Dr John Hawkins
Welcome to my bit of the Maison de Stuff,
home to a huge load of pictures,
and my daily blog.
My email address is as above - I've put it in an image in a vein attempt to reduce the amount of spam I get.
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- Recent Entries:
- Oh Yes, I Live in Tokyo
Sunday in Nagano
Saturday in Nagano
Off to Nagano
Otaku Matsuri Part 2
Otaku Matsuri Part 1
Best of a Bad Lot
Internet TV? My Arse!
Thai Yellow Curry
Burgers on the Balcony
Out and About with Lorenzo
Me and Lox at the New York Bar
Slobs r' Us
Getting a bit Tedious...
My Life on a DVD
An Equally Lazy Sunday
Unexpected trip to the 'Bukuro
- Oh Yes, I Live in Tokyo
- [Monday 31st July]
Well the first day back at work after a nice weekend away is always going to be a bit crappy. Today was no exception. It felt crap on the way into the office to be back in the reality of the morning commute, and once at work I didn't seem to be able to make any progress at all - it was one of the days where I felt I was just fighting against the computer. I eventually threw in the towel around 7:30, feeling very frustrated indeed. When I got back home I had to sit in silence for ten minutes or so just to calm down - as crazy as that sounds.
I've been struggling with the question a lot recently of whether or not I actually like living in Japan. A weekend away is an important reminder that it's not all bad - getting away from Tokyo very quickly makes the country as a whole seem a lot nicer. After giving it some thought today, it occurred to me that maybe it wasn't really Japan at fault in particular. While you're travelling around and having fun everything seems great, but settling into a routine in a place anywhere other than home is difficult - the woes of day-to-day life, work, and all the rest, can not be easily soothed by the standard security blanket of friends and family when you're on the wrong side of the world.
- Sunday in Nagano
- [Sunday 30th July]
Another day in and around Nagano, before heading off back to Tokyo in the evening.
[Click here to read more...]
- Saturday in Nagano
- [Saturday 29th July]
Having arrived in Nagano the previous evening, we now had a whole day to explore.
[Click here to read more...]
- Off to Nagano
- [Friday 28th July]
After work, headed over to Tokyo station and got on the Shinkansen bound for Nagano.
- [Thursday 27th July]
Thought it would probably be a waste to buy any more food in given our impending weekend away, so instead had a meal composed entirely of leftovers. So we had tacos to start with, and then the remains of the red wine stew to follow. Oh, and the meal was accompanied with Mexican (ish) and French (ish) music via the miracle of internet radio.
- [Wednesday 26th July]
Pretty uneventful. Made a good old red wine stew for dinner, which we ate with some very nice bread Chie had bought from Paul in Tokyo station.
After dinner I wasted a whole lot of time trying to set up the Mac Mini so we could watch the free movie downloads that we get as part of our ISP package. It was all very Windows centric - you could only play the movies with Windows Media Player. Actually it turns out you can get a version of WMP for the Mac, but to my frustration the MS download came as a "StuffIt" compressed file - and seemingly the only website on the planet which offered a download of StuffIt Expander (stuffit.com) had gone offline. Not just for a few minutes, but for the whole evening.
This was all quite irritating, and so you can imagine my eventual conclusion was, indeed, to just StuffIt (or words to that effect).
- [Tuesday 25th July]
So I decided after work I would pop over to Ikebukuro for the usual dinner at Rohlan / drinks at Quercus ritual. Despite the 25th being payday for many companies in Japan, I was surprised to find it was very quiet in Quercus - at one point I had the place all to myself (with the exception of course of Watanabe-san and his right hand man, Ohno-san). For a while I was kept company by a guy working for one of the big drinks importing companies - and he was very pleased when I, quite coincidentally, ordered whiskies from his portfolio. I say coincidence as Glenkinchie was an unusual choice for me, but I fancied something refreshing, and recall this having some really sharp citrusy notes on occasion.
