Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Give Me Presents

I have come around on socks.

And also pants.

So in order for mortals to buy each other Christmas presents there has a to be a well defined price bracket, which in turn means there are restrictions on what can and cannot be purchased for one another.  I cannot, for example, request a jet fighter for Christmas.

Well, I can request all I want.

The point is that socks and pants are lame.  Clothes are pretty poor Christmas presents, and pants and socks are objectively the worst clothes, so they are super lame.

But you know what's worse than socks?  Buying socks.  Who wants to do that?  It's one of the worst chores out there.  If someone could somehow invent a machine that connects to a global system of other machines that humans could interact with in order to remotely buy such items it would alleviate some of the hassle, but it's still terrible.

And because I cannot request jet fighters for Christmas I need a reasonable present idea that can be acquired by anyone.

As such, with a heavy heart, I must declare socks and pants a good go-to Christmas present.

A jet fighter would be cool, too.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Christmas Creep

So the never-ending encroachment of store pedalled Christmas Crap (TM) into earlier slots on the calendar is something people in the West are embracing.  Something you might not expect to hear, however, is the stunning inclusion of this early onset transactionitis in the Japanese psyche.

This picture was taken on the first of November, a crazy thing when you consider that no one even celebrates this shit here.  No one buys this stuff!  Why is it out on the shelves?  It's useless crap in December, let alone November.

And then, on November the third I saw this adornment to my local shopping centre/train station.  What in the world is happening?

This encroachment is a full week earlier than it was last year, bringing it very much in line with England and America.  I wonder if next year they'll start before halloween.

Speaking of halloween, there was a very large party in one of the booze districts of Tokyo this year, and police are very much apprehensive of the trouble it caused.  There were a whopping two arrests this year, which is a zero percent increase year on year.  As a result of the sleeping man (incident one), and drunk man who lashed out at coppers (incident two) the police are going to up security measures next year in Tokyo.

The news reported the fact people were having fun as if it were the literal end of the world, that society had fallen blah blah blah.

So if you ever needed proof that the news is a bunch of sensationalist bullshit designed to scare you, look at Japan.  The country is a thousand times safer than your country in all metrics but they're still trying to keep you terrified of nothing.

The system works!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Scared Straight

So I done gone caught the flu, and done gone forgot to sleep last night (what a time to not sleep!) so I'll be honest, I'm not feeling great.

On the upside, I got to see a car crash into a cyclist today.

On the downside, it was a planned event on school grounds whereby a group of 'stuntmen,' were deliberately hit by a foam padded car in order to show how dangerous cars are.

On the upside it was cool, and the bike was mangled pretty badly.

On the downside it was super hot outside.

On the upside, I'm not outside anymore.

Three ups, two downs.  Ups win.

Anyway, the premise is simple: show the kids what a crash is like and they'll be perfect citizens for the rest of their days.

