Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Cancer Q&A: Part 2

[Transcript kindly provided by Ivan Vanzaj and Osama Seghol]  
Hi this is video update number 4, this is the second part of the Q&A. Part 1 is here: http://karamoon.blogspot.jp/2016/09/cancer-q-part-1.html
I asked people what were the questions they wanted me to answer. Thank you for
all your great questions. My friend Jacinta, friend and mentor, sent me lots of
very big, deep questions. So I'm going to do a whole video just on that later on.
For now I'm going to continue on questions I started answering in a previous
video for Angela, "Do's and Don'ts on having Cancer".

The basic do for any cancer or any other crisis. It's a three-step system that
will get you through any problem on earth. And it's disgusting we don't teach
this to children really. [Getting a bit upset now.]


The three steps are:

Number 1: Don't worry alone. This means you tell people what's going on to the
best of your ability. If you're not someone who can tell people what's going on,
then you trick yourself into pretending you're one of those people. Okay.
Don't worry alone, tell some people. It makes it much better. Choose people
carefully who you tell, try and tell the most helpful people first. Tell them if
you'd like them to tell other people. That helps a lot as well. It's very very
tiring to explain to people who either don't know your situation or only know a
little bit of your situation. When they message you or talk, they're asking
about your plans for the summer holiday, and you have to say:
"Well, I just found out I've got cancer, so all plans are off".


Number 2: Get the right information. This is so important. You ask your doctors, your
oncologist (cancer specialist), the surgeons, you have to be careful with the
surgeons, aggressively ask lots and lots and lots of questions:

- What are the alternatives to the surgery?
- What is the purpose of the surgery?
- Is it to cure the cancer or slow it down?
- Is it exploratory surgery to find out other stuff that's going inside?

You need to be asking those questions. In the UK we are very lucky to have so
many wonderful cancer charities that have really informative websites and book
clubs and books they can give you. Call up the cancer charities, ask them lots
of questions, or ask the doctor. Because it makes a huge difference.


Step number 3: Make a plan. If you're someone who doesn't make plans, you have
to trick yourself into pretending you're someone who makes plans. You have to
say to yourself, if there was someone else telling me I have to make a plan,
what would my plan be. Because planning has been proven beyond anything else to
effect the outcomes of any situation, even bad plans. Even plans that have to be
changed immediately. Just the action of making a plan will help you see if
you've got the right information or not. Actually, making a plan might calm you

So those are the three steps, they should be taught to all children everywhere.
It is pathetic we don't teach that to kids. If I had learned that system as a kid,
so much heartbreak and suffering would've been spared to me.

Now a big DON'T. Do not fall for so called alternative cures. There's one way to
cure cancer basically, which is surgery. It's not very nice. When you do surgery
(for cancer) you take what's called a margin. They take out the cancer and a bit
around it so they're damaging healthy tissue.

That's my daughter appearing in the background. "Hello Jessica". My son Edwards
is going to say hello as well.

Edward: Hello. Please help daddy spread the three steps so there are no
children except me know that.

[Laughs, ok, Edward, take Jessica and go play in the room please]


A big Don't is don't fall for alternative cures because there are none. Cancer
is cured basically by surgery. In some early cancers it can be cured by
chemotherapy or radiation. In some early cancers or in some situations where
surgery can't be used, because of the condition of the patient, there are non
surgical methods. They are very very specific to your situation. But you might
be lucky, well, lucky or unlucky, depending on how you're looking at it. With
liver cancer, for example, there are ways of doing the surgery by using highly
pinpointed radiation which is different from radiation therapy. It's called
Gamma-knife or Cyber knife. They have 95 different rays of concentrated radio
energy going into your liver and trying to destroy the tumor. Only can be used
if there's one small tumor basically and particularly if the cancer hasn't
spread somewhere else. But, cancer is cured by surgery. Cancer is slowed down by
chemotherapy. In some cases cancer can be shrunk by chemotherapy. Radiation
treatment works for somethings as well. They are all unpleasant obviously, very
unpleasant. But they work, they're proven to work.