Oh and I learnt a new word from Watanbe-san - Mudazukai - it means extravagant. At one point I was offered a choice of three Lagavulins - A, B or C; with C being "keiko takai" (quite expensive). To which I naturally replied "I'll have C then". Thus the new word came out. I haven't seen a whole lot of independent bottlings of Lagavulin, so this was very interesting - I think it was made specially for a German whisky fair, and didn't have the usual sherry you get to smooth out the Lagavulin, instead it was raw and rather frisky. Lots of peat, but without being too smokey - more like the Caol Ila house style in my opinion. Watanabe-san seems to have an amazing talent for getting hold of these unusual European bottlings - and somebody in Germany obviously has tastes very similar to mine!
Later on I was joined by Chie for a change - my trips to the whisky mecca are usually somewhat solitary expeditions. She arrived later than me as she'd spent a fair while at the travel agents. She has planned us a trip away for this coming weekend - we're off to Nagano (where the Winter Olympics was once held) to escpae the heat and hubbub of big city life in Tokyo. So that ought to be nice.
- [Monday 24th July]
I think tonight may be my personal record for staying late at the office - I left at about 9:15.
Whilst this seemed tremendously late for me, at least one other person on my team was there,
with an air of complete routine about him, as though this wasn't late at all.
I spoke to TK about this - who incidentally keeps very sensible hours like I normally do.
The thing is, no-one will ever tell you directly that you must stay late.
Instead it is an insidious, subversive and self-perpetuating atmosphere.
Everyone who stays late contributes to this disease.
- Otaku Matsuri Part 2
- [Sunday 23rd July]
Chie had to go into work today to make up her quota, so for me another festival of nerdiness ensued. I think I have written more software in this weekend than I have done in the last month of my day job. This is the reality of "real world" software engineering though - most of it is about maintenance (i.e. bug fixing) rather than actually doing anything new. The overheads involved mean that it is typically 50% about finding out why something or other doesn't work, 45% going through all the process nonsense associated with making a change in a high profile commercial product, and only 5% (if you're lucky) actually typing in new lines of code.
Recently I have realised I am turning into something of a recluse - generally speaking I don't much like Tokyo - it's an ugly city filled with far too many people who generally speaking don't have particularly good manners. So I'm much happier when I just stay in - my flat is a little vaccuum which could be anywhere in the world, and when I have something engaging to do, it is easy to forget where I am.
Despite this though, I didn't confine myself to the great indoors all day. As poor old Chie had to go to work, I thought the least I could do was to go and meet her for lunch in an attempt to break up the monotony of her day. So I headed over to Roppongi, and had lunch there with Chie and her friend from the office, who I met for the first time. The three of us had burgers at a place which (being in Roppongi - gaijin central) pleasingly had some kind of vegetarian burger on the menu. Then after that Chie and I went on to a little cafe for a quick drink and dessert, before Chie headed back to the office and I headed back home.
When Chie returned home from work in the evening I made Mexican food for dinner, and hit upon what I thought was a simple but great new idea to add atmosphere to a meal when eating foreign food - internet radio. There are all sorts of weird and wonderful internet radio stations available - I was using iTunes on the Mac Mini, but there are plenty of other ways to find these. Anyway, it occurred to me what a wonderful (albeit deeply cheesy) idea it would be to play music from the country associated with whatever meal we were eating. Whilst I couldn't find a specifically Mexican radio station, there were a couple of Latino / South American stations, which, given my general ignorance of that part of the world, seemed as near as dammit. So in the future we'll have Italian / Chinese / Japanese / Middle Eastern / Indian music as appropriate. Yes, it is tremendously cheesy, but that's all part of the appeal, and anyway, it makes me happy, OK?
- Otaku Matsuri Part 1
- [Saturday 22nd July]
For everyone but Lorenzo (whose Japanese is vastly better than mine) "Otaku Matsuri" means "festival of nerdiness". This weekend I was largely left to my own devices, and so I basically stayed in and wiled away my time on the computer. Today Chie went off to a kind of seminar about yukata (the Japanese dress which is a bit like a kimono, but slightly more casual), leaving me with a whole afternoon to indulge in geeky pursuits.
