Grandad had one of these, which I didn't think anything of (I'm not reproducing his pictures, enlarging or cropping them with film) until it came time to wonder as to how to commit his slides to digital.

I wondered how to best go about the process, and while mulling it over came to the realisation that a lot of people use their digital cameras to commit prints, negatives and slides to their computers.

Clearly, I was onto a winner.

So without delay I found a Beschoi adapter for C/Y to EOS mounts (this adapter has no way of releasing the C/Y half of the setup without long nails and/or 3 sets of hands, so I cannot recommend it) and hooked it up to my camera.

This is a sample shot.  You'll notice it's on the piss.  That's fine, I can fix that with a rulers or a level.

One of the great things with this system is that once it's set up I can slide the slides in and out quickly, take a ton of simple pictures at this decent level of quality (this picture was taken with 10 seconds of setup pointing at a lamp) and then pick out the ones I want to do properly.  To do them 'properly,' is then a case of bracketing however many shots, shoving them into photoshop and asking it to do the rest.  This will give a nice dynamic range, ensuring as much of the subtlety of film is captured as possible.

Another bonus with this bizarre setup is that I can zoom in 2.4x the original size, so I could go absolutely overboard and capture however many shots zoomed in, then recomposite the final image in photoshop to ensure the maximum quality.  (each of those images would have to be bracketed, so dozens of images.  Clearly something I might only consider for the single best photograph in his entire collection).

So I think this will do.

It's not as good as wet scanning with an Epson V850 or whatever the hell - but it is a lot cheaper.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

A Musical Accompaniment

So I know a guy, through a friend, that makes some pretty damned good music.

In the age of collapsed advertising structures and mostly free information, it can be really difficult to find music that you like because there is just so much stuff.

With this increased freedom I assume it's become more difficult for the creators to cash in on their craft, despite the enormous potential listener base.  There will always be super megastars (enter current pop idol here) but I assume the availability of great quality, free music has made the middling artist a thing of the past.  The group that scrapes by on a few album sales, a few tours and a little bit of luck are probably working normal day jobs at this point right?

This isn't due to quality.  If there's a net positive for humanity in the democratisation of tools and knowledge, it's that the 'average' person is now capable of producing some exceptional work.  This goes for books, music, painting, comics, even documentaries and films.

So now that we can all, within reason, produce high quality stuff - who gets to choose what makes it big?  Luck?  Or boning the right producer?

Who is to say.

Anyway, here is the music.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Back to School

So my plan at the moment is to enrol in a Japanese language school here in Tokyo.

I've been around to a few different schools and decided upon the school I want to attend, sent out my application and now we play the waiting game.

In the meantime I'm working on writing.  It turns out that being able to read and being able to write are two completely different skills that require work.

Who would have thought.

Anyway, part-time work, rugby and my own studying are what I'm doing right now and, assuming I get accepted, will be for the next month or so.

That's about it.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Foot or Mouth Syndrome

So I've not really updated for a long time.

I've not really done anything for a long time.

Such is my life at the moment.

One thing I have been doing though, is training.

Training when it's hot, training when it's very hot, even training when it's extremely hot.

One such training day saw me run for a little while, sweating an awful lot, then returning home for a shower.  It was a normal run.  The abnormality came that night however, when I had a fever and was sweating with coldness/hotness/coldness all night.

Then my foot looked like this:

So I hobbled to the hospital (more than a mile on this foot nearly killed me outright) and obtained some 'painkillers,' and antibiotics.

That was nearly a week ago, so I've not had a lot of opportunity to do anything other than get fat, which is only a change to my normal life in that this time it's been forced upon me.

Only a few more days until I can walk around though.  Things will change then, just you wait.

(But probably they won't)

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

In case you were wondering what the demographic breakdown for the European Leave bloc looks like, here's a helpful article.  Draw your own conclusions.

When all the current OAP's have passed on with none of these wishlist reforms having been enforced and the UK at the bottom of all quality of life tables for developed countries, will my generation finally stop being blamed for the state of the country?

The maddening thing is that our elders hanging us out to dry, the ones who were supposed to leave the world a better place for us, probably think this is in our best interests.


To be fair though, energy saving light bulbs really are a bit shit.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Another Day, Another Aquarium

So we had some time off, along with the whole of Japan.  No one here wants to go abroad, so whenever there's an extended holiday (any holiday longer than one day) everyone goes out with their families.  As such, we didn't want to be stuck indoors with everyone else outdoors, but we also didn't want to go anywhere that might be particularly popular for a long time on account of there being little enough space at the best of times, let alone during a holiday.

I took the initiative for once and decided upon another aquarium, this one somewhat nearby.  Kasai Rinkai Sealife Park is surprisingly large and houses fish, rays, small sharks and even a few birds.