The real proof beyond anything else is that life expectancy for people with
cancer who are receiving these treatments, has been going up year on year on
year, as these treatments improve. These treatments basically improve every 12,
well they are improving all the time, but not for the patients. They are
improving in testing. And basically every year, a country would publish new
guidelines on how to cure cancer. These are called protocols. That's why cancer
research is so important.


A lot of research is obviously funded by drug companies. You can say it's a bit
suspect.  What I think is suspect is the direction of the research. Because
they're always trying to... they are obviously going to focus on medicines that
people are going to be taking for a long time. These are effective, but a long
time. And that's a shame because there might be some very effective treatments
that are quite short. In fact, I'm having one of them. I'm having two
experimental treatments. These are not alternative treatments. They're
experimental treatments. There's clinical evidence in labs that they work. Not
anecdotal evidence, but clinical evidence. As in they get some cancer out of
people, put in test tubes, you know,  and animal tests as well. And this stuff

I'm having two treatments, one which is very expensive and complex called
immunotherapy. I'm having my first immunotherapy session on Friday. Two weeks
ago they took some of my blood, and they're using my own blood to make a
customized cancer treatment for me. In fact, they're going to try and make two.
One is the immunotherapy called Auto Logos Immune Enhancement Therapy (ALIET),
which is a very complex thing. They take out the blood, two weeks of playing
around with it in a lab,  making the white blood cells stronger to then put back
in your body as a drip. So I'm gonna go on Friday, and just spend 30 minutes;
I'll be sat on a bed or lying on a bed for 30 minutes, and they put this drip in
of my own white blood cells going back into my body. And they will hopefully
have effectively programmed them to attack the cancer. And then they also going
to try to make another type of immunotherapy which is a vaccine, like a cancer
vaccine. That's what the fund raising is for.

So, thank you for the donations. It makes a massive difference. Please tell people
you've donated, because it turns one donation into two, three, four, even more, and
makes me feel very good as well.


That's the very complex and expensive treatment. In English pounds it's
basically about 15 thousand pounds for a cycle of 6 treatments or might even
work out a bit more because it's some setup costs for each thing. And it's hard
to predict the cost because they basically do as much as they can in the lab.
So, they don't really know the cost until they do it. I mean, they are putting
in a lot of work. They are not asking money for nothing.

I'm having another treatment which is a very very simple treatment, and very
cheap treatment. It has some clinical evidence. It has evidence that it worked
for people who have other treatments. The reason it's hard to prove these kinds
of treatments, it's that usually you have them with something like chemotherapy.
It's very hard to say if there is a positive effect or if it is from this
treatment or is it from chemotherapy.


So, I'm having a treatment called hyperthermia, localized hyperthermia therapy.
Where they use radio waves to heat up the areas of the body with the cancer.
So, for me, it's targeted at the abdomen where my cancer mainly is. And it's
cheap, and easy to do. But there is no motivation for a drug company to do a
massive trial.  Even for the companies that make the machines. It's not an
expensive machine.  It's a simple treatment. You go in, they put some gel on
your body, like for me on the abdomen, where the radio waves are going to be put
it. And you lie there for 40 minutes.  It's very boring because you can't...
well, they say you can use your ipod... mp3 player or whatever. But they say it
might get destroyed by the radio frequency stuff. I might try it with a very
long pair of headphones that can be put on the other side of the room.  But
possibly, the headphones wire would act as an antenna, and it would make it even
worse. I think, I really don't want to risk my ipod because it's been a big life
line to me at the moment.

So, this is a very simple treatment that you think would be available for
everyone.  It's a treatment that seems to help people who are having
chemotherapy. Because the heat in your body induced by this machine damages the
cancer cells. Also if you have a large tumor, it's very difficult for the
chemotherapy to get into the center of the tumor because the blood supply is
bad. If you heat up the cells...  within 24 hours of therapy, then it can really
help a lot.  [phone ringing...]

I'm going to finish up this video now, and do another one in a few minutes.

[Transcript kindly provided by Ivan Vanzaj and Osama Seghol]  

Cancer Q&A: Part 1

[Transcript kindly provided by Ivan Vanzaj and Osama Seghol]  


Hi this is cancer update video number 3.
I've just had my second dose of chemotherapy, the side effects are starting to
kick in. They usually come two days after you've finished the chemo, so I'm
recording this on Tuesday evening Tokyo time, and I had my chemo Saturday
4 o'clock I think, so it's 48 hours, so that finished on Monday 4 o'clock,
and it takes two days for the poison to get out of your body.