I quite like the idea of showing something like a crash for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, most of these kids will have never, and likely will never, see something like this in the wild.  It puts a real consequence to a theoretical they've been taught all their lives.  If they ever do find themselves as a spectator to something like this, the 'I know this,' effect will kick in, and all the people will be saved from the bald dinosaurs.
It's a bit of a stretch, admittedly, but at least they ask the students what the emergency service numbers are during the presentation, so a conceivable benefit has been realised.
The other benefit is employment.  A troupe of unemployed actors get to roll around destroying bikes.  Cool.
So they teach the kids how to be safe, don't ride without a helmet.  Don't cross the street until the man is green.  Don't stand near the edge of the pavement.
And all this great advice will improve the safety of the younglings not at all.  They're taught how to act, (great word incoming) unilaterally, unthinkingly.
If the man is red then you wait.  Implied in waiting in modern society is looking down at your phone, headphones in, entirely oblivious to the outside world.  And then you cross on the green man, head down, oblivious to the outside world.  But the green man said go.  I assume you can see where this is heading.  And it stands for so many aspects of Japanese society, working all the way through the corporate favour system they employ, to running a household.
Keep your head down and go when the man says to.
I would have stayed out longer and watched a few more stuntsmen pretend to get run over, but for some reason it's about a million bajillion degrees outside and I have a legitimate flu' (if it's influenza, why is the flu not 'flu' on account of missing letters on either end of the word?).
Also the name.  Statistics show that the death penalty doesn't work, and that's the ultimate in scary straighteyness, so who are they trying to impress with a name like that?  (P.S. It's in English so no fucker knows what it means anyway.)
If you think I'm stretching, take this somewhat less extreme example of this principal in action: taking bad kids to a prison to straighten them right up.  The article shows it's an ineffective strategy to say the least.  I wonder if there have been any studies translated into Japanese?  Then again, this little circus employs eight or so people, so best not to rain on their parade.
Side note:  Is it just me, or has tech suddenly become interesting again?  For the last decade there's been an incredible amount of stagnation in the tech space, the last great innovation was the move to parallelism in computing then nothing seemed to happen, and now bam.  VR.  3D printers.  Drones (I don't think anyone actually cares about drones, but they have a cool connotation, pew pew gonna' bomb yo' non-European/American freedom hating free speech fuck yeah 'Murica ass).  Space travel  (One way trip to Mars.  Cool!).  4K.  Self Driving cars that only try to kill people a little bit.  Fusion generated electricity within the next two decades (it's only taken fifty years, what's waiting another twenty?).
Of these things I want VR and a 3D printer.  4K is a natural evolution and will happen equally naturally.  Who cares about drones?  Who has the space for one in their home when it's not flying around spying on the neighbours?  Or maybe you can mid air refuel them.  100 foot battery change, eternal flight.
I would sign up to be the first man on Mars even if it meant I was never coming back.  In a heartbeat.  But that's not going to happen, so I'll settle for the first two.  In a strange way they're entwined, as both require virtualisation in 3D space, and you could conceivably work a design for your printer with VR.
I've watched the evolution of VR into a viable product for a few years now, and the obstacles they've overcome have been pretty interesting.  Latency, resolution, fit and feel, brightness - all things that have been designed around and the results look great.  I've only tried static 3D headsets up to now, no tracking with head movements and certainly no controllers that map to the 3D space of the virtual world (punching yourself in the face while trying to scratch your nose is a reality.  I did it.) but they are all things that have been added to the pot.  With the first release of occulus, vive and morpheus (facebook owned, valve owned and sony owned respectively) we'll see a brand new format war that I'm entirely ready to embrace because up until this point, much like 3D in cinemas, VR has been a gimmick.  I want to see what it can do.  Plug the internet straight into my brain goddamnit.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Boris is an Imbecile

This post was originally going to be about funny Japanese mispellings, but then Boris Johnsson (I don't care if that's how you spell his name) came to Japan and that was that.  He's such a bumbling idiot that, at this point, it's become clear it's an act.

After buggering all those decapitated pigs heads, him and his chums must have done some serious drugs, and whereas stick-up-ass cameron decided to try a sober humanoid persona to cover his blattodean for, boris went in the other direction.  He chose the buffoon overalls.

I will freely admit it worked on me for a while, what with the actively harmful peers he mingles with being impossible to respect, his artificial stupidity is the least threatening of the lot.

But it's worn off now.

Grow up Boris.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


So I read a book recently called 'Aurora,' by Kim Stanley Robinson (I think I've spelled that correctly).

It's sci-fi, so if you don't like that genre you can move along.

It's also about an ark, a generation ship travelling through space.

It's pretty good.

The premise is the usual, humanity expanding towards the stars.  The difference is that this isn't an omnipotent ship, the settlers aren't living inside a God like in so many other stories.  Their home is breaking down, as are their bodies at the genetic level.

There's no real explanation for why humanity is failing onboard (genetic deviation is the official cause) but it results in an interesting problem - humanity struggling to move beyond our own system.  This is in direct opposition to almost all other sci-fi where our destiny is to move beyond Earth.  It sets up an interesting situation, and one that almost works throughout.

The problem I have with this book is the main character.  She is said and proven to be rather less intelligent than the previous generation of travelers, and this manifests in her being unable to help fix the ship at all.  She's so stupid that she can't do anything mechanical, theoretical or physical at all.  Instead, she's demoted to being a pep talker, keeping morale high.  It might not sound like a big deal written here, but the tonal shift from technical sci-fi to moralising parable is one that's not handled particularly well.  It only worsens towards the end of the book as it finds new ways to preach.

And that's my summation of the book.  It starts incredibly strong, when the main character is essentially retelling the story of another character, and then it goes downhill from there.

