Monday, December 24, 2007

On Learning Japanese

For about the 50th time, I've started to put more time and effort into learning Japanese, with a view to improving my comprehension and also passing the level 2 Japanese Language Proficiency Exam in December.

It would seem that all over Japan free(or very cheap) Japanese lessons are provided for non-Japanese. When I lived in Japan previously, I attended lessons run by the local government. The lessons were very bad, but at least I didn't have to pay.

Anyone learning beginner's Japanese should watch the anime series "Ocha Ken". Each episode if 3.5 mins long, and 26 were made. Ocha Ken means "tea dog". All episodes can be downloaded here:

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Dead And The Dying

I gave in to the 'flu this morning. Basically I took some medicine, sat in a chair and waited for time to pass. Although I was doing almost nothing, the time passed quite quickly. After a few hours I got bored of watching my life go by so I watched a talk given by Kathy Wang on the HoneyClient project. Later I watched a talk on hardware reversing given by Bunnie Huang.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Watched a bunch of hacker documentaries:
Hippies From Hell
New York City Hackers
Unauthorised Access

Some videos can be found at others can be found at

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Circuit Training Is Amazing

Did a little bit of circuit training this morning. Felt great all day. I've been greatly inspired by Crossfit and Parkour and shall be working towards regular training in both disciplines. My current aim is to be able to run a marathon in the summer. I have a LONG way to go, but I know Crossfit is the only way I'll get there.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Going To Ginza

Attended the Apple User's Group meeting in Ginza. There was a talk on podcasting again. It was pretty good although the guy got carried away a bit. There was also a great talk on basic network hacking which I enjoyed greatly.

After the Apple meeting I hung out with Scott Lockman, which is always time well spent.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Quake Is Coming

Friends came over for a meal. It was my first chance to do some real cooking. The food turned out well, and the conversation was fantastic. You know the company is good when the topic of conversation moves effortlessly from high protein diets to marathon running to earthquakes to offshore bank accounts to gold.

It's strange to think that one day Tokyo will be completely destroyed by an earthquake, which will cause the collapse of capitalism. It's not a case of if, but when. The big quake is 30 years late already...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Tokyo 2600

This evening I attended the first meeting of the new Tokyo 2600 group. In attendance were myself and one other person. We talked for several hours on topics ranging from hacking to cracking. Not a great start, but not a complete failure.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Trout Mask Replica

A large desk arrived for the reception area of the language school. The delivery guys were clueless. They gave the impression that they had never dealt with large furniture before.

I received a copy of "Trout Mask Replica" by Captain Beefheart for Christmas. I'm sure that when I get used to it I'll love it. Until that time, it's a rather challenging album to listen to.

Watched the Woody Allen film "Bananas". Definitely one of his best.

Friday, November 02, 2007

England, Nineteen Eighty-Four

I stumbled upon this while reading

Policeman's rape charge dropped
A police officer accused of rape has had the charge dropped.

Court proceedings against Sgt Carl Woodall were discontinued following advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, Sussex Police said.

The 45-year-old officer had been on conditional bail ahead of a scheduled court hearing on 13 December.

Sgt Woodall was suspended from his post in Eastbourne pending the outcome of his case, but he is now believed to have been reinstated.

What the fuck does it mean?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Meeting The Lock man

Tomorrow I shall be meeting podcasting celebrity Scott Lockman. Scott's podcast, "Tokyo Calling", is one of the few podcasts I regularly listen to, and is probably my favourite. Listen to it now at

As Scott is an American, I feel I must be on my best behaviour. Americans don't swear in normal conversation, and don't usually use sarcasm. Scientists believe that up to 95 % of what I say and write is sarcastic, and almost 1 in 3 words I utter are considered obscene by a typical member of society...

Bicycle Mark Interview

The second episode of the Karamoon podcast is finally here. It's much better than episode one as it consists almost entirely of someone else talking. Enjoy:

Bicycle Mark's blog and podcast are here:

More info on the Chaos Computer Club can be found here:

Dengue Fever's website is here:

Please comment on the podcast. Suggestions for future podcasts would be most welcome.

Friday, October 19, 2007

On My Hands And Knees

I spent a good chunk of the day on my hands and knees, scrubbing the floor of what will become my language school. The only scrubbing brush available was one designed for cleaning pots and pans. Such is the life of the entrepreneur...

Unsurprisingly, I have very little money and lots that must be bought. Somehow I have to obtain 6 ceiling-mounted spotlights, 17 folding chairs, six folding tables, a wireless intercom system, 3 desks, 2 sets of bookshelves and a filing cabinet in the next two weeks.

I am, of course, confident that by the end of the year the language school will be making enough money to pay for the printing of the first few issues of Tokyo Robotnik magazine, as well as pay my new hobby: the collection, cataloging and preservation of false moustaches.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pulp Fiction

This morning I started reading the novel "Pompey" by Jonathan Meades. It quickly became clear that I am in no fit state to read such a mighty tome, so I read Patchwork Girl by Larry Niven instead. When I had finished that I started reading Pebble In The Sky by Isacc Asimov. I believe it was the great Bard himself who once wrote "There are many a reason to read sci-fi, all of them crap".

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Hirsute You Sir!

The night bus arrived early, just before 6 am. It was amazing to walk around Shinjuku in the early hours of the morning. Shinjuku is the central business district of Tokyo, and its train station is the busiest in the world. At 6am it was a ghost town, and I was tempted to write my blog address in 12-foot letters on one of the buildings. I didn't, due to a lack of the requisite materials. Had I had a ladder, some paint and a paint brush, a better thing to write would have been:
"Yields falsehood when proceeded by its quotation" yields falsehood when proceeded by its quotation.

In the afternoon I got my hair cut for 980 Yen, which is jolly cheap indeed. Just over 4 quid, in fact. When I lived in Japan before I would always get my hair cut at a chain of barbers called QB-House. I think QB stands for "Quick Barber". It cost 1000 Yen and took 10 minutes. When the hair cut was finished the hairdresser would vacuum your head. It's the future, and resistance is futile.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Beached In Kochi

After weighing up many pros and cons, and several hours of debate, we decided to stay another night in Kochi. [Surely you just couldn't be arsed to leave... -Ed]

Kochi castle is similar to all the other castles in Japan, of which there are 400. Only 12 of the castles in Japan are original, most of the others were built in the 1960s. Coming from the UK, I find it very hard to get my head round the fact that almost nothing here is over 100 years old. Japanese castles were built of wood, so they often got burnt down several times before finally being built from concrete in the sixties. In the UK, however, we still have stone castles, stone houses, stone computers and even stone people. Everything is built to last, except for stuff you actually want, which tends to break after a few days.

In the afternoon we took the bus to Katsura-Hama beach. Like most beaches in Japan, it sucked. The beaches in Japan are pebble, not sand, and it's usually unwise to swim, either because of dangerous undercurrents, as is the case with Katsura-Hama, or because of pollution. We managed to catch a bit of the sunset, and we saw a Japanese girl practising the tuba, which was fucking hilarious so, in the end, going to the beach was time well spent.

We had an hour to kill before we could get the bus back to Kochi so we bought some Japanese chocolate from a tiny convenience store. Like most chocolate in Japan, it sucked.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Ryugado Caves

Visited a large cave called Ryugado, near the city of Kochi. I doubt the name means anything special, probably something like "sponsored by Disney", or "no dry-cleaning facilities available here". The part that is open to the public is about 1 km long. I've been to hundreds of caves all over Europe, but Ryugado was still very impressive. The only bad thing about the cave was that every 10 metres or so you would come to a Japanese woman sitting on a stool who would shout a bunch of crap in Japanese. This was utterly pointless because everything they said about that particular part of the cave was written in the leaflet anyway.

The cave was discovered about 70 years ago. The people who discovered it decided to leave a vase under a stalactite to see if, over a period of many years, it would become completely covered with limestone. The rather obvious answer to this question is yes, things do get covered in limestone if you leave them for 70 years under a stream of dissolved limestone. Fuckwits.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Decided to take the night bus to Hiroshima. The journey is 12 hours and likely to be very uncomfortable. The ticket is only about 40 quid and at least the passengers of the night bus a young, unlike the high speed Shinkansen train which tends to be full of old people, the kind I hate...