The reason I'm hiccuping a lot is, it's one of the side effects. Actually it's
not a side effect of the chemotherapy; it's a side effect of one of the drugs
that you take to minimise the other side effects [laughs]. One of the very
common side effects of chemotherapy is vomiting. Because I have very low vomit
threshold which means I vomit very easily, I've been given the strongest anti-
vomit drugs before, during and after the chemotherapy. And one of those drugs'
side effects is persistent hiccups, which means hiccups that last over an hour.
At the moment the hiccups are not painful, they're just very annoying. Last time
when I had the hiccups I had very very extreme pain because every time I
hiccup...  (some acid damage happened in my oesophagus, but that acid damage
seems to have healed up). As you can see I've got a skin rash. That's not a side
effect of the chemotherapy. That's a side effect of drug that goes along with
the chemotherapy to help it work better. That skin rash is from my first
chemotherapy which was two weeks ago which was much much much worse than it is
now. It was, 24 hours of pain, terrible burning pain. I couldn't even sleep.
Yes, gash on my head is just because I just had to take very strong pills last
night that made me dizzy, and I fell over and gashed my head open which is not


This video is just going to be questions and answers really because lots of
people have asked me very good questions. So, it's going to be in random order.
I'll do my best, I know I'm speaking fast; I may slow my speech down a bit to be
clear especially with these hiccups. I haven't got the camera in a great
position either.

So, my friend Emily asked how am I feeling, and what was my life like before
getting the cancer diagnosis?  I'm feeling okay, really; physically anyway. I've
got these side effects. At the moment the only side effects I'm getting from the
chemo, as of this side effect today is like nerve damage in my mouth and tongue,
lining of my mouth, gums and teeth.  Which means if I have a cold drink it's
very painful. That kind of thing. I don't know why my lip looks odd, but other
than that I'm feeling physically okay.  Emotionally, I don't know, I guess I'm
okay as well [laughs].  I literally don't remember a lot of my life before
cancer. The memories have just been eclipsed by all of this. At the moment my
life is cancer 24 hours, really.  When I'm awake there's always something cancer
related going on.  It's quite an effort just to take care of myself on a daily
basis.  Especially making sure I eat and I drink enough. I need to hydrate a
lot.  Especially after the chemo. It might possibly help flush out the chemo,
stuff like that.  I don't know if that's true for my chemo, but it will
definitely flush out some of these anti side effect drugs. Just to give you a
very rough idea; days immediately after chemo, I'm taking 24 pills spread over
three days, different pills.  A lot of stuff, really.  So getting it flushed out
of my system is going to be a good thing.  So just remembering to take the
pills, I have to write a diary of the food and drink I have, and when I have it,
because if I don't, I often just don't eat because when I get hungry I
emotionally don't have an appetite. So thanks for that question Emily. Emily is
a dear school friend. Recently got back in touch with her after being out of
touch for 18 years, really. She's been lovely, she's made a couple of sweet
videos for me. I hated school, and she was one of the people who made it
bearable for me. So I really appreciate her friendship so much. It was just
great to get back in touch with her. And she seems to be doing really well, has
lovely kinds and that kind of stuff.