It's worth a read if you like this author and the style, or if you like dour (some might say, non-fantastical and entirely realistic) fiction in general.  Or if you're a baby and like to be preached at.  If not, I'd suggest avoiding it.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

England vs The World (Cup)

So there have been a million column words written about how poor the England performance against both Wales and Australia were.  A few dodgy decision by the referee in the Wales match lost us the game, along with our inability to keep out of our own half.

A weak first half gave Australia the win (has anyone ever come back from a twenty point deficit in a world cup game?), despite a thousand line breaks and half chances.  We weren't clinical enough, we have no finishers.  We have no threats, no pace setting players.  England is a team of average players, working above their collective abilities.

Stuart Lancaster will probably get fired, but I would like to see a new backs coach, and another forwards coach to supplement Rowntree.  I doubt they have the money to hire two dedicated forwards coaches, so he'll probably get axed as well, which is a shame, because he's done well, bringing us from where were were, to where we are.

Anyway, I wasn't surprised to see the ribbing on facebook and the internet by the Australians, we do the same thing once every six decades when we beat them at a sport, but the vitriol from entirely unrelated nations is eye opening.  Everyone knows kiwis have no sense of humour, but the dog dirt they come out with on the internet - what's the antonym of classy?  Because that is them.

The islanders I can understand; they are the whipping boys of the IRB and their relative paucity of resources makes us a target for contempt (fair enough, I can't argue with that), so they're obviously laughing at our expense.

One or two Australians have gone overboard, relating the victory to death, cancer related death and  pope death (I don't understand either), but most have been cool about it.

The surprise winner in the humanity on the internet awards, the one nation you would never expect?  South Africa.  A lot of well thought out, insightful discourse about why we failed, and not a single comment relating our loss to school shootings or gods retribution.  Stay classy guys!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Fiji vs England

So the first game is a few hours away.  I can't stay up for it and it'll definitely be spoiled for me tomorrow, but I've already made my predictions on facebook and I stick by them.

I realise I haven't taken many pictures lately, but I've not been out much.  Also, I inherited a really important picture that I've spent more hours than I care to admit trying to digitally spruce up a bit.  That's a fun but sometimes frustrating little project.

Also, there was 4,613 yen in the pot.

Also , also, phone keypads still suuuuuuuuuuuuck.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Best Guesses

So I went into hospital for four days to have an operation on my ankle.  The hospital was fine, the operation was standard and everything is healing up nice and quickly.

Apart from the insurance company fighting me, and the hospital telling me that I can send money to them via the post to pay for bills, they can't remotely send me money (I'm not eligible for the entire cost of the procedure due to my income).  Funny how it's incredibly easy to give them money, but requires dozens of forms and signatures (each costing more money) and a great deal of difficulty to get money back.

Obviously their tactics work and some number of people don't claim the money back, otherwise they wouldn't employ tactics like these.

Remember, this is a hospital.

Really classy.

Anyway, look at this big old pot of money and guess how many yens are in there.

I took this down to the post office today and found out the value, which I'll reveal at a later date.

The coppers are 10 yen, the gold ones with a hole are 5 yen, the small silver ones are 1 yen with the occasional 100 yen piece in there too.  1,000 yen is about a fiver right now if that helps (it doesn't, exchange rates don't mean anything at the best of time).

How much do you reckon?

Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Votes Are In

So I went to a Summer festival a month ago, and managed to take a few pictures with a 35mm camera.  As you might expect there were duffers, but I think a fair number turned out alright.  Tell me what you think.

Don't ask what that powder is.

Of course it's been long established that no one likes black and white photographs, but I can't stop myself.  I really like them!

If these pictures were in colour you'd notice the kids drab clothes, but they're not so you don't.  These guys wouldn't stop staring at me (it was a really rural festival so I doubt they've seen many whiteys) so I decided to take a picture.  Unfortunately their mum made them do the 2 finger peace thing which is a shame because that universally ruins every photograph ever.

This dude was chillin' because it was rather hot.  I can imagine it being way worse at the top there, not being allowed to come down.

This festival appears to be about drinking a lot of alcohol then pushing bloody great one ton carts around town.  When they need to turn the thing they need to up and drag it around in a circle.  They have wooden wheels and no steering, so you end up with great pictures like this one.