I've never been to Hiroshima, and am looking forward to it as my good friend Megumi lives there. On the other hand, I don't like the idea of being irradiated; I have seen no mention of Hiroshima's background radiation levels in any guidebook etc., presumably the radiation level is still higher than average.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Very Brief Update On Karamoon

1. I've arrived safely in Japan.
2. I've got Internet access at my house.
3. I'm going to be traveling for the next 3 or 4 weeks, and won't have much Internet access on the road.
4. Blog updates will appear as and when, as will podcasts...
5. In October look out for an interview I did with Bicycle Mark at the CCC camp.
6. In the meantime, check out Bicycle Mark's great podcast:
7. Please comment if you are reading this!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Chaos Communication Camp 2007, Day 4

There was a brief rain shower in the morning. Although Chichan and I were outside eating when the rain came, we were able to get in to a bunker being used as the "Art And Beauty Area" before getting too wet. While we waited for the rain to stop we played virtual air hockey on a multitouch screen. It was sufficiently interesting that I shall describe the set up below.

Air hockey is a game that was popular before my time. It consists of a table with hundreds of hole drilled in, through which come jets of air. A small plastic disc floats on the air, and two players each use a larger plastic disc to knock the small disc into each other's goal, located at either end of the table.

Multitouch screens are touch screens which can recognise several points or even sets of points at the same time. They typically work by using a camera to see where the points(eg. your fingers) are, and a projector to provide the display.

After a few games of virtual air hockey we went to the hackcentre, where we found Mitch Altman catching up with his emails. Mitch kindly said he would get one of his "Brain Machines" for us to try out. We tried it. It rocked.

Mitch Altman's Brain Machine consists of a pair of glasses with an LED mounted in each eyepiece, and a pair of headphones which plugs into a small circuit board on the side of the glasses. The Brain Machine runs a 14 minute program of flashing lights and strange sounds. The lights and sounds are emitted at brain wave frequencies. Your brain syncs up to the light and sound, but as the brain waves are external it doesn't know what to do, so you can get some very nice hallucinations...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Chaos Communication Camp 2007, Day 3

Woke up at 8 am, full of energy and ready for a full day and night of hacker fun. Foolishly I went back to sleep and woke up again at 11:10 am, missing the start of the first talk and feeling very tired.

I bumped into Mitch Altman and asked him about someone I saw yesterday who seemed to have become ill from using the meditation mask that Mitch has been showing people at the camp. It seems that the guy had epilepsy but thought it would be ok because his last seizure had been a year ago. It must have worried Mitch a lot at the time, but the guy was ok in the end.

Chichan and I met up with Richard and the three of us decided to walk to the town to eat brunch and go to the supermarket. We got some take away Chinese food and then bought lots of water and Haribo at the supermarket.

In the evening we attended a live talk show-style presentation given by Monochrome, an Austrian artist collective. The presentation consisted of interviews with three guests, a couple of presentations, a film, a music performance and a bunch of other random things.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Chaos Communication Camp 2007, Day 2

Managed to get to the first talk of the day called "21 st Century Digital Bikes". It was essentially a talk on battery-powered bikes. Good, but not great.

Attended a very dry talk on Signaling System 7, the most common telephone system in the developed world. I struggled to follow it, partly because SS7 is a very complex set of protocols and partly because the speaker's English was hard to understand.

In the evening we went to a talk called "Life And Complexity" which was about how emergent complexity and the relationships between complexity, energy and information.
Got a free book from the Bookcrossing village for Chichan to read. Almost all of the books available were in German so our choice was extremely limited.

I may try to do some interviews tomorrow for my podcast. People I'd like to interview at the camp include Mitch Altman, Emmanuel Goldstein, Jacob Appelbaum, Bicycle Mark, Dan Kaminsky, English Glen, Tim Pritlove, Rop Gonggrijp and BigM000. Even if I just interview one or two of them it would be very cool.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Chaos Communication Camp 2007, Day 1

At 11 am Chichan and I attended the opening ceremony. CCC ceremonies are always very moving because there is a deep shared culture among hackers, particularly those in Europe.

Chichan and I had lunch with Mitch Altman, inventor of the TV-Be-Gone. We discussed the effects of television on the human psyche and how deeply TV invades every aspect of our lives. Mitch claims that the average person in the western world spends 13 years watching TV, a very frightening statistic.

We went to a talk on Sputnik, an open RFID platform. Although the speaker spoke good English, it was hard to understand because he spoke quickly and not very clearly. I got the impression that he spoke his native language in the same way. The Sputnik project is very popular at the CCC. At the conferences and this camp you can buy a Sputnik RFID badge which you register online, allowing people to track your location at the camp.

We took a "Power Nap", as my good friend Edward Pacman would say, and then went to a fantastic talk called "Dungeons And Hyperlinks" which was all about interactive fiction and text-based adventure games. One of the speakers has written a text adventure based around the Chaos Communication Camp called "Reconnaissance at Finowfurt" You can download the game here. Please play it and post some comments here.

We spent some time looking at all the beautiful lights of the camp, and saw some people releasing homemade hot-air balloons, which was truly magical.

At around 1 am we brushed the fairy dust out of our hair and went to bed, leaving at least half of the camp wide awake.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

One Day Of Waiting

The Chaos Communication Camp officially starts tomorrow, but already loads is going on and there are a couple of thousand people here. I've almost got to the point where I can ignore the Migs and other aircraft that are scattered around the site...

Chichan and I happened to be present when Hackers On A Plane arrived, a group of 38 people from the USA who had traveled to the camp together from DefCon, a commercial con in Las Vegas. The Americans looked really funny; it was obvious that many of them had never been outside before. When I organise a hacker camp in Japan there will be exercise sessions each morning and no doughnuts...

Monday, August 06, 2007

Arrival At The Chaos Communication Camp

Chichan and I checked out of our industrial hostel at 9:50 am and went in search of fuel for my camping stove. It was only at the third shop that we managed to find some. We also got some spare tent pegs and a collapsible water carrier.

At around 5 pm we got on the train to Eberswalde, the nearest train station to the camp. There were no seats on the train but the journey was less than one hour so it wasn't too uncomfortable. After quite a bit if delay we managed to get on the correct bus to the camp. The walk from the bus stop to the camp is about 4 km, so we were very lucky to get picked up by a couple of hackers who were traveling to the camp by car.

The camp site is actually an aviation museum on the site of a Russian military airbase. There is an airfield next to the site with light aircraft taking off and landing during daylight hours. Five large aircraft hangers are being used for the camp, two of them are for talks, one is the hackcentre, one is the art and beauty area and one if for the Chaos Emergency Response team which provides firefighting and medical services for the camp. The hangers are about 40 foot high, and although they are above ground they are covered in several feet of earth so they are cool in the day and warm at night, a lot like Earthships.

When the sun starts to set the lights start to come on at the camp. Many people have decorated their tents with coloured rope lights, there are search lights on top of the hangers and coloured neon lights lining the roads. Most impressive of all is the glitter ball hanging in a tree...

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A Man Walks Into A Pet Shop

A man walks into a pet shop and says to the girl behind the counter "I'm very lonely, and I have a small apartment. Can you recommend a pet that would be suitable for me?". The girl replied "We have a cute hamster which would be perfect for you!". So the man bought the hamster and a cage and took it home.

The hamster certainly was cute, and the man spent a very pleasant evening feeding and stroking the hamster, knowing he would never be lonely again.

When the man woke up the next morning he was shocked to see that the hamster had died. He took the dead hamster back to the girl at the pet shop after work and asked for a replacement. The girl said that they had no more hamsters but that they would order another one for him. "It will take a few days to arrive. While you are waiting, just pop the dead hamster in a blender, and spread the blended mixture over your garden." The man thought that this was a very strange suggestion, but he followed the girls instructions.

The next day the man went downstairs and checked his garden. To his surprise the garden was full of beautiful yellow flowers. The man rushed to the pet shop to tell the girl what had happened.

"I did what you told me to, and now my garden is full of the most beautiful daffodils I've ever seen!" The girl stared at him in disbelief. "Daffodils! Daffodils! That's very strange! You usually get tulips from hamster-jam."

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Karamoon Podcast Has Arrived

After what seems like an eternity, the first episode of the Karamoon Podcast is finally here. You will, I promise, be disappointed. Things will improve very soon though. The link to episode one is here Right click and choose "Save target as" or something similar.

Please post comments!

You can subscribe to the podcast by putting into iTunes or whatever podcatching software you are using. I'll sort out a subscribe button soon.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Departure To The Continent

Chichan and I got up at 5 am and took the train to the port of Harwich, a journey of 1 hour 30 minutes. We got on the ferry to Holland without any hassle at all. No customs, no immigration control.

On the ferry I recorded quite a bit of material for my podcast using the Edirol R-09 mp3 recorded. It will be posted soon.