There's not a lot more to say so here's a video, much like the last I shot.

(Bear in mind it was pretty busy, so it's not the best shot thing in the world)

Monday, 17 April 2017

Aquarium Sumida

So I went to an aquarium with some people and took a few pictures.  I also shot a little video, which you can see here:

I spent most of my time looking and reading, so didn't end up taking many pictures.  As such, here are one or two that turned out alright.

This one looks good in colour, but I like the fronds and shapes of the anenome, and you don't often see clownfish in black and white.

It turns out I am horrible at photographing jellyfish.

This guy looked bored, which is a shame because they're incredibly intelligent creatures.

Clownfish in colour, because they are bright orange after all.

Thursday, 16 March 2017


So Neuromancer is one of those books that I've always promised myself that I will read, but never managed to get round to it.

For whatever reason I sat down with it over the past few days.

It's one of the first books to approach cyberpunk and is the defacto standard upon which all other dystopian future books and movies are judged.  I say this knowing that certain other works, like bladerunner, came before it, and were an obvious influence on the aesthetic, dialogue, even the names used throughout.

In short, this book is spectacular.  I don't necessarily mean that in the literal sense of being a spectacle to behold, moreso the hyperbolic sense of being something truly unique.  It may be that I am pre-disposed to liking anything in this setting, which may or may not be true, but the story works on a personal level that is exemplified by a single line of dialogue at the very end of the book.  A fundamental nature of existence is revealed to one of the protagonists that fundamentally alters the outlook of their universe - yet I could care less because it doesn't directly involve the characters that I have followed from start to finish.  I care more deeply about the people than the very nature of existence for something that is not human.

It is often said that the root of a good story is good characterisation, and this is why something like Robinson Crusoe divides opinion (is the island a character or not, and if so, is that appealing to the reader?) whereas something like the Titanic movie does not (it's a universal love story that happens to be set upon a famous boat and is either liked or loathed without having to delve into why).  Whether you enjoy these stories is irrelevant because the central theme of the knowably human is evident throughout Titanic, but more difficult to find in Crusoe.

Cyber Punk is often accused of being an excuse to set a scene.  To have worldbuilding overtake the character and assume life as Defoe managed (I think) to do two hundred years ago.  I think this is to criminally undersell the value of world versus character, but it is a complaint I have seen time and time again with everything from music to painting to dance.  How can I relate to the work.  How can I understand what is being said through it.

Neuromancer understands people.  It is a book written by someone who sees a world through the eyes of a character as opposed to showing you the character acting within a world.

I don't know if anyone reading this will have a mechanically altered pancreas that filters out drugs, or mechanical eyes, or the ability to telepathically alter the world around them, but these characters are as human as anything you will see in any other fiction.

That the science behind their augmentations allow them to interact in such a way is testament to the abilities of characters to work within the genre, and is something many authors have failed to replicate.  Why care about a world, when everyone is a crudely drawn archetype?

In this way I think Neuromancer is the perfect gateway drug.  It starts with a now infamous line, carries a story through locations that are as real as any documentary, and ends with a bomb that left me feeling hollow.  The kind of hollow that drops the gut and reminds us of the power of great literature.  Stories take on the experiences of the reader through a myriad of twists and turns that remind us of our past, our feelings and, fundamentally, of who we are.  Whether it has the same effect upon you as it did me can only be discovered through reading, so get to it.  It's available freely online with a quick google search or here, and isn't so long as to be overbearing.

Neuromancer is the high watermark for fiction of this genre and is a classic in any.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Wow - Machines edition

So I recently came across this video:

Which is mesmeric despite the terrible quality.  It looks like one of those videos that loops indefinitely, but in reality only has 100 or so frames to the entire thing.  The way these guys have got the system down to a fine art really make the whole thing.  Also, how cool is that machine?  I assume the driver has a wealth of experience using it which makes the whole process look simple, but the design of that piece of equipment is also brilliant.  Although, having said that, it doesn't look like it would be particularly versatile.  You wouldn't be able to fight off the zombie hordes with it for very long.

You might be able to change a duvet or two with it though.  Your bed changes per hour would be through the roof.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Aaaaand Relax

After the stress of Elon Musk trying to steal money from me, I have now calmed down.

As a tribute to the first day of a new month (now with some more money) I have decided to write a short thing about nothing in particular, just because.

I bought a gym membership, my first in many years, and boy they're expensive here.  Prior to now I just used the club gym.  The only problem is that we haven't started the season yet (this last month of vegging has been glorious) and their ground is miles away.  I value sitting at home on the sofa for the couple of hours I get free a day, so I bit the bullet and bought a month at the local golds gym.