There are tons of lamps around the place even during the day.  I think it's because they look cool.

Each shrine has a procession accompanying it, including the town old boys who chill out and drink at the back.

Each shrine has different patterns and designs, often but not always involving dragons.

This is my favourite photograph from the festival, and one of my favourites ever.  I wish I was as cool as him.

At night they take the shrines to a local town (pushed all the way of course) and spin it on the spot a dozen times.  It's hard work, especially after hefting the damn things around for 2 days.  After spinning they push them all the way back home.

This is one of the carts with nighttime adornments.  That's where all the lamps go when they're not being carried by hand.

On a different note, this is a duck.

This is another one of my all-time favourite photographs ever.  You'll have to guess where it was taken.  Two internet points if you get it right.  It's very orange but after colour correcting it didn't quite look right, so I put it back this way.  For some reason the colour is intrinsic to the feel of the image, kind of nostalgic perhaps?

Anyway, I went to another festival today but didn't have much time to take pictures so I probably didn't get anything worth uploading.  If, by some miracle they're not all blurred messes I'll put them up sometime in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Another Video

So I had a lot of video from the Roppongi festival (the one populated with rude people) so I made another thingamajig.

I came to the realisation a while ago that I need a good microphone, a tripod and more lenses, but I've also found out that I need another few people with cameras and tripods and whatnot, to take footage of their own so I can smoosh it all together into these fun little videos.  One day when I'm a millionaire!

Anyway, enjoy!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015


So Roppongi is famous for being a really expensive shopping district that happens to hold a festival once a year.

You can really tell there's a lot of money in this area, everything is landscaped and pretty and there are even some green spaces to sit on, which is something you're not usually allowed to do in these densely urban areas.

The festival was pretty cool, but the people were terrible.  The thing you can usually count on in Japan is courtesy, but that was a commodity in short supply here.  I was surprised at how many people were being jerks for no real reason, pushing and jostling, cutting into lines, pushing in front of people to watch events like the one below:

Having spent a short amount of time with the public in a serving capacity the reason seems pretty clear to me, with the entitlement of money oozing from every dickhead in the crowd.  It was that or a weird cologne.

Having said that, it was pretty funny watching a dude in a brand new ferrari being stopped at a crossroad.  The other three ferrari's didn't even wait.  He was angry.

Anyway, on a positive note, the performances were quite good when it was possible to see anything, and the music was cool.  It's definitely worth checking out if you don't have much time in Japan, but keep in mind it's tiny and rather simple.  A lower tier festival, C+.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Interstellar Gravity

This is being written on a phone so the Formatting won't allow me to see what I'm typing.  This will probably end horribly garbled but I might just leave it that way, forever a sign of how far we still have to go in terms of phone UI design.

Anyway, I watched 2 movies today, Interstellar and Gravity.

Both are surprisingly good films in their own way, but both suffered from not knowing how to end.  Either film could win worst ending oscar, should that become an award in the future.

So I watched Interstellar first, but let's start with Gravity.

From the way it is filmed I guessed it was a late 3D offering and upon post viewing research I was right.  There are a lot of shots of things flying towards the camera and objects careening past in the foreground, middle and background.  Every 3D film ever made has the same effects, and it's this chronic lack of imagination that caused the doom of 3D cinema.  Anyway, I remember the effects being heralded as revolutionary back when this came out.

They are.  But only in one sense.  For the past decade and a half filmmakers have been obsessed with Blair Witch style shaky cam, the vomit inducing action camera that's supposed to mimic the action of a real head reacting to the scene in front of him, or at the very least a camera down in the dirt where the real stuff is happening.

It's a stupid premise that doesn't work and always requires an even greater effort of suspension of disbelief because the accompanying motions aren't there (shaking seat, craning neck etc) and the screen isn't all encompassing, so only a part of your vision is experiencing the effect.  It is always stupid nd very rarely works.

Stop it.  Directors, stop it.

Anyway, this is an action film with very little shaky cam.  Maybe the tides are turning?  I fear it's just the space setting as there are dozens of shots where the view is as it would be were the viewer the actor (sandra bullock?  She looked familiar).

Also there is a warning at the beginning that sound does not travel in space which is so pathetic and. pandering it was almost a deal breaker.  I nearly turned it off at this point.  I wonder if my version was just the american releasd and all non-american versions did away with that part.