When we arrived in The Netherlands we took the train to Amsterdam. The walk to our guest house seemed really far because of our heavy bags. After dumping our stuff we went out in search of food and found a good Indonesian restaurant.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

In Fairy Dust We Trust

Every few years a spaceship called The Heart Of Gold lands somewhere in Germany. The arrival of the ship is usually announced quite a few months in advance, and therefore there is always a large group of people to welcome the ship. Hackers, phreaks and geeks cluster around the landing site and organise talks, workshops, parties, film screenings and meetings in celebration. This is known as The Chaos Communication Camp.

Tomorrow Chichan and I begin our journey to welcome The Heart Of Gold.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Kuro Neko

I telephoned a Japanese shipping company to arrange the collection of my many boxes of books etc. which will be sent to Japan. The company said shipping my stuff to Japan will take 8-10 weeks, so I may have to hang around in Tokyo for my stuff to arrive. This will be really annoying as I want to spend a month or so traveling round Honshu(the main island of Japan) before I get settled in Tokyo.

I really like the shipping company's logo, which is why I am going to entrust them with everything I own...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I got attacked this evening in the park. It was just after 10 pm, so it had been dark for less than an hour. I was practising some jumping and rolling on my own, near some skateboarding ramps. I heard 2 men arrive somewhere behind me, and felt it was time to move on.

I walked a few metres away from the skate park and did some stretching. All this time my back was to the skatepark so I couldn't see the two men. I heard one of them shoult, presumably to get my attention. Then he walked up behind me and shouted again. As I turned round he punched me hard on the jaw. I think I must have been moving away from him at the time because I didn't get the full force of the strike. In any case, I've been hit far harder by my martial arts instructors both in the UK and Japan.

He tried to punch me quite a few times and may have kicked me as well. Each time I was moving back so I don't think he actually managed to hit me after the first strike to my jaw. While this was happening I asked what it was about. He just kept trying to hit me so I moved back again and started running.

The man chased me, shouting "Just wait until we catch you". His friend joined the chase as well. I've been jogging in the park almost every day for the past couple of weeks, so I knew exactly how far it was to the park exit, and what running speed I could maintain. I looked back at one point about 20 seconds after I started running, and saw the guy a couple of metres behind me. For some reason I knew he and his friend wouldn't be able to catch me, so I just kept running.

When I got home I had a glass of water and looked in the mirror. My jaw was red and slightly shiny where I had been hit, but there was no bruising. My left leg hurt a lot, maybe the guy landed a kick or punch there, or maybe it was just from the running. My left knee is often a bit sore after running, so that may be the cause of it.

All in all, a strange experience but not a terrible one. I'm so glad for the hours I've spent running and for all the martial arts training I've done.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

To Live And Die In LA

This afternoon I watched the 1985 film "To Live And Die In LA". Before I go any further, I must say that I love Los Angeles. I know that many (most?) Americans hate LA, but to me it's an amazing city of contrasts and adventure. Also, the lead role in the film is played by William L. Peterson, possibly my favourite actor due to his perfect performance in the film Manhunter. It is therefore unsurprising that I loved To Live And Die In LA.

The plot is pretty formulaic: a Secret Service agent hunts for a counterfeiter who killed his collegue, with hilarious and violent consequences. The soundtrack, by UK New Wave group, Wang Chung, adds a lot to the atmosphere of film and also helps to set the pace. To Live And Die In LA is essential viewing for anyone interested in 1980's culture and/or quality cinema.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Had a restful day at home. No run, just packing, throwing stuff away and listening to various podcasts from Japan. The three I've been listening to regularly are Tokyo Calling, Finding Japan and A Year In Japan.

The three podcasts are very different and it's great to listen to all three on a regular basis. Each time I listen to a podcast I remember that I have, thus far, failed to produce a podcast of my own.

Tokyo Calling is a very personal podcast by Scott Lockman, an American living in Tokyo with his wife and three young daughters. Most episodes detail Scott's daily struggle with work in Japan, as well as his experiences watching his daughters grow up. Scott often includes audio in his podcasts that he has recorded outside with an Edirol R-09 MP3 recorder, which helps the listener feel that they are actually in Japan.

Finding Japan is by Christopher, a young American man who is in Japan as part of an international program organised by his university in the US. Christopher doesn't hesitate to dive in to any situation so he often has quite interesting tales to tell.

A Year In Japan is by a young British man called Joseph Tame who is in Tokyo as part of his degree in Japanese Studies. Joseph's opinions on Japan are very similar to my own, which means he's right...

There are two other popular podcasts from Japan "Herro Flom Japan" and "Kobe Beef" but I haven't listened to either of them yet.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Perfect Saturday?

Had a very good Japanese lesson with my teacher Takako. It's great to be learning Japanese again even though I'm constantly reminded of my low ability.

When I switched my mobile on after the Japanese lesson I found a text message from my friend Anwar. We decided to have lunch at a Malaysian buffet restaurant.

Anwar has just self-published a novel that he wrote and will probably become a local celebrity over the next few months. Maybe I can be his manager...

When Anwar noticed I had a cold he gave me a large bottle of organic carrot juice. Not sure if it will help, but it's the sort of thing I feel I should be drinking as part of my new, healthier lifestyle.

Had a good run in the evening and did some circuit training as well.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Blood, Breathing, Bones, Be Safe

Attended a first aid course for work. The instructor was quite good and improved greatly throughout the day. In the morning he stuck to the prescribed course, but in the afternoon he spent most of the time telling stories about his many experiences as a first-aider for the Royal Air Force. Over the years I've done quite a few first aid courses but I still think I need far more training. Sometime next year I'd like to do some battlefield first aid training and also a wilderness first aid course.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The King Of Hearts

I had lunch with my friends Mai and Sora at a cafe called The King Of Hearts. It sucked. No surprises there. The service was dire and the main courses were over-priced. The only redeeming feature was that the desserts were great. They were made even better by the fact that the waitress fucked up our bill and didn't charge us for them.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Oh Mr Sandman, Meme Me a Meme

My good friend Dr Edward Bearskin forwarded me an meme-mail which summarised various economic systems in terms of cow ownership. Here are some choice selections:

COMMUNISM: You have 2 cows. The State takes both and gives you some milk.

ENRON VENTURE CAPITALISM: You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the
majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. Sell one cow to buy a new President of the United States, leaving you with nine cows. No balance sheet provided with the release. The public buys your bull.

JAPANESE CORPORATION: You have two cows. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk. You then create a clever cow cartoon image called 'cowkimon' and market it worldwide.

IRAQI CORPORATION: Everyone thinks you have lots of cows. You tell them
that you have none. No-one believes you, so they bomb the fuck out of
you and invade your country. You still have no cows, but at least now
you are part of a Democracy....

BRITISH CORPORATION: You have two cows. Both are mad.

My favourite is:
ITALIAN CORPORATION: You have two cows, but you don't know where they are. You decide to have lunch.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Bad Dreams Are Made Of This

I had a very bad dream this morning, or it may have been a series of bad dreams. I woke up around 8:00 am but then went to sleep for another two hours. At one point in my dreak I found some phreaking notes that had been left in a public phone box. I was so excited at knowing that someone else in the area was exploring the phone network. For some reason or reasons I was in fear for my safety. There were several layers of stuff going on. Often I had to ask people "how do I know you?" because it was so difficult to trust anybody and I had met so many people recently. I felt utterly alone.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Living On A Train

Today I went to Cambridge with a bunch of friends. The weather was great and everything worked out well. Or almost everything...

Sora and I walked to the station via the supermarket. At the station we met up with my friend Richard and Mai, a friend of Sora's. The journey to Cambridge was much longer than usual, due to engineering works. We had plenty of snacks and drinks with us so the journey was great fun. Most of the other people in our carriage were traveling alone or in pairs and seemed to be dead. They just sat there as their lives slipped away.

We had Dim Sum for lunch near the train station. Eating Dim Sum (Yam Cha) always reminds me of my student days as my the Japan Society at university often ate at Dim Sum restaurants.

We spent the day walking around the city of Cambridge, relaxing by the river, standing on bridges, taking photos, complaining about England, teaching and learning Japanese, looking at phone boxes(ok, that was just me!), watching tourists, walking among trees and flowers, eating Bombay mix(described by Mai-chan as "chotto hoto!"). Above all we spent the day not being in Norwich, and feeling better for it.

I walked Mai home and as a result I got to my own home at around 1 am. It was a clear and warm night, and I felt incredibly lucky to be able to look at the stars and dream of space adventure. I am so fucking lucky.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Catching Up

I was determined to spend today catching up with emails, chat, organising my many possessions etc. I always seem to be drowning in administrative tasks. It's not a good way to be.