My friend Angela asked a lot of good questions, some of which I'm going to
answer in this one and some in a later video.
One thing she said: What support that I've been getting means the most to me?
That's a difficult question because I've been getting a lot of support, and it
all means so much! The thing that really means a lot is people watching these
videos, and if you can comment either on YouTube or when I post them on
Facebook, and if you can share these videos, that's really good.
The biggest practical support, which I said in a previous video, is when people
write on Facebook or elsewhere that they've donated to the cancer fund. Because,
melodramatic as that seems, that cancer fund is a chance for me to either buy my
life, can help me live quite a bit longer. Or, if it doesn't, it will still
probably improve the quality of my life because it's paying for immunotherapy
that boosts your immune system. Chemotherapy destroys your immune system.
So anything that boosts my immune system would mean I'm less likely to get the
infections that cause a lot of problems, cause people to stop taking
chemotherapy sometimes. Whenever anyone writes on Facebook they've made a
donation I see their friends or family members making other donations, who
don't know me, make other donations. So the donations, obviously is the
financial support, but also every time I see a donation it makes me very very
happy.  Because it's just amazing people, especially people I don't know.  You
know, donating their money. It's just incredible. So that's helped a lot, the
messages help a lot, the comments on Facebook help. I've generally been very
anti-Facebook in the past [laughs], but at the moment it's been a huge thing. My
family are not such a support, because it's very tough for them. They're
going through hell as well. They often feel there's nothing practical for them
to do.  My kids are a huge support because my son, who is 7, Edwards, he does
understand what's happening. He does understand I might not be around for a lot
longer. So, he has been very supportive.  My daughter Jessica, she is almost 3,
and she just continues regardless. And that's fantastic. She's full of energy,
and she's been growing up very very quickly.  That's lovely to see, especially
her language skills.


Angela also asked about, and also other people: What are the do's and don'ts for
when you have cancer?  I'd say the first big kind of thing you must do, if you
have a friend or family member with cancer, is tell them this: "You must be
clear on what your situation is. Really really ask the doctor questions, proper
questions, write them down before you go into the meetings because your mind
will go blank regardless of how clear headed you usually are."  When I was going
into the first meetings, I would write 15-20 questions down.  Literally sit
through, and tick them off when I asked, and wouldn't leave till I asked them
all. And the doctors, at least the UK doctors are very happy to answer all the
questions. And most of my Japanese doctors have been happy to answer the
questions as well.  And I write down their answer, and if I feel like I don't
understand them, I ask them again.

It is so clear to me that a lot of people with cancer do not understand their
diagnosis.  They don't understand like, what it really means, what cancer they
exactly have, they don't understand things like when cancer spreads from one
place to another, you don't have a second type of cancer. You've got the same
type of cancer in another place. So, I originally had bowel cancer that has
spread to my liver. I do not have liver cancer. I have bowel cancer and secondary
bowel cancer of the liver. Now the reason that is so relevant is because when you
tell people you have cancer of the liver, they might say: "Ah, I heard about
this great treatment, blah, blah, blah...", and you look into it, and it can't
be used for you because you don't have liver cancer. You have cancer that has
spread to the liver. If you have breast cancer that spreads to your lungs, it's
very different from having lung cancer that's caused by smoking or something
else, and it spreads somewhere else.

Very very important to understand the staging. Currently cancers are divided
into 4 stages.  Different aspects of the cancer, especially spread, are given
different stages as well. So understanding the staging, you know, stage 1 -- very
early stage cancer. Many many stage 1 cancers can be cured. Stage 2 -- I think
that means its spread locally in that organ. Stage 1 cancer might be one tumor
in the lung, stage 2 might be several tumors in the lung. Stage 3 -- it's spread
outside of the lungs, but still kind of local. Stage 4: it's spread to distant
organs. My cancer is stage 4. A lot of stage 4 cancers are terminal; meaning they
can't be cured.  Some stage 4 cancers, if you have chemotherapy, they can shrink
down the tumors enough, and even some of the tumors in lymph-nodes might even go
completely, and it could change into early stage 4 or even stage 3 or even
curable. You can have a cancer start at liver, spread somewhere else, and the
chemotherapy shrinks it down enough that you have liver surgery and have your
cancer cured, which is fantastic.


But if you did have or told you have cancer or family friend or member has
cancer, understand that when you reading about other people talking about their
cancers, especially if they have miraculous cancer cures; all that stuff is
basically nonsense. It almost always comes from them not understanding their
cancer.  Also not understanding the treatment they're having, and the purpose of
their treatment because it's very different to have treatment that is curative --
so they are trying to cure you. Or treatment that is trying to slow down a
cancer, maybe (unclear, helped by?) other treatment options. Or treatment that
is designed to stop the cancer coming back. So someone has chemotherapy, and
they're able to have surgery, they're often told to have more chemotherapy
because, it really does you a lot of good because it prevents cancer from coming
back. So you often hear these miraculous stories of someone saying: "I stopped
my chemotherapy because the side effects are so bad, and I went for a natural
cure and started chewing wine leaves or some nonsense like that, and I'm now
cancer free". Well, that person, their cancer is cured by the surgery, and
helped a lot by the original chemotherapy, and the doctors as a preventative
measure were recommending more chemotherapy which the person refused. And often
people who have their cancer cured by surgery, for some of them it doesn't come
back without having chemo, which is fantastic. It has nothing to do with chewing
wine leaves or whatever nonsense they come up with. So, when you read this stuff
on the internet, it is just nonsense.