Now that the 'Maison backup utlity is basically over and done with (OK, it's pretty rough around the edges, but it does what it says on the tin - it backs up the 'Maison) I've moved on to my next software project. This one, however, is an evil masterplan which I have a rediculous notion will one day make my fortune, so for the time being it is going to remain secret. OK, well a bit secret - in a nutshell I have grand designs that I am going to make the fast forward / rewind buttons obsolete. On any kind of video player. In the little make believe world that exists in my head, one day we will look back on those archaic control mechanisms in the same way we mockingly reminisce about taking cassettes out and turning them over to play the other side.... and in the same way Google has entered into the language as a verb to mean search, one day we'll talk about JohnTech (or whatever) as a means of navigating around video.
Anyway, it was nice to reassure myself that I still actually enjoy writing software - despite my day job's best efforts to make me hate it.
In the evening, after Chie finished her yukata seminar, we met up at one of the stations nearby our apartment, and to my surprise Chie was in fact dressed in a yukata. We were both hungry, so decided to get something to eat nearby, and more or less the only place that was any good was this little Indian restaurant next to the station. It was slightly surreal to go for a curry with Chie in her yukata, but nice nonetheless.
- Plated Lasagne
- [Friday 21st July]
Nothing much to report. Stayed quite late at the office trying to make up for a fairly unproductive week (too many meetings etc getting in the way of doing any real work).
Went back home after work, and wasn't really sure what to do about dinner at first, but after a root around in the cupbaords, decided to make an ad hoc lasagne. It came out surprisingly well - we don't have an oven, so it was of the slightly pretentious plated variety, where you boil the sheets and then assembled a "stack" as chefs like to call it (I believe). I used some frozen pasta sauce I'd made a while back, and some slightly inferior red cheddar that had been hanging around in the fridge for a while. Surprisingly though the end result was really quite edible.
That's it really. Yea, a very boring Friday!
- Jazz Night
- [Thursday 20th July]
TK*, my friend from the office who I often go out after work with, is also a very talented jazz pianist, and it turns out he often goes to play in jam sessions around Tokyo. Tonight there was going to be one in a bar fairly close to the office - this sounded like fun, so when he asked me if I wanted to come with him I jumped at the chance.
It was a very nice night out - whilst TK was very self-critical of his performance, I thought he played brilliantly. There were several other pianists who played during the course of the evening, but all the rest of them seemed to take it too seriously - they didn't look like they were enjoying themselves, and didn't put a great deal of feeling into their playing. Yes, technically they were very competent, but it was like a robot playing the piano - perfect but somehow a bit soulless. TK on the other hand had a charmingly rascally approach. He wasn't afraid to have a few drinks first (unlike the rest of them) and just seemed to relax and enjoy himself. Watching and listening to him play was oddly kind of spellbinding - slightly reminiscent of Lianne Carol playing at Ronnie Scott's.
Yes, the other people there were all very focused on their music - to the point that you wondered if a bar was really the right venue for this sort of thing. I couldn't help but wonder how the bar made any profit - apart from me and TK, everyone else just sat with a single drink which they nursed all night. It seemed likely that me and TK spent more than the rest of the customers put together, and the owner did give us a very grateful nod as we left.
What with going to see Coldplay the day before as well it is turning into a very musical week!
* - Call me paranoid but I feel a bit weird of putting the actual names of people I work with on this blog.
- [Wednesday 19th July]
A couple of weeks ago Chie had mentioned that Coldplay were going to be playing in Tokyo. We looked into getting tickets, but it seemed there were only seats right at the back left, and as it was 7500 Yen (more than 35 quid) we decided not to bother. I thought nothing more of it.
About 5 o' clock today, I got a phonecall from Chie, and to my sheer delight it turned out she had magically got hold of two tickets for the concert tonight - for free! So after hurriedly downloading the latest album from iTunes to listen to on my way, I left work and headed over to the arena - Nihon Budoukan. Apparently the Beatles also played there.