The galling, fucking ridiculous part was that after 5 minutes the debris i space WAS MAKING NOISE AS IT WHIPPED PAST.

For fucks sake the director is an idiot.

Also, 95pc of the film is CG, from the stations to the actors bodids whenever they're suited up.  After only 2 years it already looks bad.  One of the indoor scenes looked like they lifted it out of a demo for unreal engine 4.

The negatives aside , and don't get me wrong, those negatives are glaring whwn I write them down, it's still a good film worth watching.  The actors do their jobs, the pacing keeps motivation up and its incredible brevity mean nothing outstays any welcomes.  You can turn it off 10 minutes before the finish, end on a cliffhanger and actully give yourself a better overall experience.  When they remember their ow in universe rules the sound is superb, the visuals of earth as seen from space gave me the chills I get from NASA pictures and there are several scenes where insignificance comes into play like no other film.

Interstellar is a completely different fish.  It's a much better film and almost competes as a spectacle too.  The problems come when you look at the chronic lack of science that went into this thing.  And the ending.  For Christs sake the ending.

When you talk about a future where Earth is no longer habitable it's always somehow man-caused volcanoes or man-made ice ages but this film steers clear of that by suggesting massive desertification of the american corn belt, and by extension the food producing regions of the world.  Okay movie maker man, one point there because that's something that's demonstrably happening now.

They also cite virulent blights, presumably from intensive single strain farming.  Fine, disease is a constant threat in modern literature.

Then they describe all the major crops simply ceasing to grow.  Erm.

Okay?  If this is what gets us into space then fine.

But then over the course of 2 further hours and several tangents the dxplanations start rolling in.

And then minus 90 million billion minus points.  No.  Black holes do not work like that.  Fine, if you want a convenient device for doing things then have a hole in space, just don't invoke black hole.  Call it something else.  Anything else.  By the ending my brain was bleeding out of my ears from the stupidity.

Look, I get it.  This isn't actually a sciemce fiction film.  I understand that it's just a meditation on family, how relationships change awgrowes older and our responsibilities shaping who we are and become - but if that's your thinly veiled premise then don't dress something up in the realm of science when it's actually mysticism. When you have a population that needs reminding that there is no air in space then I wonder how much the science matters in the first place.  Make it batshit crazy with giant robots, or keep a grounding in reality.  This half and half, increasingly ridiculous universe is so contrived it's painful.

That aside, some surprisingly well acted child characters top off a great cast.  It's a top notch production in that regard.

The sound is superb.  The soundtrack is also excellent.

The effects are good, the space scenes echo gravity in a way that makes me think the director liked it.  There's a new bar for representing space, these films are currently top notch in that regard.

The secret show stealers are the robots.  They're horribly designed in a modern take on the old immobile droids from years past (think r2, or c3po, or even the daleks) but they have so much personality.  The human ability to ascribe meaning and emotion to objects is incredible, and the form of these guys plays into that brilliantly.  They are menacing, endearing, bold and subtle all at once.  And horribly ill conceived for actual spaceflight.

I love it when a director tinkers with expectations, and these droids provide all kinds of tension throughout.

The ending is inexcusable.  From the fake spiritualism (why change tone fully 5/6ths of the way in?) to the ridiculous and sappy ending.  Pathetic.

The symbolism of him forging his own path in the face of familial responsibilities, and him rediscovering himself and his meaning is cool I guess?

No, that's a lie .  The final 20 minutes or so are some of the worst in cinematic history.  The gulf between highs and lows are so monumental it boggles the mind to think that anyone let the final scenes out of the door.

Despite that I still recommend it.  Both of them in fact.  Go watch them!

My whole body hurts from typing this out on a phone.  I dare not go back and read it all.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Disappointing Haul

Got the film back, not very many good pictures.

They were all too dark which isn't surprising considering the people pictures I took were at a late hour, but most disappointing were the fireworks pictures.  None of them turned out particularly well.  At least I know to do something like this all digital in the future.

Anyway, here are the ones I could salvage.

This is obviously too dark.  If I had some kind of flash, or a helper holding a reflector, maybe that would have helped.  It's a shame because the colours of their outfits were quite nice, hence the desire to take a picture in the first place.  Lesson learned!