In related news, I've carried on the writing, link here.

Regardless of the quality of the writing, I'm happy this one didn't have a title picture with some weird rascist overtones.  I'm not going to link that one.  Don't go looking for it.

I will, one day, get round to adding pictures to these things myself instead of relying on the editorial team.  That way I can add funny MS Paint style faces and whatnot.  Definitely a great idea.

In other news there is no other news, really.  It's still pretty cold.  Not cold enough for snow.

I sent out christmas presents this year which arrived in england.  They were inspected by the post office because there were dangerous looking items inside.  There weren't, so they helpfully sent the not dangerous items back to me with a sign saying WELL DONE, NOTHING IN THIS WAS DANGEROUS, FEEL FREE TO SEND IT ALL BACK TO ENGLAND AGAIN.

No one will believe the incredible lack of logic in the decision so I'll take a picture and post it up next time, but this is actually what happened, I kid you not.  I haven't actually opened it yet to check that everything is still inside, but considering how frequently half my packages have stuff stolen out of them or just do not arrive at all, I'm not holding my breath.

But this is a positive February, so it will be fine.  Most likely.

Monday, 30 January 2017

PayPal - Thieving Scum

I hate paypal, but I had to use them for some writing work I did a while ago.

I stupidly let the money accrue in the account, as transferring it cost a base 300 yen every time.  I came to take that money out, and now I can't access my account.

No worries, I'll phone them up.

6 phone calls later and they won't even pick up my number any more.  They just boot me off their lines and won't speak to me.

They have stolen a hundred quid from me.

It's a crying shame no one will read this because I would love to shout out to the world never to use them, and I would love them to go out of business (spoiler alert they won't because they're owned by amazon).

I am as angry as I have been in a very, very long time.

Paypal is a thieving organisation run by crooks.  The funny thing is, one of the founders of paypal is elon musk, the guy everyone thinks is going to save the world.  Once a thief, liar, crook and scumbag, always a thief, liar, crook and scumbag.  Beware that man.

Update - Got my money back!  Woooo!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

The Flu is Upon Us, Run for Your Lives

So Flu season is officially underway.

Every year, without fail, the dreaded influenza attacks Japan with devastating effect.

It's particularly virulent here not because they have weak immune systems, nor due to random mutations making their viruses stronger than elsewhere, but (I assume) due to geography and society.

Population density is very high here, especially in Tokyo and the cities.  If one person sneezes on a crowded train, can you hear the other passengers fall?  The answer is yes, because the sneezer can't even raise his hands to cover his mouth, so full are the trains.  This raises some obvious problems in terms of hygiene, and means that a single infected individual may make a great number of other peoples weeks worse.  I assume this isn't a problem in the middle of Siberia, where you're more likely to see a meteorite than other human beings.

The other problem is the people.  No one washes their hands.  Ever.  I've written about this a thousand times before, but it's worth repeating in case you find yourself here.  Don't touch anything, and always bring hand soap/alcohol with you.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I've never seen someone wash their hands in Japan, and I have used public toilets.  They consider rinsing fingertips under tepid water for three tenths of a second 'a thorough wash,' and go about their day as if they're not the reason everyone is always sick all the time.

My speculation on this is that a thousand years ago, when no one knew anything and a splinter could kill you, people ran their hands under water and gave up at that, because the whole thing was a futile attempt at keeping clean and what's the point.  That tradition is still observed outside temples and shrines and whatnot, where literally hundreds of thousands of people will pick up, mess around with, and then drink from the same half a dozen spoon/ladle things.  The water may come from a tap, but it can also be recycled, pumped around a closed loop and topped up with fresh water when it gets low.


So water is clean, and touching water imbues the toucher with cleanliness, I suppose?

They all wear masks which is a horrible idea to try and stop getting ill (the masks, they do nothing), but is a great idea if you are actually sick and don't want to make anyone else ill.  For whatever reason, they do not cover their mouths when they cough and sneeze, instead preferring to throw their hands back, find the nearest person and cough/sneeze as loud/hard in their victims face as possible.  This is why masks are a great idea, because they can do that to their hearts content while limiting the risk to their victim.  I doubt the masks do much in this instance, but it's got to be better than nothing, right?  Right?

They absolutely learn about cells, viruses, bascteria and transmission in school, I've seen the books and posters telling the kids how to actually wash their hands and not cough in other peoples faces, but absolutely no one takes notice.

And the hospitals here don't have a bonkers death rate after surgery, so the doctors wash their hands.

As a nation, they know about the transmission of disease, but the grand total of shits given is zero.

In thinking about it, I suppose that's similar to our obsession with soccer.  We are absolutely horrible at it, and we'll never be any good, but everyone gets their hopes up like a bunch of idiots and then get angry and start rioting when we lose.