It was all very good - we had really good seats, in the main ground level bit, not too far from the stage. To Chie's delight we were next to the sound stage - just after arriving we took a glance over to our right and - lo and behold - there was Gwyneth Paltrow just the other side of a little fence thing from us. At one point Chris Martin got pretty close to us as well, as he came and stood on one of the boxes on the sound stage, possibly because he wanted a chat with Gwyneth about what they were going to have for dinner, however he must have remembered that he was supposed to be doing a concert, so he just sang instead. I tried to take pictures, but only had my mobile with me, so the results were somewhat disappointing.
So anyway, that was all very nice. They played songs from all three albums, and even played Yellow, which I had assumed must have been their Creep or Smells Like Teen Spirit - every band has one hugely popular song which they are sick to death of playing. During Yellow these big yellow ballons came bouncing into the crowd - much to the irritation of the sound engineers!
I particularly enjoyed The Scientist and In My Place - which I think was their grand finale.
After the gig, we had toyed with the idea of going for a drink in the bar where they were going to be having a bit of a post-gig party, but in the end we decided we'd just feel awkward, and opted instead for a quick dinner in Roppongi Hills, then headed off home to bed.
- [Tuesday 18th July]
Nothing much to report. Chie made "wafu" (which means Japanese style) spaghetti for dinner, involving aburage (the very thin deep fried tofu) and Japanese mushrooms (shimeji or something like that). I think we probably watched a few more episodes of Frasier too - almost at the end of the second season box set now.
- [Monday 17th July]
Well today was a national holiday, making it the third day of a long weekend. I think it was "umi no hi" - sea day - although to be honest I'm not sure what the meaning of it is. Both Chie and I had toyed with the idea of going into work, as we knew we didn't have anywhere particular to go or anything really to do, so it would be kind of a waste of a day's holiday. If we'd had a bit more willpower we could have traded in this day to add onto a more useful block of holiday at some point in the future. In the end though we were just too lazy - work has been tough recently and so it is hard to turn down a day off when it is handed to you on a plate.
So we didn't do anything particularly. Mid-afternoon we decided we ought to head out of the flat - very much like the normal weekend routine - and purposelessly went to Shinjuku.
Upon arriving in Shinjuku I had a little bit of a funny turn. I had this strange feeling of being trapped - as we got to Shinjuku station and then stood around wondering what we should do, I had this horrible sense that I simply could not get away from Tokyo. It looks like we won't have enough holiday to go anywhere this summer, and at the weekends we occasionally try to escape, but the sprawl of the city is so vast that you can travel an hour in any direction and still not be out of it. It was quite an unsettling experience, and I had to go and sit down for a while to recover.
We killed time for the remainder of the afternoon with yet more shopping, including a trip to Tokyu Hands to look at toys (to cheer us up - we didn't buy any though).
In the evening back at home I determined it was high time to get up to date with my phone calls - I haven't phoned my family for ages. So I spoke to my Mum and Vera (my Grandmother) which was really nice. Inevitably, it came up in both conversations that recently my thoughts were turning to going back to England. No idea about dates etc, but to my mind at least it is very much on the horizon.
- Best of a Bad Lot
- [Sunday 16th July]
Today was probably the least crap day of the rather disappointing three day weekend (Monday was a national holiday). We didn't really plan anything, but wandered out somewhat purposelessly around lunchtime, and ended up in the Pizza Express in Harajuku. Before you start turning your collective noses up (Lorenzo, this is not Pizza Hut, OK?), whilst these are two a penny in London, in Tokyo there is just the one, and it is a little corner of England which makes me very happy. If nothing else it is just about the only restaurant I've found in Tokyo with little "V" signs on the menu - they even seem to understand the difference between animal rennet and non-animal rennet cheeses. So, scoff though you may, none of you are interred in Tokyo like I am, so you cannot possibly understand the joy a simple thing like a visit to Pizza Express brings.
The rest of the afternoon seemed to be occupied with a whole lot of shopping, which wasn't really all that necessary, but did seem to take our minds off the general crapness of being in Tokyo. We bought an electric fan and I also got some clothes.