I managed to spend a little time on the aforementioned activities, but far less than I had intended. In the afternoon I met up with Richard and we went to Ben And Jerry's to eat an exquisite blend of sugar and ice cream (mainly sugar...)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Fighting Vista

Went to Takako's home where I spent most of the day trying to get Vista to stop being so rubbish. It was my first time to see Vista, and unsurprisingly it's not even worth talking about. Once Vista was in a usable state I taught Takako some HTML. We ate Japanese curry for lunch and talked about life. One day I hope to know whether curry is better than life or whether life and curry are the same thing.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Brum 2600 meeting

Took the train to Birmingham to meet my friend Bal. The train service was dire and part of the journey was by bus. In the evening we went to the Brum 2600 hacker meeting. It wasn't great, but wasn't as bad as it could have been. One issue was that we were in a busy pub on a Saturday night. Pubs are crap and Saturdays don't exist.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Pizza Tech

In the morning I gave an English/tech lesson to Takako. Takako bought us pizza and salad for lunch at an over-priced pizza restaurant. After lunch we were given a lesson on design and typography by a friend of mine. It is very clear to me that design and typography are going to play a big part in my life over the next couple of years: working on what is going to be the most important website about Japan and publishing the most important magazine in Japan. I have a great deal to learn.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Never In My Wildest Dreams...

I woke up on Dr Edward Bearskin's sofa at about 6 am. A short time later I was eating breakfast, and not long after that we had all left the apartment as Dr Bearskin and his girlfriend had to be at work.

On the recommendation of Dr Bearskin and his girlfriend I went to visit The Barbican, a development I didn't know what to expect, but what I found was the stuff that dreams are made of: Concrete and tile, the like of which I could never have possibly imagined. (Photo from Wiki-Fucking-Pedia)

I started reading "Heart Of Darkness" by Joseph Conrad on the train home but I was so tired that I slept for most of the journey. Sleeping on trains is something that I increasingly find myself doing, which can't be a bad thing.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

London Lives

Took my friend Keiko to Heathrow airport. She's flying back to Japan for an serious operation so it was rather an emotional goodbye. It's strange to think that when I see Keiko again we will probably be in Tokyo, and I'll be slimmer:)

I took the tube to Farrigndon, where Dr Edward Bearskin lives. He met me outside the tube station, wearing he work attire, which looked very smart. We went to a bar/pub where the good doctor bought my a drink, something called "smoothie" (note the -ie ending, WTF?) It was jolly good, as one might hope considering it cost what I would usually spend on lunch out...

When we got to Dr Edward Bearskin's apartment, he cooked us some simple, but awesome bachelor food, which is surprising as he is living with his girlfriend. We spent the evening building furniture and looking at books together.

Before going to bed I watched a Japanese anime film about a WWI pilot, who happened to be a pig. The Japanese are very strange, and very silly.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Photo Finish

Spent the evening at a friend's house, struggling with Photoshop. We were trying to produce a leaflet on climate change, showing what a well-known road in Norwich would look like underwater. The end result wasn't too bad, but I must have aged quite a few years, due to not understanding how to do even the most basic things in Photoshop. I'm sure Adobe software will make sense to me one day, but at the moment everything I use for Adobe seems to be counter-intuitive. A lot like life...

Monday, April 02, 2007


My boss fired me this morning. It came as quite a surprise to me, but such things happen. For various reasons, I worked the rest of the day and got un-fired towards the end of the afternoon. I certainly won't spend much more time working here, it's unhealthy and annoying.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

New Star Broadcasting

For reasons I cannot possibly comprehend, I suddenly had to listen to some recordings of Numbers Stations. Numbers Stations are short wave transmitters that send encoded messages to field agents such as spies, terrorists, special forces etc. I did some Googling and found loads of mp3's that people had recorded from shortwave receivers. My favourite ones were of New Star Broadcasting, a Numbers Station based in Taiwan. The station broadcasts numbers being read in Chinese although I'm not sure which dialect they are in. Go do some Googling, you will not be disappointed.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Not Waving But Frowning

Met Keiko at the swimming pool. For various reasons we were both late. The swimming pool was being used for "aquafit" so we had a Japanese lesson instead. I'm not swimming as much as I feel I ought to be.

Today I read the magic words: "Released Firmware Version: v1.20 - Resolved Web e-mail issue under PPPoE (ADSL) Internet connection" on the Linksys webpage. I downloaded the latest firmware and now have wifi. After owning a wireless router for about a year...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I'm A little Concerned With Your Teaching...

The tutor for my college course was away so the class was taken by an "expert on spelling pedagogy". During the break I took him aside to have a go at him about his teaching, or lack there of. It worked quite well.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Escaping The Trap

Went to a friend's house to the last episode of Adam Curtis's groundbreaking documentary "The Trap". There were 24 of us watching it together in my friend's living room. The atmosphere was amazing. I still think TV sucks though.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Cost Of Living

Had Keiko and Emily over for lunch. I was determined to cook something decent, so I bought the ingredients for mushroom risotto at the supermarket. Lots of the ingredients were expensive but the result was more than worth it. I think Emily and Keiko were quite impressed...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Breaking Windows

When I got home from work I found "Hacking Exposed: Windows 2000" waiting for me. I bought it second-hand from Amazon Marketplace for just two quid. An utter bargain as I'll be able to have hours of fun using the information it contains...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Have Your Cake And Eat Him

I didn't get up as early as I intended, so I had to rush to the supermarket to buy things for today's party. When I got back I baked a moist chocolate cake, using I recipe I found on the web. I also made a pasta salad using tartare sauce, which I believe to be the best pasta salad in existence. Rumour has it that scientists are attempting to create a better one. Those crazy boffins!

Keiko came over at 1 pm to help me prepare some food. She wasn't massively helpful, but at least she tried. By 3 pm, Ayana, Yoshimi, Takako and Sora had arrived. Takako cooked okonomiyaki, a famous dish from Osaka using some ingredients she had prepared in advance. Okonomiyaki is an egg and batter-based pancake, containing cabbage and sometimes other vegetables, seafood and meat. It's served with bonito flakes, mayonnaise and a sweet-and-sour sauce.

Ayana and Yoshimi decorated the cake I had baked. For some reason they decided to draw my face on the cake using green, white and blue icing. I found it rather touching.

In the evening we all met up again for the Third Thursday lecture on Japanese culture. While there I talked to my friend Hirano about the changes that I've been noticing in the UK over the past few years. I told him that I would be moving to Japan, and that I would probably be staying there for good. He was quite surprised and possibly a bit upset. On the other hand, I think he is happy for me as he knows how much I want to get out of this sick country.

I took tea afterwards with Keiko and Sora. I'm really starting to dislike Pulse, one of the few cafes open in the evening in Norwich. It's slightly over-priced, and there's just no real atmosphere there. Being in Pulse made me remember how wonderful the cafes in East Village were last summer when I was in New York for the HOPE conference.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Caffeine Buzz

I've been avoiding caffeine recently, so as a result of drinking a cup of tea when I got home from work, I was awake and alert until about 2 am. I could/should have used the time wisely but somehow I frittered it all away doing nothing. I see a pattern developing...

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Game Of Life

Here is an article I found in the Adbusters magazine I was reading last Saturday. I wrote it out on a notepad while on the train, because I wanted to give the magazine to my friend Bal. I then typed it up late at night, so there may be a couple of errors. The issue was called The Game Of Life, and was published in Jul/Aug 2005. Before getting to know Mitch Altman, and seeing him work his magic in Berlin, I wouldn't have believed the following was anything more than a well-written short story.

Last week I had an extended layover at the Los Angeles Airport. The waiting area was pretty sizable, yet because of the noise of two mounted TV sets, there was nowhere to escape the inane banter from the local Fox News station. No matter where people sat, the ended up staring at the screen. One middle-aged couple sitting nearby caught my attention. The man's shoulders were slumped as he stared at the dirty carpet in front of him. The woman's face was a grimace of blank agitation as she kept her eyes on the television. Every now and then the man would glance at her as if to say something, but seeing he didn't have her attention, he'd sigh and look back at the floor. Suddenly, I remembered the TV-B-Gone I'd received in the mail the day before I left home. Pointing it at the TV, I pushed the button and the screen went blank. Noticing the television was off, the man glanced at his wife and asked her a question. She stopped staring at the blank screen and turned toward him. He smiled and leaned his face closer to hers. Later, as I headed out the gate to my plane, I glanced back at the middle-aged couple I'd freed from TV. The man had his hand on his wife's knee and a playful smile on his face. She too was grinning, almost shyly, and I imagined that I could see how they had fallen in love in the first place.