As a nation, we know soccer is a lie and terrible for our national health, but everyone still gets angry.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The Cold! The Cold!

So I've caught a cold.

I hadn't slept in a few days (bar a few hours here and there) so I had to take a day off work yesterday.  I was basically carrying around the typical flu symptoms along with a severe case of zombie, and for some reason random nose bleeds, which led me to the conclusion that 'teaching,' a bunch of kids probably wasn't the best idea.

I managed to get some rest last night which led me being able to work today, which is good because money - but I'm starting to lose the energy I had at the beginning of the day.  Luckily my classes are complete and I only have to do typical busywork like making worksheets and whatnot, so the next couple of hours will pass quickly and I can get back to my sofa.

My fridge is currently a haven for unhealthy goods.  If there were a tax on owning unhealthy things I would be bankrupt with all the goodies I was sent over Christmas.  Yes, I am writing this from a place of smugness, and yes you will be jealous when you see the photograph with all the sweets I have.  But no, I am not giving you any.  They are all from england and good chocolate is rarer than wagyu beef here.

(...  Unfortunately I don't have any pictures on hand, so you will have to imagine the subtle golden halo and hymns that emanate from my open fridge.)

In other news, I tried to make a christmas dinner.

Coming into the endeavour with no experience I expected it to be a complete disaster, so I also made a backup meal of hamburgers.  In keeping with my attempts to make everything as difficult as possible, I bought ground beef and made them myself, topped and bottomed by rolls made from the home bakery.  The burgers were tasty.  Very, very tasty.

My mum sent me over some stuffing for the big occasion which ended up being some of the most delicious I've ever tasted (it's the same stuff we ate with every roast back home) and the chicken.  Well.  Only pictures will suffice in this instance.

Om nom nom.

It turns out that Japanese chickens are about half the size of english chickens, so the stuffing exploded out during cooking.  It didn't matter though, because the whole thing was unbelievably delicious.

If I'm using too many superlatives for your liking, please understand that I am a horrible cook and for a meal to end up edible, let alone tasty, is an accomplishment for the record books.

You might also notice that there aren't any vegetables.  This is because the chicken was more spread out when it was raw, and took up more of the dish, only to curl up when it was cooked.  The picture is also a little deceptive in that the dish itself is actually very small.  If I were to add potatoes and carrots, I would have to wedge them in between the chicken and the dish.  Hardly conducive to good browning I'd say!

Food nobbery(sic) aside, I'm glad I decided against adding veg because this whole endeavour took a bastard long time and was a pain in the backside.  Along with the burgers, ice cream and cake we made (those last two were group efforts) we ended up spending most of the day on the food.

Chocolate, ice cream, roast chicken, chocolate cake and burgers.  Now that's a christmas dinner.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

The Christmas Eve

So I'm here on the eve of Christmas, watching some chronic Japanese TV that's barely more than a commercial for shit to buy, wondering whether to wait until I wake up tomorrow for the ceremony of opening presents (it's 11.48 in the pm as of this word).

Obviously I'll open them tomorrow, don't fret.  But as I sit here unsure of what to do with myself in an entirely non-christian country, I've come to the realisation that we could all use some excellent music in our lives, no matter the time of day or time of year.

As such, here's my christmas pick for best christmas music.  Christmas.

If you listen to the lyrics you'll understand perfectly why this is an excellent christmas song.  Also, for whatever reason, this is the song that has really got to me recently.  Obviously if you don't know what the song is about insofar as it is part of a soundtrack for a video game, you won't have the overall aesthetic in your mind - but I think this is a song that entirely transcends the work it draws inspiration from.

That might just be me to be honest.  It'd be interesting to know what you think.

Everyone has their own quirky tastes, this is mine!

After I've brought you all down with a haunting ode to the bleakness of life - here's a santa delivering pizza.  I think I uploaded a very similar picture a few years ago, because these guys are everywhere and always out and about during christmas - but you can never have enough santa with a crash hat on a trike.

So this is my traditional christmas eve meal.  The traditional christmas foods of home-made gyoza (ungodly in its deliciousness, in case you were wondering).

The other half of this epic was the lasagne, pictured below.  Contrary to popular opinion it was actually this variation of pasta eaten by jesus before he was hung, or drawn, or born or whatever it is christmas was invented to pretend happened.

A much less well known fact was that he enjoyed gyoza as a side dish, and a mug of white wine.  Note, his mug might have been a black disney mug that changed colour when it got hot.  That might just be mine though.


I have special plans for tomorrows meal so if things go well I'll upload a picture of that.  I'll see if my holiday blues have cleared up enough that I can stop listening to the above song, and possibly come up with another recommendation.

Happy Christmas!