In the evening, back at home, we had Japanese food for a change. "Izakaya style" - a number of small dishes (tofu, kimchi, avocado, sora mame etc) plus some gyoza. I've never really made gyoza all by myself - Chie is the undisputed expert here - but I thought I'd have a go for a change. They weren't bad I suppose, but definitely Chie does a better job of it.
Sunday nights are notable more pleasant without the looming prospect of having to go to work the next morning!
- Internet TV? My Arse!
- [Saturday 15th July]
Today was a generally very uneventful day. Chie had two separate appointments with friends, one at lunch time, one in the evening. So she was basically out all day, and I was far too lazy to do anything very useful with my time. Instead I just slobbed around the flat, wasting time on the computer.
Normally I would try to do something productive - write some software or do something on the website. After a hard week at work though I just wasn't in the mood to use my brain at all - I just wanted to sit back and be entertained in a completely passive manner.
Television seemed to be the answer as far as brainless entertainment, but unfortunately I find it a bit hard to get on with Japanese telly (my fault mainly - my language ability really isn't up to scratch enough to actually enjoy it).
Anywho, as someone who works in the broadcast industry, I often hear from supposedly forward looking people how traditional broadcast media (terrestrial, satellite, cable) are on their last legs, soon to be swept away by the tidal wave of Internet based TV. Well, at the risk of being quoted in years to come in the same way as that guy who said (on computers) "There'll only ever be a market for about five of these worldwide", I don't think we should be throwing out our television sets just yet. Having spent a day reviewing what the Internet has to offer in terms of TV content, I am distinctly unimpressed.
The sad thing is that what is lacking is simply content rather than technology or infrastructure. There are all sorts of players and codecs that would make this sort of thing possible. My internet connection is pretty fast, and I'm not totally adversed to a little bit of waiting around if the end result is worthwhile. I'd be quite happy, for example, to follow the video podcast model and download something for later viewing - it doesn't have to be live streaming. Right now though there simply isn't anything worth downloading. Whilst iTunes touts that it sells television shows, the UK store didn't actually seem to have any. I also had a look at Democracy, and have in the past also tried out the Internet TV you get through Shoutcast / WinAmp.
The content that is available through these channels is generally just trailers for something you've got to then get hold of in a conventional format, or little amateur one man band productions on obscure topics, which, if we are to term them "pioneering" does not bode well for the future of Internet TV. To my surprise there didn't seem to be any sites which offered legal movie downloads for anything but a handful of obscure films I really wasn't interested in.
OK, yes there are all sorts of illegal routes to get TV and movie content off the internet, but as a broadcast industry professional I feel I have a commitment even over and above that of a normal citizen, and I just refuse to go consider that.
So here is the crying shame - I am willing, even happy, to pay for content. I have a fast connection, plenty of storage space, and I don't mind waiting, I'm even happy to turn a blind eye a little bit if the quality isn't up to much. I am basically sitting here thinking "please take my money!", and yet there seems to be absolutely no service on the web in a position to meet my requirements.
There's a good chance the situation will change significantly over the next year, but right now Internet TV is simply not worth wasting the effort on.
- Beer Garden
- [Friday 14th July]
Yes ladies and gentlemen, the beer garden season has started in earnest!
Yesterday I'd gone for a bit of a warm-up session, but today marked the season really getting into full swing. We had a team outing - 7 or 8 of the guys from work got together and headed over to the Keio beer garden in Shinjuku. Jolly nice it was too.
Those of you not so familiar with Japan may get something of a false impression when you hear the name "beer garden" - in truth only one of those words is an accurate description of the concept. They typically seem to be on the roof of department stores, and are not particularly garden like, but they do definitely sell beer. It's basically just a big open air drinking place. Still I am undeterred by the lack of greenery, they generally seem to have a fun atmosphere and it's always a nice break from the norm to drink outside rather than inside.
We were among the first customers to arrive, but an hour or so later the whole place was packed. Whilst this wasn't one of those places where you're given a fixed time slot, everyone seemed to be about ready to leave by around 9, so we only stayed about 2 hours in the end.
