Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Kids in Candy Stores Should Not Throw Glass Slippers!

...or something very much like that. (You know, as an aside, why is there not a MetaphorMixmaster.com, where people post the most ridiculously shaken-not-stirred metaphors that they have heard? If any--either?--of my readers can point me to a repository of mixed metaphors on the 'Net, it will probably net you some free Amazon.co.jp swag.)

So the point of this entry is to share with you how wonderful it is for this lifelong reading addict to work in the Fulfillment Center that is responsible for servicing all of Amazon.co.jp's book orders. You know, like a kid in a candy store?

Seriously. Our warehouse contains more books than any brick-and-mortar bookstore in the world, I would imagine. It is longer than a football field (to Americans, that should mean 100 yards; to the rest of the world, 100 metres) and at least half as wide. That is a lot of books, and it takes a long time to walk past them when I have to visit the warehouse floor for some systems administration action.

There is some drooling, but I am careful not to get it on the merchandise.

I love books. If you love me, why not buy me some? :)

Monday, February 27, 2006

The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain

Apparently a new law has just passed simultaneously in Japan, the US, and New Zealand, saying that if you have a blog, you must post the following Chuck Norris facts:

  1. Chuck Norris's tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.

  2. Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.

  3. Chuck Norris is currently suing NBC, claiming Law and Order are trademarked names for his left and right legs.

  4. The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain.

  5. Chuck Norris defines love as the reluctance to murder. If you're still alive, it's because Chuck Norris loves you.

  6. Chuck Norris isn't hung like a horse. Horses are hung like Chuck Norris.

  7. If you can see Chuck Norris, he can see you. If you can't see Chuck Norris you may be only seconds away from death.

  8. Rather than being birthed like a normal child, Chuck Norris instead decided to punch his way out of his mother's womb.

  9. There are no disabled people. Only people who have met Chuck Norris.

  10. Chuck Norris can win a game of Monopoly without owning any property.

  11. There is no theory of evolution, just a list of creatures Chuck Norris allows to live.

  12. In fine print on the last page of the Guinness Book of World Records it notes that all world records are held by Chuck Norris, and those listed in the book are simply the closest anyone has ever gotten.

  13. Chuck Norris invented cancer because he was tired of killing people.

  14. In an average living room there are 1,242 objects Chuck Norris could use to kill you, including the room itself.

  15. Chuck Norris is the only man to ever defeat a brick wall in a game of tennis.

  16. Chuck Norris is the reason why Waldo is hiding.

  17. When Chuck Norris goes to donate blood, he declines the syringe, and instead requests a hand gun and a bucket.

  18. Chuck Norris has two speeds: walk and kill.

  19. When Chuck Norris jumps into a body of water, he doesn't get wet. The water gets Chuck Norris instead.

  20. Chuck Norris can divide by zero.

  21. Chuck Norris can set ants on fire with a magnifying glass. At night.

  22. When Chuck Norris runs with scissors, other people get hurt.

Thanks to Matthew for notifying me of the new law, thus saving me from undoubtedly hefty fines. Or maybe a visit from The Chuckwagon himself.

SFB, you'd better tell your brother to step up and provide a Steven Seagal list, or else I shall declare Chuck Norris the Baddest Bad-ass of the Blogosphere!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Pouring Beer, the Kirin Way

Kirin Ichiban
Not only does my wife not disapprove of my beer habit (probably because I have managed to lose about four kilograms since moving to Japan), but she even encourages it.

To wit:

She came home excitedly last Friday, after a tour of the Kirin Brewery (established in Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama in 1907 with help from Thomas Glover, the Scottish trader), claiming that not only had the tour left her with a powerful thirst for the juices of the barley, but that she had also mastered a fell new pouring technique that was guaranteed (she claimed) to increase the flava four-fold fo' sho!

So I picked up the Asahi "All Malt Beer" sampler pack last night, and Lyani demonstrated the secret Kirin pouring technique, which I shall now reveal to you, oh fortunate reader of my blog, since I fear not the Kirin ninja that are surely being dispatched to dispatch me, even as you read these very words!

