Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Movember the first

I'm growing a moustache for November.
Sponsor me at Movember.com to raise money for Men's health charities.

The funds raised in the UK support the number one and two male specific cancers - prostate and testicular cancer. The funds raised are directed to programmes run directly by Movember and our men’s health partners, The Prostate Cancer Charity and the Institute of Cancer Research. Together, these channels work together to ensure that Movember funds are supporting a broad range of innovative, world-class programmes in line with our strategic goals in the areas of awareness and education, survivorship and research.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Improv Comedy in Tokyo: Pirates of Tokyo Bay

I am always on the lookout for Comedy shows to go to and, thanks to a review in the Japan Times I discovered some Improv Comedy happening a pub called 'What the Dickens' in Ebisu.
A group calling themselves the Pirates of Tokyo did a show on Oct 16th 2011

Doors opened at :7:00pm and the show started at 7:30 Entrance was 1500 Yen which included one free drink. Food was available.

Location : "What the Dickens" , 1-13-3 EBISU-NISHI SHIBUYA-KU TOKYO. 3 minutes walk from Ebisu station, JR Yamanote line and Hibiya subway line.

If you have ever seen the TV show "Who's line is it anyway" then you'll know the kind of thing.

The show was in both English and Japanese. I was interested to see how they would handle that. In fact it was very well done with some games all in English, some all in Japanese, and some in a mixture with some translations.

The show is divided in to a number of different games.

I really enjoyed the evening and I am looking forward to their next show they hope to put some time in December. I'll be posting details here when I hear about it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Random Photo of the day

I took this photo this afternoon somewhere in Tokyo. No prizes, but can anyone guess where this is?

Yes, they have wheels on them, and no I have no idea what they are going to do with them. They appeared within the last month.

One of the joys of life in Tokyo, the random things you see around here every day.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ishinomaki , 3 months further on

Saturday 11 June 2011 marked the 3 month anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region. I took the opportunity to go to Ishinomaki, in Miyagi Prefecture to do some volunteer work.

The organiser had hired a 26 seater coach and we departed Tokyo just after 8pm. The two coach drivers took it in turns to drive us through the night, arriving at 3am at the Ishinomaki Senku University. They turned on all the coach lights to tell us they’d arrived and to go back to sleep until 7am! Mercifully there were no loud snorers but I still only managed about an hour of sleep. At 7am we drove several miles to find a Shikyu restaurant, where we all ate a hearty breakfast before returning to the Volunteer Centre at the Senku University Campus, to get our assigned task for the day.

The organisers’ desk opens at 8am every day and they efficiently processed us and the many hundreds of volunteers that were staying in tents or had arrived in cars and coaches. For those of us who had not been before, we were given small green insurance certificates and everyone was given a sticky label to attach to their clothing with your name, and to indicate that you were a volunteer. So we got into our working gear. Wellington (rubber) boots are by far the best footware, with gloves, helmets, dust masks and protective eye goggles and drove set out to start work on a small hospital building.

Hospital in Ishinomaki

The first stage of cleanup had already been done, that was to bag up most of the small items of rubbish, and one room was piled high with rubbish bags.

Rubbish inside

We formed a human chain and made short work of shifting them outside where the council will take responsibility for removing them. The next stage was to remove all the large items : beds, chairs, tables and other furniture.

Room before

We then broke for lunch, which was at the same place as breakfast, earlier, and where there are two other restaurants open for business.
Restaurant today

This is how it looked after the tsunami.

Immmediately after

In the afternoon we returned for the final task, which was to shovel the sludge into bags. The thick, oily, mud had covered everything to a depth of approx. 2cm. It was fairly dry and didn’t smell too strong, though I was very careful to always wear gloves. The end result, You see the tide mark a few inches from the ceiling ?
The tide mark
That was how high the waters reached.

The mud filled sacks were taken outside into a separate pile and again the council will eventually come to collect it. Of course, one enormous problem for the disaster recovery is what to do with the massive amount of debris. Over 24 million tons alone in just three prefectures.

At exactly 2:46pm we had a moment of silence in remembrance of those who lost their lives, including the 24 people who had died in that same hospital.

After washing all the tools and the boots, we boarded the coach again and went to the port area of Ishinomaki, which had been hardest hit by the tsunami. There was almost total devastation, only a small number of structures remained. The damage was astounding.


More photos from Boston.com and some more of my photos on flickr

Another hour’s drive away was our hotel, and we arrived just in time for dinner, and with a little time to spare for the onsen. Those of us who were not completely exhausted, then stayed up for karaoke. The trip home on Sunday was uneventful, and we were back in Tokyo around 4:30pm. Dividing the cost of the coach between 26, it came to 10,000 yen each. The trip organiser had arranged for a volunteers’ certificate from the local ward office, and that entitled us to avoid payment of the expressway tolls, which would otherwise have added 30,000 to the total bill.

Only 15% of the ¥251.4 billion collected by the Red Cross has been distributed by local city and town civil servants who are, not surprisingly, struggling with the disaster themselves.

It's clear from my trip that one thing the locals do need is more man power. Cleaning out buildings is hard manual labour that really cannot be mechanised or automated. If you want to go up to the Tohoku region the organisation of volunteers, at least in Ishinomaki, is very good. If you don't speak Japanese Peaceboat are organising regular trips from Tokyo.

The trip from Tokyo by car or coach is long and expensive, what I'd like to see would be companies like H.I.S Travel offering cheap volunteer trips up there by shinkansen. I'm sure more people would be prepared to offer a day or two of labour if it was made easy and simple. What's your excuse for not helping?

This is my entry into this weeks:

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Google thinks I'm Transport for London

This blog has been a bit thin recently, I've been spending far too much of my time on my other hobby of maintaining the JapanBlogList which ends up with me visiting a lot of other blogs and generally getting nothing else much done. If I'm not reading other people's blogs I'm posting random stuff on Facebook to amuse my friends such as The Chihuahua pulling a sled from Japanprobe, "Hug your wife day" from Japanalooza, the link between Pink tentacle posting an article on LED Smiles on Jan 17th, which got picked up the NY times on the 21st Jan and the Guardian on the 25th Jan as real craze , but swiftly debunked by the Japan Times on the 30th Jan.

My favorite was the 'incident writeup' for a recent problem when shinkansen trains were halted for more than an hour. seems they forgot to update some hard coded limits in the scheduling system. ( But then I am in IT, and part of my job is incident write ups to explain to our users what happened when things went wrong.)

But for a change, for no good reason this evening, I thought I would see if anyone does still bother to visit this blog. Heading over to trusty Google analytics I was surprised to see a steady stream of visitor's averaging around 100 per day. But what is most confusing is when I looked to see the key words they come for :

top 10 search terms for my blog

"TFL Map" TFL Tube Map, London Underground Map... and other variations account for eight out of the top ten hits.

Sure enough if you do a google search for TFL Map, in the section of images, the link on the first image of the underground map is a link to a post I did in 2007 titled "Seoul on the Jubilee Line"

In the post I had a link to a diagram showing all the cities which have, are building or are planning to construct an urban rail sytstem, arranged in the style of the London Tube map. I also included a link to the real map on the TFL Website to compare. So how come my blog rates higher than the real TFL site for their own image? Go figure.