After that the night was not yet over for me - I went and met up with another of my colleagues who was entertaining some broadcast industry dignitaries in a nearby bar/restaurant (maybe a gyoza place, I don't know). Anyway, I had a fun time going through the Japanese ritual of introductions and exchanging name cards. It turns out several of these people knew of me already - it's a bit of a joke in the broadcast community here that there's this English guy working on a uniquely Japanese standard. Some of these people were actually involved in writing the technical specifications and standards documents I now work with. It was nice to have an opportunity to personally congratulate them on what a good job they'd done - "I love what you did in clause 184.108.40.206 - that is a beautifully worded caveat."
The evening ended, not unpredictably, in a karaoke place. Actually the broadcasting dignitaries had left us by that point (probably for the best!) so it was just me, my colleague (the guy I frequently go to karaoke with) and a couple of other people from our company who I hadn't met before - they work in a different division.
- [Thursday 13th July]
Today was a slightly more eventful sort of a day than the previous three.
I had to get up early in the morning to take an important phone call, and I put in a hard day's work after that, so by 6ish I really felt like I had earned myself a beer!
Me and my friend from the office decided to try out a nearby "beer garden" - on the top floor of a tall-ish building next to the nearest station. Actually it was raining, but we didn' let that put us off. The beer garden was delightfully tatty and I really enjoyed it.
We didn't stay that long as it was a school night - so around 8 my friend headed off home, and I planned to do the same.
Actually though I bumped into Chie and her friends Haruka-kun and Aiko, and so quite against my will (yea, right) another few beers ensued at a local izakaya near our apartment.
- Thai Yellow Curry
- [Wednesday 12th July]
Yes sorry, another entry where I'm just going to tell you what I had for dinner (Thai Yellow Curry) - it has been a pretty uninteresting first half of the week really!
- Burgers on the Balcony
- [Tuesday 11th July]
Chie made tofu hamburgers for dinner, which we ate out on the balcony with a couple of beers. Despite the usual horrible scenery and polluted air it was actually quite pleasant.
- Novel Tubers
- [Monday 10th July]
Nothing really to report. Chie made a stir fry with an unusual kind of potato in for dinner, and we probably watched a few more episodes of Frasier.
- [Sunday 9th July]
I pretty much stayed in all day, engaging in a festival of nerdiness.
Chie went shopping with her sister for a while in the afternoon, and when the girls returned I made a Japanese curry for dinner.
- Out and About with Lorenzo
- [Saturday 8th July]
Spent the day wandering around Tokyo with Chie and Lorenzo, and had a jolly nice time. Probably the pictures tell it best!
- Me and Lox at the New York Bar
- [Friday 7th July]
Lorennzo was in Tokyo this week, and tonight was our first opporunity to meet up. I killed time around Shinjuku for the first part of the evening as Lox had an excutive dinner with a big Japanese company, so it was well after 9 by the time we finally met up. As we met at the South Exit to Shinjuku station, I somewhat randomly decided it would be nice to go and visit the famous New York Bar at the top of the Park Hyatt Hotel. You know, the one in Lost in Translation.
It's funny, the bar has been made pretty famous by the film, and the hotel website describes it as "...the city's hottest see-and-be-seen venue.", and yet me and Lox, two relative nobodies, were able to just turn up on a Friday night, and, after a short wait, get a table with no problem. One of the nice things about Japan is that there is more or less no class system here - or at least if there is, as a foreigner I am somewhat immune (or just oblivious) to it. Whilst going to an "exclusive venue" in London would have me full of insecurities, assuming I might be turned away for just being too common; in Tokyo I am happy to just stroll into these kinds of places like I'm royalty. Or maybe it just isn't as "exclusive" a venue as the hype makes out.
Anyway, it was jolly nice, and I had a distinct feeling that me and Lorenzo are moving up in the world - and this is the sort of place we ought to be frequenting more often. Whilst the cocktails were not the best either of us had ever tasted, the setting and the ambience were great, as was the live jazz (the singer was just great).