Oh yeah, the pouring technique. Here goes:

1. Find yourself a fine beer mug.
2. Purchase a good lager or pilsner--stout requires a slightly different pouring technique.
3. Set the glass in a well-lit place and open the can of beer.
4. Position the can about a centimetre (half an inch, roughly) above the rim of the glass and start pouring.
5. Immediately move the can 12-15 centimetres (about five to six inches, I think) above the rim, still pouring. (Actually, the only reason that you start lower is to prevent spilling, which is a mortal sin, you see.)
6. As soon as the head rises near the top of the glass, stop pouring. You should have exhausted between a third and a half of a normal 350 mL can (12 oz, right?).
7. Wait for the head to settle so that the glass is half beer, half head.
8. Start pouring again, starting from a centimetre or two and immediately raising the can to 12-15.
9. Stop pouring when the head threatens to overflow the glass.
10. Wait again, this time until the glass is four parts beer to only one part head.
11. Position the can about two centimetres above the rim, right in the middle of the glass, and pour slowly into the centre of the head.
12. Pour until you empty the can or the head gets too high, whichever comes first. Because of the way you pour, the head should be concave, and it should safely sit almost two centimetres above the rim of the glass. Purty!
13. Wait! I know it looks good, but wait maybe 20 seconds for the head to settle before taking your first pull.
14. Put your lips on the rim of the glass and drink deeply. Make sure not to drink the head; let it hit your upper lip and form a tasty moustache, which you should feel free to loudly slurp off only after you have put your glass down.

Enjoy responsibly!

Leave it to the Japanese to engineer every process down to the most efficient. :)

The Political Compass

Thanks to Sad Faced Boy for pointing me to The Political Compass. Here, once and for all, is where I stand politically:

Economic Left/Right: -5.88 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.54

Gee, this should surprise like, no-one that has ever read my blog or met me. :)

I guess a little explanation is due. From the page:

There's abundant evidence for the need of it. The old one-dimensional categories of 'right' and 'left' , established for the seating arrangement of the French National Assembly of 1789, are overly simplistic for today's complex political landscape. For example, who are the 'conservatives' in today's Russia? Are they the unreconstructed Stalinists, or the reformers who have adopted the right-wing views of conservatives like Margaret Thatcher ?

On the standard left-right scale, how do you distinguish leftists like Stalin and Gandhi? It's not sufficient to say that Stalin was simply more left than Gandhi. There are fundamental political differences between them that the old categories on their own can't explain. Similarly, we generally describe social reactionaries as 'right-wingers', yet that leaves left-wing reactionaries like Robert Mugabe and Pol Pot off the hook.

That's about as much as we should tell you for now.

So take the test, and if you want to, feel free to share the results in the comments section. Just paste in the "Show graph on separate page for printing" link that shows up beneath the graph of your results.

Toilet Humour

This is to quell all the cries of "more wacky Japan posts, foo!" that have been raised recently.

I get to the office every morning at 08:00, which is roughly far too early. I mean, seeing that I have to get up at 06:00 every morning in order to make it to the office by 08:00.

It just so happens that 08:00 is also the time when the men's bathroom is cleaned (or at least, the first time of the day--seems like they give it a quick cleaning every hour or so). I always pop in there to wash my hands after getting off the train (you know, health first and all), and sometimes the large cup of coffee that I drink on the train warrants a little bladder relief, as well.

And why, you may be wondering, am I going into far more detail about my daily urination routine than you strictly need to know?

I am setting you up for another installment of "Life in Japan is Wacky", that's why! (Silly rabbit!)

You see, the cleaning ladies are, well, ladies. And they most certainly do not vacate the bathroom when I say 「ちょうっといいですか?」 (chotto ii desuka--"may I?"). Nor do they leave when I head for the urinal, stand there meaningfully, unzip my trousers... etc. They remain there, doing their cleaning thing, for the duration of my, erm, work.

This is not an unusual thing, either. In some buildings in Japan, they will close off the restroom while it being cleaned. In some, they will not. And quite often, you will be in there, taking care of some business, when a cleaning lady waltzes in and goes to work on the urinal right next to you.