The smoke in the foreground is alright, it takes up a little too much of the frame though.

Probably the best one of the analogue pictures, a nice gradation from top to the middle, fading towards black at the bottom.

All I need now is a nice scanner and a really nice printer, and then I can start getting high quality copies done!  No need for crappy jpg's on a DVD with that gear.

You can watch the highlights reel here, or see the digital pictures (which I much prefer on this occasion) here.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

More Fireworks

So while I was out taking photographs on my gangster cardboard bipod I also took a few videos.

You can watch the short version here:

The sound is pretty bad, but needless to say they were bloody loud.  Especially the ending.  Wow.

If you haven't seen the stills from this event, check them out here:

Monday, 3 August 2015

Goddamnit, and Incredible Fireworks

So the Edogawa fireworks display is really big.  I don't know if it's the biggest in Japan, or whether it has any particular accolades in terms of size or variety, but just shy of a million and a half people view it yearly.  As such, it's a pretty big deal, and a large number of fireworks are thrown into the air for the occasion.

This year I wasn't in England and I had some time off from rugby so I decided to go along.

It's worth remembering that the Summer here is particularly warm, with the humidity also being a factor.

The result is that it gets unbearably hot during midday.

In order to secure a good spot to see the show it was necessary to go relatively early.  It began at 7.15, so we decided to head down around two o' clock, throw down a tarpaulin and sit under an umbrella.

Firstly, the place wasn't nearly as crowded as I was lead to believe it would be at this time.  With two people you could probably arrive around four thirty or five and still find space to sit down.  Whether it's always this easy is up for debate, but on the Chiba half of the river (the show is half paid for by the tokyo side of the river, and half by the chiba side) seating is a fairly simple affair.

The umbrella wasn't see-through, it was entirely opaque.  I still got burnt.  I have no idea how, but it happened.  It also wasn't big enough for my whole body (I need to get a fishing umbrella!) so I draped towels over my legs, making a kind of lean-to against the umbrella.

Long story short, it was hot.  It was too hot.  I do not recommend going before four P.M. for the simple fact that you will melt.  It was the hottest I have ever been while not playing sports, and it felt like I was going to die.  It was horrible.  Really, soul crushingly horrible.

As a caveat I'm the kind of person that would rather be too cold than too hot, so maybe it was just me.  There were a few intrepid locals sitting out in the sun, covered with only T-shirts, drinking beer.  Insane.  They weren't even sunburnt by the end of the day.  They must be made of radiators and zinc oxide.

Anyway, aside from nearly dying, I also fashioned a makeshift tripod.  Basically, there's no way to shoot long exposures without something to balance the camera on, that's why we have tripods.

None of my photographs are very good when you stop and look at them, but they hold up to a cursory glance for reasons that I'll explain later - but even getting these results took a bit of crafting.

I cut a slot into one big cardboard box and put a smaller one inside it at an angle, giving a fairly stable triangle.  I then taped it, cut wedges into the top, put towels over them and finally plopped the cameras on top.  It's good enough for video, the wobble is barely perceptible there, but for stills it's an entirely different story.

Before I get to the pictures, this boat sailed straight into this clearly marked area ignoring the obvious hazard, got caught up in some kind of net (dozens of fish made a bid for freedom when the propeller snagged) and burnt out their engine.  Seconds after this picture a big puff of black smoke emitted from the rear and lots of shouting happened.  I flitted between wanting to die from heat stroke and laughing at these idiots being hauled out of the net by a couple of other boats.  The women on the front did not move one iota the whole time.

When you're on the water, look out for buoys, people.

Anyway, onto the pictures.

It was a pretty day.  After my near death exposure experience there was a nice sunset.

There are only two pictures in landscape today, I learned something pretty quickly about which orientation suits fireworks the best.  Especially individual fireworks.

This is an odd one in that it's the only 100mm+ picture that wasn't a total mess.  Obviously the more zoomed in you are the more stable the platform needs to be, but I didn't realise quite how stable.  Cardboard doesn't cut it most of the time.

This is the other landscape.  It's also the only picture with more than one firework going off in the same frame.  If I had a tripod I could have taken a dozen pictures and overlayed them which can give a cool look with lots of simultaneous colours.

If you don't like this style of picture you can probably close the page now.

This is one of my favourites because it looks like a UFO.