Oh and appropriately enough we got talking to some New Yorkers in there - I felt a little bit like we'd stumbled into an episode of Sex and the City.
Anyway, a very pleasant evening out.
- Slobs r' Us
- [Thursday 6th July]
Chie and I had a gloriously slobbish night in. This whole week neither of us has had much enthusiasm for cooking, an tonight we just gave in an ordered pizza. This we ate whilst drinking Coke and lazing around on the sofa watching DVDs (yet more episodes of Frasier).
- [Wednesday 5th July]
Not a particularly eventful evening, but it did have a distinctly musical theme. One of the great things I found out about iTunes (thanks to Nigel) is that it lets you burn a regular audio CD of albums you have bought from the online music store. And why not? You've paid for it, so why shouldn't you be allowed to have have a CD of it, just as you would if you'd bought the same album from a shop - you're even saving the record company the media costs.
What this does mean though, is that it's an easy way to bypass the DRM protection altogether. There's nothing to stop you taking that CD and ripping it to MP3s (albeit that you may be losing some quality along the way by re-encoding). Whilst I have no intent to exploit this for any illegal purposes - I am quite happy to pay for the music I listen to - it does get round the problem of not being able to listen to music I've bought with iTunes on my MP3 player. It's a small thing, but I was rather pleased with getting this to work. So much so that I went and bought another album from iTunes (which, incidentally, was The Divine Comedy's Victory for the Comic Muse).
- Getting a bit Tedious...
- [Tuesday 4th July]
I've noticed recently that my blog is starting to get a bit uninteresting. Now don't misinterpret this dear reader, this isn't so much a case of fishing for compliments, as much as a simple statement of my opinion. When I read back through the entries of late, I've found it rather, well, dull. This is one of the difficulties of a commitment to writing an entry for every single day - some days are just not worth writing about! I seem to have fallen into a rut of either complaining about my job or just talking about what I've been doing on the computer. In both cases, they hardly make for particularly riveting reading matter.
So I shall make an effort from now on to be a bit more interesting - or at least if I've got nothing interesting to say I shall endeavour to keep entries brief. Oh, and I'm going to try and stop complaining about work so much.
Today unfortunately fell into the category of "nothing interesting to say". Work was dreary (oops, there I go again!). After work neither Chie nor I felt like cooking, so we hardly ate anything really - just some corn on the cob. We rounded off the evening with a few episodes of Frasier, and I'd developed a penchance for a Bloody Mary earlier in the day, so had popped off to the supermarket to buy the necessaries. That's it really!
- My Life on a DVD
- [Monday 3rd July]
After running almost solidly over the weekend, the first complete backup of the Maison came to an end some time today (I'm guessing it was about tea time). Whilst the words "backup" and "monumentous occasion" do not typically appear in the same sentence, I am filled with a surprising sense of jubilation. It has been a project that has taken a few weeks to come to fruition - requiring not only some software to be written, but also a hardware purchase or two (most significantly the Mac Mini).
The problems we had with the site a while back were a real eye opener, and a glimpse into the abyss of what I'd stand to lose should there be some kind of catastrophic server failure. Whilst it may not look all that much to some people, this site has been more or less ten years in the making. Realistically, this has probably been the single biggest thing I've ever worked on - although I am slightly embarassed to admit it, I've probably put more man hours into the 'Maison than my PhD.
The thought that all of that could be lost in a flash had been playing on my mind a lot recently, and so it is a tremendous relief to finally have it all backed up and stored in a safe place.
To my slight surprise, it turns out that the whole site will fit on a single DVD.
Let's not forget in this age of mass storage that four gigabytes is still quite a lot of information - if that was all text (which a lot of the site is) - you'd be looking at over four billion key presses to have typed that lot in. OK, a lot of that data is photographs etc, but even then, there are several thousand presses of that shutter release button to account for.
Anyway, whilst some will read this and wonder what all the fuss is about (it's only a website), I on the other hand am filled with a sense of inner peace, and I shall sleep soundly tonight because of that.