- Lott Hill

Sunday, March 11, 2007

A Solid Sunday

I feel my Sunday this week was particularly well-spent. Early in the morning I went for a swim with Keiko. We spent several hours at the pool, swimming, chatting and relaxing. We then had breakfast in a pub and Keiko taught me Japanese. Later we went to another pub for lunch with Emily, Shujing and Sora.

In the evening I met some friends for dinner and we watched the new Adam Curtis documentary, "The Trap". It will be on Google Video soon and is essential viewing for anyone and everyone.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Chaos Communication Camp Call For Papers

The call for papers has been announced for the Chaos Communication Camp. Talk submissions on the following topics are encouraged:

* flying and non-flying autonomous robots
* security, encryption and anonymity
* software projects
* technologies for the day after the climate change
* rapid prototyping and fabbing
* software and hardware for disaster-resistant infrastructure
* bringing broadband to the countryside
* politics and propaganda
* anti-crowd-control tactics and technologies
* lock picking
* alternative energy systems
* citizen surveillance, data mining technologies, and social networks
* data forensic methods
* all things radio (preferably digital)
* self-sustaining and -reproducing hardware
* pollution free transport systems
* hacker anthropology and sociology of the scene
* flying cars, saucers and carpets
* 42
* tesla generators
* telecommunication technologies
* FPGA based analysis
* military technologies
* all kinds of voting computers
* ebooks
* satellites and rockets

(and countermeasures against all of the above).

I doubt I'll submit a talk but instead I'll try to be a very active volunteer during the camp. I'm going to go a couple of days early, and will stay a day or two afterwards. Are you going? Please add a comment if you are.

When There's Something Strange In Your Neigbourhood...

I went to London to meet my friend Bal and, because Keiko wanted to go to some art galleries, she came along.

For some reason, I had been issued a first class ticket, instead of the second class one I had ordered from the One Railway website. The ticket collector seemed very surprised that I didn't want to sit in first class. I thought it best not to explain that I would have thrown several of the "first class" passengers off the train as soon as we had picked up enough speed to make it worthwhile.

The carriage that Keiko and I were in had a snack shop at one end. Once the train was going there was a long queue of fools rushing to buy the sugary drinks and chemical-laced sandwiches. Adults living as children. Moths attracted to the hot lamp, not realising that it will burn them to a crisp. It was both fascinating and heartbreaking to watch them.

On the train we read a copy of Adbusters magazine from a couple of years ago. Every square inch of every page of Adbusters is pure genius. Subversive spoofs of adverts, intelligent and moving articles and fantastic artwork make Adbusters a joy to read. Subscribe now:

On arrival in London we travelled to Trafalgar square. There's a cheap cafe nearby so we had a drink there before going to the National Gallery. Keiko showed Bal and I some of her favourite paintings. Most were pretty poor.

After the National Gallery we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Soho. We then went to a Chinese bakery. Keiko and Bal were too indecisive while choosing baked goods so I pulled rank and chose six things at random.

Finding somewhere to sit down and eat was very difficult. After randomly wandering around for a while we found Soho park. In the park a girl was chalking "Should all the information on the web be controlled by one company?" on some steps. Within seconds a cop appeared. Someone monitoring the spy cameras in the park must have seen the girl and then dispatched the cop. I wonder whether a cop would have been dispatched to arrest a girl drawing a hopscotch grid on the pavement.

Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar-man, Thief

Living In Hell
Two old beggar women were sitting in one a sprawling megacity, watching the chaos and insanity around them. One turned to the other and asked "What is it all about? Did anyone ever know?" The other beggar woman replied "A long, long time ago, when I was a young girl, a beggar man came to where I was sitting, watching the world go by. I'll never forget the calmness in his eyes as he gently touched my arm and said "We fucked it all up".

I think it's safe to say that the old Karamoon is back, and is here to stay.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Norwich, A Fine City

This morning I had to look after my Japanese teacher's niece, Ayana and her friend Yoshimi. The usual stuff; make sure they don't die, show them some exciting sights etc. This might sound like a very minor hassle except for two issues. Firstly, I'm becoming increasingly insane, and secondly this city sucks.

Yoshimi and Ayana are students from Osaka, I think it was there first time to visit the UK although they had both spent a year living in New Zealand. They seemed to enjoy Norwich and somehow found things that were of interest to them. We ate lunch at my favourite restaurant, visited some quaint shops selling crappy stuff, drank over-priced tea in a trendy coffee shop but mostly we chatted about random stuff.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Fucked Up Lah!

While eating lunch in the Thai restaurant near my office, I overhead a woman from Singapore talking about the 5 C's that all Singaporeans are said to desire: Cash, Car, Credit card, Condominium, and Country club membership. I've always considered Singapore to be more of a sick experiment than a country, and it's the sort of place that makes me ashamed to be alive. Having said that, some of the Singaporeans I knew at university were reasonable people, and they finished every sentence with "lah", which I find quite sweet.

"Let's get the fuck off this planet and nuke the site from orbit"

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Security-Industrial Complex

Had a good swim this morning. Slightly disheartening to notice that the woman in the lane next to be was swimming better and faster than I was. The issue wasn't that she was a woman, it was that she only had one leg.

In the afternoon I wrote the following for a newspaper in London:

What does the HP printer on my desk have in common with the war on abstract nouns, your neighbourhood watch scheme and ID cards? The answer is, the "Security-Industrial Complex", 9/11's grown-up version of the Cold War's military-industrial complex. Instead of western economies and jobs being dependent on huge government contracts to produce nuclear missiles, tanks, military uniforms and port-a-loos for soldiers, western economies and jobs are becoming largely dependent on fear-fuelled obsession with "security", whatever that may mean.(gotta love those abstract nouns!)

The examples are all around us: the CCTV that just about every neighbourhood watch scheme is trying to get hold of (usually with help from the National Lottery), the little bits of plastic whose embedded computers will keep our biometric data safe in our pockets, not to mention prisoner tags, RFID shirt collars, number-plate recognition systems, security guards outside supermarkets and metal detectors at public buildings. Which just leaves my HP printer...

At the recent Netevents European Press Summit, held in Evian, France, many of the big names in networking and computing were making a fuss about the changing nature of IT and communication, and the demands that the police state are putting on it. A police state requires that data about everything is held until the end of time, the public, however, expect to be able to surf the Web and check their email while out and about, buy stuff by credit card on eBay and generally take advantage of wireless networking coupled with cheap broadband. The problem is that secure computing and mass surveillance don't exactly go hand-in-hand.

For computer systems to be secure, they must hold the minimum amount of data possible, and the data they do hold should be hard to access. For computer systems to be useful in the context of fighting imaginary enemies in the war on terror, they must hold records of every transaction they carry out, and must be able to provide those records to the very select group of government agencies and tens of thousands of companies across the globe who may have "legitimate" needs to access it.

Fortunately, help is at hand from the security industry. According to companies such as HP, trust is at the heart of the problem. By buying hardware that is "trustworthy", and buying computers and software which will only work with such hardware, we can sleep safely in our beds. For readers unfamiliar with this use of the term "trustworthy", here's a possible definition: "US-made, certified by Microsoft and Intel. Certainly not cheap hardware from Asia."

As for printers, many will reject refilled ink cartridges, or ink cartridges made by third-party companies. Such cartridges, we are told, are interpreted as counterfeit by the printer. Counterfeit goods, from ink cartridges and pirated DVD's to perfumes and fake Gucci handbags fund terrorism, or rather the security-industrial complex. Which is what allows us to have the money to buy the printer in the first place.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Work Isn't Working

Really bad day at work. I'm expected to do a loads of stuff, but my boss is never in the office and even when he is, he's incapable of making clear decisions and sticking to them. I probably should have quit but money is tight at the moment. When I got home from work I sent an email to my boss saying I would be taking the rest of the week off due to stress. Not sure how he's going to react...

Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Nuclear Family

Got up early to go to London for a CND demo against the replacement of the UK's Trident nuclear weapons system. I spent quite a while debating which book to take with me. Eventually I chose "Spy story" by Len Deighton.

The coach journey seemed to go quickly, the demo was crap but the book was great. Another grain of sand in the hourglass of life. Another day closer to the end.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cube Farm

As it was Bal's first visit to sunny Norwich, I thought I would invite the usual suspects over for lunch. Keiko arrived first to help prepare pizza bases and toppings, Bal made an Italian salad. At 1 pm Edward Pacman, Takako and Koji arrived and the festivities began. Takako made her trademark curry pizza, which has now become a firm favourite of mine.

After lunch we watched Office Space, projected onto the wall of my living room. Everyone seemed to find it very amusing, although there were a few jokes that were a bit beyond Keiko, Takako and Koji. We finished things off with tea and cake. Perfect.