This is another one of my favourites because it looks like a flower.

There was a lot of smoke in the air after only a few volleys which meant pictures often came out with the smoke effects you see here.  The top left of the flower at around 11 o' clock is hazy, residue from a past explosion.  There are also artifacts from reflected light lower down.  I could erase them but it's not really a true image then.

Not that 'true,' means anything in this digital age.

This is a bit earlier or later than the others, it shows the orange afterglow or initial explosion rather than the colours.

This is probably my favourite, just because of the mix of colours and the layers, central bright with a petal texture looking outwards.  Just like a flower.

 So if you enlarge any of these pictures and look at the lines of light, you'll notice that they wobble, they're not perfectly straight.  This is where a good base come in handy, it stops that tiny amount of shake and keeps every line looking pristine.  Or at least as it would look in real life.

I don't really like the colour of this one, but it's nice to have context in the form of some housing in the distance below.

The same with this one, the colours are bad but at least there is a wonky horizon, so the firework has a little more context.

 This is another of my favourites, it's super blurred (artistic effect, if anyone asks) but it's a nice colour.  If only all the pieces would come together every time!

 I like the colours here, I like how the horizon is almost straight, and I like the light pollution coming from the city.  It just doesn't grab me for some reason.  Taking 'dem pictures is hard.

This isn't a sharp picture, nor does it have interesting colours, but it's probably my favourite.  Have I already said that?  Either way, I'll probably make it my phone background at some point.

This last one I've chopped up to make it look like some strange sea creature.  Or a bizarre cell.  Or an artists rendition of a crazy quantum experiment.  Or one of those plasma balls.

I would also mention that the wind was in our faces, meaning we were absolutely pelted with the detritus from the explosions.  We were covered in soot, charred paper and big lumps of cardboard by the end of it.  It might be worth bringing something with a peak to cover your eyes, even if only a marginal improvement over your hands.  It definitely added excitement to proceedings because it's pitch black directly in front of you and it's hard to see when you're about to be clocked upside the head.

Hopefully some of that will show through in the video.

That's it.  I got quite a few shots I like, and one or two that will go into the 'keepers,' collection, which is a rare thing indeed for a single outing (for me at least)!

I also shot some video, it's taking a while to edit but I'll put it up here when it's done.

Oh, and some film too.  That'll be done in a month or so.  Exciting.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The One Man Bicycle Band

So a few years ago, when I came to Japan for the first time, I recorded a video of a man who rode around on his bicycle performing a solo concert.  He made a lot of the equipment himself, customising it so that it fits onto his bike.

This is the original video:

I saw him again recently!  Doing the same thing in the same park, still as energetic as he was before.

I made a video:

Unfortunately the cicadas are incredibly loud and I was using the microphone built into the camera, not something conducive to good sound quality but until I become a millionaire, it'll have to do!

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Grimmest Brothers

Story time:

I was tasked with writing up a speech for one of my students to recite during an upcoming speech contest.  Unlike other competitions I've been involved in, this one is purely a recital, the students don't need to write anything; which means I have to write everything.

I found a book of tales from the library and asked the student which tale they liked the best, they responded with the elves and so I edited the story, turning it into a two minute speech.  It's a terrible edit primarily because it's so heavy handed.  There's not a lot you can do when the original text is four or more minutes long, except slash great swathes and hope no one notices.

I also tried to change as few words as possible, but it was necessary in several spots, which sound incredibly rough to my ears when I listen back to it.  The recording is entirely for research purposes, I needed to check to see whether it came in under the time limit, and to see if it sounded strange when spoken aloud.  There are a few times when I sound drunk, right at the beginning for example I say cut out like I've never seen a 't,' before.

Anyway, we'll see if the student likes it, I might end up making an entirely new story!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

More S.P.A.M. Please

So no one has figured out how to stop spam.  This is self evident if you've ever tried using an e-mail address, but it's also readily apparent when you look through the comments of a personal blog.

In this case I receive few enough comments that I can simply accept them manually, sifting through the spam and hatemail (surprisingly rare, considering this is the internet) to accept the comments that a human probably wrote; the rest is relegated to digital oblivion.  I try not to delete the stupid comments from faceless members of the chinese propoganda ministry (yes, that's actually happened) whose sole job is to trawl the internet for blogs like this one and counter any point raised about china, but it can be hard to let the counter points filter through.  The hope is that these comments are self evidently beyond a joke - but if you read more than a handful of comments in your lifetime you will see that people are fucking stupid.