- An Equally Lazy Sunday
- [Sunday 2nd July]
A similar day to the previous one - whilst Chie went out to do some shopping in the afternoon, I basically stayed in all day and did very little. I became oddly transfixed with watching the Maison backup utility download the site, which seemed to be in for the long haul - it was clearly going to take all weekend, and then some. As I peered at the backup log scrolling relentlessly onwards, I was also entertained by iTunes (largely Duke Ellington and The Proclaimers). Oh and I also started to explore the Podcasts available through iTunes - I particularly enjoyed the Adam and Joe show taken from Xfm.
The Mac Mini was really earning its' keep, bless it.
Today was the day before Yuka's birthday (Chie's little sister). So she came over in the evening, we had dinner, obviously cake, a couple of drinks, a bit of a present opening session, and then rounded off the evening with a bout of karaoke at a karaoke place near our apartment. It was a quiet sort of a birthday celebration, but hopefully Yuka enjoyed it nonetheless.
- Lazy Saturday
- [Saturday 1st July]
Today was a day pretty much lost to nothingness. Chie's friend had stayed over the previous evening, so in the morning we went out to a cafe near our apartment for a spot of brunch, before waving her off.
Then after that we just went back to the flat, and lolled around there for the rest of the day. I did a bit of work on my 'Maison backup utility, and set it off on the first proper run to backup the site. It soon became clear this would need more than just one day...! Whilst it was going, the Mac Mini also provided us with entertainment, initially music through iTunes, and then later on in the day another slew of Frasier DVDs (borrowed from my friend at work).
Oh and I tried out buying music from the iTunes store for the first time. I bought The Best of the Proclaimers (!). It was all a scarily effortless procedure, and I'm very impressed with how well the software integrates with the shopping experience. If Apple are making money handover fist through online music sales then I say good luck to them! Having said that though, the DRM is a bit of a put-off compared to just buying a regular CD - it means I won't be able to play any music I've bought through iTunes on my MP3 player. Maybe I could give in and buy an iPod, but then I'd really feel like I'd been suckered by the Apple corporate machine: hook, line and sinker. Honestly, I'm not that easily manipulated!
(...yea, right - watch this space for imminent news of me buying an iPod).
- Missa Johnouchi
- [Friday 30th June]
Quite at random I'd received a couple of tickets for a Missa Johnouchi concert from a colleague. To be honest I'd never really heard of her, although Chie had, but despite that we thought we'd give it a go - if nothing else it would be a bit different. So we both left work on time and headed over to the Meridien Hotel on Odaiba.
It wasn't exactly my usual cup of tea, but she was certainly very good. A lot of the songs were reminiscent of film sound tracks, and I thought I vaguely recognised a couple of them at least.
Anyway, it was a bit different, and it was nice to visit Odaiba again - we took the automatic (i.e. no driver) monorail thing that goes over the Rainbow Bridge to get there. Once again I was reminded how close Tokyo is to the sea - it is so easy to forget.
We met Chie's friend in Shimbashi on the way back, and had a late dinner there. Chie seemed to have developed a bit of a stomach ache during the evening, so after eating we got a taxi back to the flat, and the three of us sat round in our pyjamas, drinking beer, eating various types of seaweed, and watching late night telly.
A funny sort of an evening, but nice nonetheless.
- Unexpected trip to the 'Bukuro
- [Thursday 29th June]
I has assumed tonight would comprise just a quiet night in, but on my way home I got a mail from Chie saying she was going to see a friend of hers for a thorough whinging session. So, as I was already on the train and at a loose end, I decided to carry on past my normal stop, to Shinjuku, and from there get a train to Ikebukuro.
I went for my now highly predicatble night out - dinner at Rohlan and drinks at Quercus. I seemed to be in a much better frame of mind than on my last trip to Quercus, and throughly enjoyed some excellent whiskies, including an SWMS Yoichi and Bowmore, the very good Ardbeg "Still Young" and a Harvey Nichols' special bottling of a Linkwood as a rather unusual note to finish on. All very good!