Friday, February 09, 2007

I'm Proud To Be Hungry For Germany's Great Future

A sensible start to the day consisting of swimming with Keiko followed by teaching English to Keiko and Takako. Hopefully this will become a Friday morning routine.

Headed to the supermarket as I'm having a party tomorrow. There's nothing "super" about a "supermarket" so it's a rather unsuitable name. Bought ingredients for pizzas.

Received an email confirming that I'll have somewhere to live in Tokyo so I can finally move back to Japan in September. Somehow I need to ship most of my belongings there and dispose of the rest.

Note: The title of this blog post comes from "Hansi: The Girl Who Loved The Swastika" published by Spire Christian Comics, 1978.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bureaucracy Now!

Went to County Hall with my boss to have a meeting with some of the IT staff about the training requirements of their staff. County Hall is responsible for the 600 local government sites across the county, which involves a lot of IT. The meeting was interesting and enjoyable, unlike many aspects of my job. We spent about 2 hours discussing the IT infrastructure of the county and the roles of the tech support staff. It was incredible to hear first-hand how disorganised and bureaucratic the local government is.

In the afternoon I met Sachiko and her friend Sora in the library for an English lesson. Although their English levels were different, the lesson went well.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Hamburglar

Arrived at work to find the computer school had been broken in to. Three laptops had been taken, no damage was done except to the fire exit which had been the point of entry. For some reason my laptop hadn't been taken! This came as a great relief as it's full of random stuff that, while replaceable, would be a hassle to find again. Should be getting replacement laptops in the next couple of weeks.

Went to college in the evening. I did my best to fuck up the class; it's the only way they'll learn:)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sunday Hunch, Sunday Lunch

It was great to have a lie-in this morning. Met Keiko at 9 am for a swim. Hopefully this will become a habit. Once the weather improves I'll probably try to swim every morning before work.

Keiko and I met our friends Takako and Koji at 12:30. We walked to a pub where we were joined by Sachiko, a young woman from Osaka. We had a traditional English pub lunch which was a first for my friends. The food was of good quality, and we were sitting upstairs, away from most other customers so the environment was quiet and smoke-free. The dessert I chose, hot chocolate fudge cake, was utterly breathtaking.

In the evening I helped Keiko plan a presentation for university comparing The Grand Tour with the Edo-era Tokaido pilgrimages. Every time I help Keiko with her study it becomes even clearer to me that the teaching staff at her university are criminally stupid. They know nothing of their subject, and they don't give a fuck.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

EASF In Ipswich

Failed to go swimming this morning. Train problems today meant I had to take a bus for part of the journey. Finally arrived in Ipswich and found my way to the venue for East Anglia Social Forum.

We had bread and humus for lunch. I've been eating fruit to the exclusion of almost everything else recently, so the bread and humus tasted amazing. There was a workshop on using "Non-violent communication" during meetings. It wasn't very well received, which pleased me greatly. After that we talked for an hour or so about the future of EASF. Due to the fact that there were only ten of us there, we were able to have a worthwhile discussion.

I had the same crappy journey home that I had had on the way to Ipswich. I spent my time on the train and bus reading about different methods to subvert the Windows XP firewall, making the journey slightly easier to endure.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Sink Or Swim

Got to the pool at 8 am this morning. The atmosphere was very different to that of last night. Everyone was very friendly. Teacher/plumber/plasterer. After swimming I met Keiko and Takako for an English lesson.

Borders still don't have the new issue of 2600 magazine. I'm starting to get impatient. The ironic thing is that 2600 isn't very good. Like life.

In the evening I met Richard and Anwar for tea at a vegetarian cafe. Richard left suddenly, so Anwar and I went elsewhere. I had a cup of something the cafe described as "Chai", it wasn't even close, but was quite pleasant nonetheless.

Didn't stay out very late. Wonder if I'll make it to the swimming pool tomorrow...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Taking The Plunge

Studied Windows Active Directory in the library. Really must take the Microcrap exam in the next few weeks. Had a Japanese lesson after from my friend Takako. I'm trying to persuade Takako to become a Japanese teacher as she seems to have a natural aptitude for it. We took tea afterwards and spent a long time discussing various issues currently affecting Japan.

This evening I finally joined a swimming pool. It's very cheap, only 21 UKP a month, and it's 10 minutes walk from where I work so I should be able to go regularly. The pool was quite crowded, but I'm told it's quieter in the mornings. There was a very small sauna and a small steam room as well. I went to the supermarket on the way home to buy loads of fruit and vegetables for my new, healthier lifestyle. How long will it last? How long will I last? Only time will tell, and the wasp factory.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Heart Of Darkness

When I got home from work I watched "The Engineering Of Consent", the second programme in the documentary series "The Century Of The Self". It is essential viewing for everybody. No exceptions.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Easy Like Sunday Mourning

Relaxing day at home studying Japanese. Itching to get back to Tokyo. Here are a few things I intend to do when I get back there:
(1) Explore the secret underground city and anything else I find.
(2) Go to the dojo three times a week.
(3) Do some serious hitch-hiking.
(4) Climb mountains.
(5) Write and publish a guidebook to Tokyo.
(6) Rain fire and death upon all those who stand in my way.
(7) Eat shit-loads of wacky Japanese sweets.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Just tried to sign up for Barcamp2 in London, only to find all the tickets had already gone. It seems that the 100 tickets were snapped up in just a couple of hours. I should probably organise a Barcamp in Cambridge sometime in the next couple of months, then one in Birmingham.

Karamoon Blog News
I've switched over to the new version of Blogger and am thus able to add labels to my posts. Click the labels to find related blog posts. It will take me a few months to apply labels to all my old blog posts(around 600) but it will add a new layer of depth to the end user experience.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Fuck Work

Went to Keiko's house in the morning to give her and Takako an English lesson. I was quite tough on them both, and as a result the lesson went very well. Takako often provides deep insights into things without warning. I've come to expect this, which is a lovely feeling.

Had a light, late lunch with Keiko in a cafe. Went to Borders afterwards, still no sign of the new issue of 2600 magazine. This photo was taken about a week ago. Although my photos are quite poor, they are improving.

Listened to a bunch of podcasts in the evening, mainly from "Tokyo Calling" and "Herro From Japan". Both podcasts convince me that, without a shadow of a doubt, working is bullshit. If something is referred to as "working", it is fucked up. If it wasn't fucked up, we wouldn't need to call it "working". A life involving a boss, a job, colleagues etc. etc. etc. isn't for me.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Hacker Calendar

Spent quite a bit of the day photographing Japanese food packaging. The photos will appear on a couple of Japanese food blogs I set up, Snack Fan Japan and Nihon Tasty.

There are lots of exciting events coming up over the next few months. The first is EASF in Ipswich next weekend. There will be several talks and workshops on organising housing and food co-ops.

There will be a Barcamp in London in February. Barcamp is a tech conference, but one without a schedule. You just turn up and sign up to give a presentation. I haven't been to one before, and it looks very interesting although I will be way out of my depth from a knowledge point of view.

I and some other SDFer's are organising an SDF con in London for sometime in March or April. I'll probably give my talk on Turing, or the talk I gave at BrumCon about security card systems.

In May, I hope to make it to Croatia for a hacker camp which will be held at an old military base. No firm details have been released yet.

The CCC have confirmed the details of their hacker camp which will be held in Germany this August. Should be incredible.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Had an early start this morning as my company was running a networking day for several companies and organisations in the city. I gave a presentation entitled "Security For Organisations: Best Practice In The Internet Age". Most of it was about social engineering and phreaking. It seemed to be received well. Overall the day was pretty successful and most importantly the food was good.

In the evening I went to a cafe where the first part of a documentary series, "Century Of The Self", was being shown. Episode one was called "Happiness Machines". I had heard very good things about this series, and about "The Power Of Nightmares", another series made by the same producer, Adam Curtis. The Wikipedia pages I've linked to have links to the documentaries on Google Video. Watch them. Then comment here. Simple.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tokyo Calling

A couple of days ago I started listening to a podcast called Tokyo Calling by Scott Lockman. It's very different to any other podcast I've heard, and I recommend it highly, particularly to people who, like me, feel podcasting sucks.
It's a very natural podcast. In one episode, for example, Scott's wife shouts up to him, asking if he's running a bath. He just answers that he's doing a podcast. Scott's three daughters frequently appear in the podcast, and "It's pretty remarkable to see the young ones being young. It's such a special time. I'm grateful to have the chance to be part of it". Very touching at times.