For example.  Or how about this.  Or this.  One of those is definitely real, the other two are extrapolations, the end result of the actual stupidity in the human race, taken to logical ends.  Whether all of them are real or not, in my books they're all winners.


Anyway, the reason I bring up spam and stupidity on the internet is because the war for our eyeballs is evidently hotting up.  My e-mail inbox has been filling at an increasing rate, and this humble blog (with a sum total f'all readership) has started creaking under the weight of comments waiting to be approved.

Comments like:

This way if you are a family person, you get to allocate more time to your loved ones,
especially if you are a parent. Most would obviously avoid
real estate investment prospects like a bubonic plague. This is because people want to know they can trust the person that is in charge
of helping them to close the biggest financial deal of their lives.

Feel free to surf to my website; Eco pret 0

Or like this:


While the festival and its artists may be curated by
ICP and Psychopathic Records, both parties are selfless enough to not make the
Gathering exclusive to Psychopathic Records. And by the time he was eleven, he
had convinced the Cash Money label to take him on, even if it was just for odd jobs around
the office. If you are looking for a strong competitive college dance team, look into these
schools and see what they have to offer.

my website Nekfeu

Or even like this:

 Other economy changes include lower level availability clash of clans hack apk Dark Elixir
Drills (Town Hall level 7 for the first, Town Hall level 8 for the second), increased capacity for Dark Elixir Drills
of all levels, and an additional level for Gold Mines and Elixir Collectors (12).

Be certain that you know the rating of any video game before letting kids play it.
It is easy to hire an i - Phone developer or an Android developer today and making useful and quality applications are so much easier today.

To highlight the volumes I'm talking about, these were all sent within the last hour.  Or at least I received them in the last hour.  Considering how bad some of these services are at timely posting, they could have been sent last month for all I know.

It's really interesting to see the demographics they're going for, even if google translate is letting them down somewhat in the execution.  Home owners/potential buyers, psychopaths and gaming people.  I would love it if there were a correlation between the people who read this and the spammers, i.e. they've done their market research (an automated bot has determined the readership) and have targeted appropriately, but it's pretty unlikely.  I suppose that means the internet at large consists of mentally unstable people, game players and home owners.  Only those three groups though.

In case you were wondering what spam stands for, it's:


Only somewhat because the messages aren't intelligible.
I think the processing is converting the message from Mandarin or one of the Indian dialects into English.
They are very much automated.
And even though this is a comments section, it's still a mail of sorts.  I guess.

Anyway, let it be known that the second coming of spam is happening, and it'll be big news in a few weeks when there's a slow news day.  The battle for your eyeballs is hotting up!

And for the love of dog don't click on any of the links that the spammers are advertising.  Christ, just don't do it.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

From a Failure, to a Success

 So my melons are obviously the butt of jokes around the world at this point, but at least I have one other plant that works.

Anyone want a spider plant?  I could probably cut some off and send you one.  For a fee.

I hear spider plant growing is a lucrative business.  I have enough for at least the beginning of the enterprise, but the ramp up to production scales will take a while longer.  Your order will be with you within the year.

Interestingly I think the plant is seeding, which I didn't know they did.  Strawberries are similar in that they seed and send off runners and you can buy packets of strawberry seeds, but I've never encountered a packet of spider plant seeds.  Anyway, they dry out and open up, usually facing upwards so you have to dislodge them with a stiff breeze or by accidentally brushing up against them, which is a pretty good way to ensure decent dispersion.

And on an entirely unrelated note, here is an enormous butterfly that has no reference for scale which is a shame, because it was a palms width or so and jet black.  This was taken with my phone camera so the quality is, well, evident.

Anyway, that's about it for now.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Oh Noes.

The end of the melons is nigh.

This is the current state of the melons.  There's not much left.  I'm desperately clinging to the hope that there will be one tiny, miniscule protomelon so I can say I'm a farmer, but it's not looking likely.

There's nothing else left in the WORLD!

I don't think it's over watering because there are holes in the bottom of the bag and the soil isn't saturated, not to mention that the damn things grew like wildfire up until last week.  Damnit!