If you are American, this will shock the shite out of you (though not literally, one hopes) the first time or time it happens.

If you are Japanese, on the other hand, this is not surprising at all. The reason for this being, of course, that segregation of the sexes is a relatively recent development in Japanese toliet and bathing facilities. To this day, you can still find mixed-sex toilets. They are relatively rare in Tokyo, but out in the 田舎 (that would be inaka, or "country"), you can probably find one or two.

Even in Tokyo, it is not at all uncommon--in a bar or small restaurant--to find that the joint has but one toilet, single occupancy. Of course, this is not terribly worrisome for men, since there will not be women in the same room as you when you are trying to take care of some important stuff.

An private outdoor rotenburo in GorakadanCo-ed 温泉 (onsen--hot springs) are also still existent in Japan. I personally have not been to one, and have no real desire to be naked with strange women (before you start the nudge nudge, wink wink-ing, remember that, statistically speaking, many of these women will not be models, actresses, and J-Pop songstresses).

OK, so that is difference from men's bathrooms in the US number one: there may be women present.

Difference number two? In the US, as all men know (but women apparently do not?), talking at the urinal is strictly verboten! Talking at the sink is frowned upon, but allowed in some circumstances, I suppose.

Japanese men, while thankfully observing all the same rules of urinal selection that we use in the West (namely, maximise the number of unoccupied urinals between you and the next guy), have no such reluctance when it comes to cracking jokes, continuing conversations, etc.

Which is quite awkward for me, let me tell you. I have gotten used to the cleaning ladies by now, but having another chap talk at you while you are trying to concentrate on, well, the matter at hand, is quite off-putting.

And there you have it: Crazy Japan Stories.(TM)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


ii tenki desu ne!Japan and America are really not so different: the most commonly uttered bit of small talk is "nice weather, eh?" in both cultures (well, that trailing "eh?" may be a Canadian thing that I picked up from somewhere). In Japanese, this brilliant flash of insight is rendered thusly: いい天気ですね! (ii tenki desu ne!).

But today, gentle--and not-so-gentle, in the Kohler's case--reader, today did feature some astoundingly spring-like conditions, as can be seen clearly at left (if one clicketh upon yon image, forsooth! one shall be conveyed by strange and eldritch magicks to a certain eldar scroll, upon which thou shalt perceive the portents of today's meteorological activities).

(Sorry about that; my Muse apparently played too much Dragon Warrior back in the day.)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Atomic Bombs DismantledI cannot believe that I have not blogged about this yet, given that I have been sitting on this news for like two weeks!

Lyani and I have been selected to sit on the United Nations Atomic Bomb Dismantlement Oversight Committee when it convenes on 04 April, 2006, right here in Yokohama!

This is Big News, my friends, Big News.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

1 7074llj pwZ0r 9m41l!

1337 m4573r has 1,337 pieces of spamI just noticed that I had a particularly auspicious amount of spam in my Gmail account (see the image at left, and don't forget to clicky clicky to view the fullsize version).

Just in case you are at a loss as to the significance of this, I shall now proffer a Wikipedia link. Huzzah!

This is Getting Ridiculous


I was browsing SourceForge--a popular Open Source development site--and came across the following "advertisement" (clicky clicky for the fullsize version):


So let me get this straight: Microsoft is paying SourceForge to "advertise", but is just spreading anti-Linux FUD, and SourceForge (which has, presumably, a huge vested interest in Linux) is allowing this bullshit to continue? WTF?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Earthquake Information, issued at 20:48 JST 01 Feb 2006

Just had another earthquake about an hour and a half ago (2006/02/01 20:48 JST / UTC +9), this one tipping the Japanese intensity scale at 3 here in Central Yokohama.

Bigger than the last one, not The Big One.

The epicentre was in Chiba, however, rather near where I work. Hope my desk is not a mess when I go in tomorrow... ;)

Like I said before, I think Japan is the most prepared country in the world when it comes to quakes. I would prefer not to experience a serious one, but I feel pretty good about the infrastructure in place to deal with earthquake and fire here.