Had dinner at The Thai Dragon with an old school friend called Richard. It was great to catch up, and we shared many happy memories of a camping trip in France we went on together when we were around 18 years old. The Thai restaurant was, as it always is, perfect. Snow had been falling while we were in the restaurant so we had to walk back on slippery pavements. When I got home I listened to the second Dengue Fever album, "Escape From Dragon House" which arrived today. Will comment on it soon.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hobbit House

Ate breakfast this morning. A significant, albeit small, step in the right direction.

Came across this website of a house in Wales for hobbits and goblins. So very wrong, but quite cool at the same time.

An easy day at work, eating sandwiches and reading Wikipedia.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Riding A Wave

I have been feeling very positive for a few days now. I put it down to the following:
  • Teaching English again

  • Studying Japanese

  • Thinking about Japan all the time

  • Working on the Tokyo Robotnik website

  • Eating at sensible times, and eating less junk

  • Getting good advice from friends

  • Making solid plans to leave the UK

I shall try to continue riding this wave, if I can last more than a few weeks, I think it will be very hard to fall back into old ways.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Weaving Dreams With Dreamweaver

Spent most of the day playing around with Dreamweaver. I'll be adding a 500-page database to Tokyo Robotnik soon so I'm enjoying Dreamweaver's tools for search-and-replace across multiple files etc. Some people allege that the database is merely a cheap attempt at getting some Googlejuice. Such allegations are without foundation.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Memories Of Japan

I've been thinking a lot about my time in Japan. Many memories have filled my head, some things that I did for the first time, some things that were simple but had infinite beauty, and some things which can only be described as mind-blowing, such as training with Hatsumi-soke in Noda. Here is a random selection:

My first night of sleeping on a futon. Waking up in the morning to the scent of tatami mats.

My first Japanese earthquake. I was lying in bed, having a dream about watching a woman have a violent fit. I woke up to find the room shaking, and for some reason I thought the best course of action was to deal with death by going to sleep.

Managing to order food for the first time. I went into a place and asked for a random Japanese dish. I didn't know that I was in a Yoshinoya, a chain which pretty much sells just one dish, gyudon, which consists of marinated beef on rice. I managed to get a bowl of gyudon, and it tasted fucking amazing.

Eating at a Kaiten Zushi place. Plates of sushi were floating around on boats in a miniature river. Surreal and awesome.

One day realising that I was speaking Japanese. People told me that this would happen to me, but I couldn't see how it would be possible. Yet, one day, I was speaking Japanese.

Playing with Japanese hand held hanabi(fireworks) in Odaiba.

Going for a Hanami(cherry blossom viewing) picnic with some friends. There were hundreds of people in the park, and some were old. There was a group of old people sitting near my friends, passing a karaoke machine around, singing old Japanese pop songs. I hate old people. I particularly hate Japanese old people. Fortunately I had a ghetto blaster, a cassette tape of The Teaches Of Peaches, and a samurai sword. It was a winning combination. I was able to play loud, semi-pornographic music, without anyone daring to look in my direction...

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Stormy Thursday

It's been very windy across the UK. So far, 13 people have died as a result of the weather. I'm not one of them.

My friend Takako came over to teach me Japanese. Before the lesson I showed her my collection of Make Magazine. She was very impressed and says we should start making some of the projects from the magazine. It shall be so.

Keiko and I attended the monthly lecture on Japanese culture. The speaker had to cancel due to weather. Instead, the assistant director of the institute gave a short talk on archeology and then a research student gave a short talk about the Tokaido road which ran between Tokyo and Kyoto. Both talks were interesting and delivered well. After the talks Keiko and I made a quick exit, which was followed by the drinking of tea.

While taking tea my friend Simon called me for some information about Wikileaks. The project sounds interesting, I'll look into it when I get home. (Why do I not have Net access everywhere I go?!?!?!!)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

23C3 Reloaded

Some of the talks from the 23 rd Chaos Communication Congress are now online. I watched a couple at work this morning. Download them here.

Read a very sad article about John Draper. Living In The Trash Draper was the 13th employee at Apple but is better known for pioneering blue boxing. I met Draper in 2004 and talked to him quite a bit. He is a brilliant man but his head has been fucked by all the LSD he took. Don't do drugs. Drugs are bad. I mean it.

Ordered the second Dengue Fever album, Escape From Dragon House from Amazon. It will be sent out from New York so it will probably take at least a week to arrive.

Didn't leave work until 8:30 pm. 11.5 hours is really too much for me, even though things weren't too busy.

TV's own Mitch Altman will be on Off The Hook tonight. I'm very much looking forward to it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Teaching And Learning Of The Japanese Language

The Japanese language is written using two phonetic alphabets, known as Kana and Hiragana, and one ideographic alphabet known as Kanji. There are also several ways to write the Japanese language using the Roman alphabet. These methods are known as Romaji. The most popular Romaji system is the modified-Hepburn system. The one chosen by the Japanese government, Kunrei-shiki, is so stupid that it doesn't warrant comment.

Japanese teachers generally start by teaching Romaji, followed by Hiragana, then Katakana, then Kanji. Better teachers will skip Romaji. There are many problems with this method of teaching. It is essential that students learn Kanji from the very first lesson, so that Kanji cease to be seen as a difficult hurdle, something to be tackled at some point in the distant future. The very reason that Kanji are difficult is that they are not taught from the outset. A student learns to recognize various Japanese words, learns their meaning, and learns their pronunciation. These three aspects become one item in memory. A year or two later the student is introduced to the Kanji characters for these words. It is very difficult to add a Kanji character to something that has already been memorised.

Only two people told me to learn some Kanji characters before moving to Japan, Mark Rebuck and Ben Jones. Mark sold me a huge number of Japanese language textbooks for a pitifully small amount of money, books which are still useful to me today, six years later.

For those wishing to visit Japan, the most useful thing to do is learn some Kanji characters. The best book to use for this purpose is called "Read Japanese Today" by Len Walsh, published by Tuttle. My copy has "Mark Rebuck, 1992" written in the front cover.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Productivity And Positivity

Opened a drawer of my desk at work to find a graphics card that I had ordered last week. Can't wait to get home and install it.

Easy day at work. Sat at my desk, watching my life slip away.

When I got home I installed my new graphics card and plugged in a monitor. Although my second monitor is only about 15", it's wonderful to have a larger desktop spread across two monitors.

Watched a very strange video about Starfire, a Sun Microsystems HCI project. The interface system seems to consist of a large touchscreen-desk system and a fuckwit American woman. Well worth watching: Starfire

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hero's Return

Woke up very late. Can't see how I'm going to have any chance of waking up at 7:30 am tomorrow to get ready for work. I couldn't get to sleep until 4 am this morning. I had a very strange dream about finding a body that was trapped underwater and trying to remove it. I was in a hotel, in a room which had an entrance to a flooded basement. For some reason I had to recover the body but I knew that it was going to be horrific when I finally got it out, so I was very apprehensive. I wonder what this means...

Watched Steve Job's keynote address at MacWorld 1997 on YouTube. Watch it here

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Crumpets And Trumpets

Woke up late. Ate some crumpets and was shocked to find that I had consumed 60 % of my recommended salt intake.

Spent the day reading, watching The Computer Chronicles on Google Video and trying to study.

Felt restless all evening. Couldn't sleep so I watched a couple more episodes of The Computer Chronicles.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Keiko and Takako came over in the morning for an English lesson. We discussed a short story about a man being abducted by aliens. Keiko stayed for lunch and then taught me Japanese in the afternoon.

I watched an episode of Ocha-Ken downloaded from Ocha-ken is a toy dog which came free with a certain brand of green tea. The toy was so popular that a short anime series was made about it. I think it's aimed at kids who are 4 or 5 years old, but I like it very much.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

No Gods, No Masters, I Will Not Serve

As a result of my haircut this morning, I'm now the proud owner of less hair.

In the morning I met my friend Takako in the library for a Japanese lesson. It feels great to be studying Japanese again. I'm focusing on reading and writing Japanese and my aim is to master the first 1000 Japanese characters this year. 2000 characters are commonly used in daily Japanese.

In the evening I went to Cinema City to watch the film "Pan's Labyrinth" with Keiko and my aunt. The film is set in Spain, 1944 and deals with the aftermath of the Spanish civil war. The most powerful scene is one in which a supposedly cowardly doctor tells a captain in Franco's army that he is unable to follow orders without questioning them. The doctor knows that this will cost him his life. The film was considerably more bloody than I had imagined, which certainly added to its power. The only criticism I have of the film is that I think anarchism should have been a more major theme. As all clever boys and girls know, anarchist revolution is the only solution.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Black Wednesday

Had a really bad morning at work. We had a meeting about the future of the company in which my boss said we are going to have to do things very differently in order to continue to receive government funding. When my boss was out of the room I told the office manager that I'm probably going to have to quit. My job is becoming increasingly and trying to live off such little money is also very difficult.

My colleague Chris came back from lunch with a huge chocolate chip cookie for me, which made life feel considerably better.

Spent most of the afternoon playing with remote shutdown programs and trying to get Wake On LAN to work. Success was very limited, but it's something I want to pursue because being able to boot and shutdown all the PC's at work from my laptop would make me feel more positive about work and life in general.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Spent the day reading about Virtual Reality and human computer interaction. Also read a long article on Ted Nelson. Nelson has some very interesting ideas, although he's too bitter and too crazy. I saw him speak about his hypertext project a couple of years ago in London. His ideas for hypertext are much more far reaching than HTML, sadly he hasn't got anywhere with it over the past 30 years.

I've decided that I must finally learn to use Dreamweaver. I'll probably have to teach it at work soon, and it would be useful for making prototype websites. My only concern is that it will make me lazy and I'll start producing crappy websites using tables and non-compliant HTML and CSS, just like I used to:)

Monday, January 08, 2007

Back At Work (With A Smirk?)

Against all odds, I'm somehow back at work. In my absence, lots has changed. The computer school has been redecorated, things are now looking a lot smarter and we have a very tacky moving picture, the sort you might find in a Chinese take-away.

Ventured into the city centre at lunchtime to do some chores. Went to the library to return a book on SSH and a book on firewalls took out a book on Cascading Style Sheets and a book on Sed and Awk. To my immense surprise, Borders had the new issue of Giant Robot magazine. Giant Robot continues to move me. It's a real magazine, written by people who have a deep love of Asian culture and who take great pleasure in seeking out new things. Above all, the editors, Eric Nakamura and Martin Wong, still keep it real.

As has happened several times before, my life was saved by reading Giant Robot on the way home from work. If I hadn't had a copy of Giant Robot to read, I would have perished in the bleak greyness that is this hellish city.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Room With A View

Got up at 11 am. Looked out of my window at the trees in my garden and the grey sky above. Coming back to the UK is never easy, but amongst all the darkness, some light can be found.

I have piles and piles of junk to sort out, mainly thousands of pages of printed material but also lots of computers and other tech stuff. I'm aiming to get everything organised by June...

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Long Walk To Boredom

Had breakfast at 9 am. Packed up my stuff and said goodbye to the staff of the pension. Walked to Alexanderplatz for the last time.

Richard and I killed some time in Dunkin' Doughnuts. We watched an episode of InDigital that I had downloaded while packing. It wasn't very good but it occupied some time.

Arriving at Berlin Schoenefeld airport, we were greeted by a Scottish man asking for our train tickets in order to sell them and buy drugs with the money. My ticket was of no use to him, but he eagerly took Richard's one-day pass.

On the plane I finished reading "Code: The Hidden Language Of Computer Hardware And Software" by Charles Petzold. I need to read it again soon. The flight was uneventful, despite bad weather. Landed at Gatwick after being airbourne for around 2 hours. Arriving in Gatwick airport is like US Foreign Policy: it makes me want to kill myself and others.

Got a lift home. Slept for some of the 2-hour journey.

When I got home I held my cat very tightly. I listened to Cambodian psychedelic rock music and drank Pepsi Max (maximum taste, no sugar; carbonated beverage of hacker generation X). I stared at my computer books, and my future.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Photography And Pornography

I slept most of the morning and early afternoon.

In the evening I took a train to Berlin's famous Zoo station. The place Richard had arranged to meet me turned out to be some kind of needle exchange. Nice.

We went to a photo gallery that Richard had spotted a few days before. As it was a Thursday and as it was after 6:30 pm, entrance to the gallery was free. The collections consisted largely of porn. There were some war photos as well. I watched part of a video of a photo shoot involving Courtney Love. Being reminded that Courtney Love existed was an unpleasant experience but it wasn't as bad as it had been in my dreams and nightmares. The gallery was full of young people, probably because it was free. It's always good to find where the young people in a city hang out. I like young people very much, but they tend to make me sick sometimes.

Richard wanted to go to a vegetarian Indian restaurant that he had found in a guide book. Amazingly, we found the restaurant, and it was very good. We went to Ben And Jerry's afterwards for ice cream.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Checkpoint Charlie

Richard and I went to the Checkpoint Charlie museum. It was expensive and strange. The museum was opened in a house, a couple of years after the Berlin Wall was built. It consists of a series of small rooms linked by narrow passages and filled with random crap. About half the stuff in the museum is art, the remaining exhibits are various escape devices such as cars with hidden compartments, suitcases which people hid in and even a huge hot air balloon that two families used to escape over the wall.

After looking around the museum we met up with my friend Keiko. Walked around looking for food. We eventually found the place I had gone to with Mitch. We ate falafel and pizza. Keiko ate cake. Greedy Keiko. I noticed a Mafia guy sitting at a table when we arrived. After about 40 minutes, he started talking to the staff about something. It seemed like things were going to get nasty. After a while he left. The owners of the cafe made a series of phone calls and a couple of tough-looking guys arrived. We decided to leave.

In the evening I met up with Mitch and Peter for dinner. We went to an Indian restaurant again. This one was much better than the one we had previously been to, both in terms of the food and of the service. It was sad to be seeing Mitch and Peter for the last time in quite a while, I've really enjoyed spending time with them and hearing about their various adventures in Silicon Valley before and during the Dot Com era. Mitch invited me to San Francisco to hang out with him sometime. I'll definitely take him up on the offer.

Mitch Altman

I got to know Mitch a little in New York City last year while attending the HOPE conference. I actually met Mitch before the conference at New York radio station WBAI, where we were both waiting to go on the show Off The Hook. I got on well with Mitch from the beginning, and we talked quite a bit at HOPE. Hanging out with him in Berlin has been a really great experience and just goes to show that life can be good sometimes:)

(Photo by Jacob Appelbaum)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bursting The Bubble

Woke up at 7:45 for breakfast. The blister on my foot has got much bigger, it's now about 5 cm long and 3 cm wide. I spent some time trying to cut the blister open with a pair of nail clippers, it was impossible so in the end I used a spike on my Swiss Army knife. Fuck. Lots of liquid, lots of pain and a few laughs later, my foot looked a bit better. I went to bed again afterwards and slept for a few hours.

My mobile is out of credit, despite the fact that I've only send a few (6-10) texts and made 2 calls, each of less than a minute. Some googling of the Vodafone website reveals that I'm probably being charged to receive calls and SMS messages. Fucking Vodafone.

Met up with Richard. He has been feeling unwell, probably due to drinking too much coffee. We had dinner in an Italian restaurant near Alexanderplatz. Good food at reasonable prices, the only problem was the smoke. One must get used to such things in Germany.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Television, The Drug Of The Nation

I can't help noticing it's the first day of 2007. (Note: This is a lie. Every fucking day is the same. Really.)
Richard and I met up with Mitch Altman, inventor of TV-B-Gone and his friend Peter, who helps run the TV-B-Gone business. We met at the world clock in Alexanderplatz and then took an underground train in search of food. We ended up having dinner at an Indian restaurant. The staff were very impolite but the food was ok. Peter told us many tales of impolite staff in Germany.

Peter and Mitch took us to a Ben And Jerry's ice cream parlour. I had ice cream like I've never tasted before. I didn't know anything about Ben And Jerry's, an ice cream company started in 1978 and now owned by the delightful people at Unilever. I now know a little more than nothing, which is probably as much knowledge as I need on the subject.

Mitch turned off the TV in the corner of the ice cream parlor when we arrived. He and Peter have turned off the TV several times there over the past few days. We talked about the conference, the success of TV-B-Gone, the hacker ethic and many other topics. We were joined by a friend of Peter's from Hungary. Conversation turned to Russian literature and the works of Stanislaw Lem, a Polish writer who died last year. Before leaving Ben And Jerry's, Mitch turned off the TV again.

Mitch, Richard and I walked to Alexanderplatz. Richard felt ill so he went back to his hostel. Mitch and I went up the famous Fernsehturm (Television tower) You can read about the tower here. We discussed possible variations on TV-B-Gone such as using a laser diode instead of an LED. We also talked about Mitch's next product, an electronic relaxation device. Mitch is going to have an article about the device published in the next issue of Make magazine. I'm very much looking forward to it.

Mitch and I went for an extremely long walk, choosing whichever direction felt best. At around midnight we found a Turkish bar/cafe which had an awesome mezzanine floor and a palm tree. We ate falafel and observed young Turks running free.