So, thank you so much for listening. Please
go to the fund raising page and make a small donation if you can because it
makes a huge help for me. Okay, thank you for listening, please share this video,
and please leave a comment. Thanks!
Part 2 of this Q&A is here: http://karamoon.blogspot.jp/2016/09/cancer-q-part-2.html
[Transcript kindly provided by Ivan Vanzaj and Osama Seghol]  

Thursday, September 01, 2016

I have terminal cancer.

I had a large cancer (4cm) removed from my bowel 4 weeks ago.

This was not cancer treatment, it was just to stop my bowel getting blocked, which is a fatal condition.

It was not possible for the surgeon to reconnect my bowel because there so much cancer in my body.

My recovery has been slower than expected. I had pneumonia after my surgery, and my intestines took many days to start working.

I had a second operation to put a tube between my shoulder and heart, for the chemotherapy.

My cancer is terminal, it cannot be cured. The average survival time is just 5-7 months
Generally chemotherapy is the best way to slow down cancer and extend life. It often gives people an extra 6-12 months of life.

But some research has shown chemotherapy on its on doesn't work for my cancer, because my cancer has spread to a membrane called the peritoneum. This is a type of internal skin that protects the organs of the abdomen.

So I need very advanced treatment to help the chemotherapy work, namely immunotherapy. This could give me longer to live.

Living longer means more time with my children. But it also means the chance of more treatment. Cancer treatment improves every year.

But can I live long enough to try the newest treatments?

Immunotherapy is a way of attacking cancer directly, using the body's immune system. The immune system can't usually attack cancer, it needs a lot of help and training. That's what immunotherapy does.

Immunotherapy is very expensive. I need about 15,500 UK pounds (2,000,000 Yen) for the first cycle of treatment. But my sister has already raised 12,000 pounds, so we are very close.

Can you help me? Can you make a donation, even if you've already donated? Even a small donation helps a lot because other people see it and it makes them want to donate too.
Please visit this page:
Matthew (Karamoon)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Eben Upton Raspberry Pi Interview

If you only do yourself one favor this week, listen to Leila Johnston and Roo Reynolds interviewing Eben Upton about the Raspberry Pi computer.

The Raspberry Pi is a credit card-sized PC running Linux. It costs 25 USD for the basic model and 35 USD for the model with networking.

Eben Upton is co-founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, as well as Technical Director at Broadcom, the company that makes most of the chips in the Raspberry Pi computer.

This is one of the best interviews I've heard recently, due to the questions as much as the answers. Upton begins by discussing the current backlog of orders and the process of getting CE and FCC certification. These certifications require that the Raspberry Pi does not radiate too much RF and also that it is not unduly affected by RF radiation from other devices. He then goes on to talk about the charitable aims of the Raspberry Pi Foundation and how the foundation is set up, including the safeguards that are in place to prevent the trustees profiting from Raspberry Pi.

Upton talks about his experiences at the Cambridge University Computer Lab during a time when the number and quality of applicants was rapidly declining. Upton believes that the reason for this decline is that young people had less access to programmable hardware than he and his generation had. Upton recounts learning to program and hack his first computer, a BBC Micro Model A. Having to write his own mouse driver at the age of 12 exposed him to assembly language and low-level hardware issues.

Next Upton describes the pipeline of programmers that 8bit computers created and he goes on to explain how the arrival of 16bit games consoles such as the Sega Megadrive and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System cut off the pipeline because they had such a competitive advantage over 16bit general-purpose computers like the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST.

Upton goes on to talk about the Raspberry Pi's relationship with gaming, and mentions some technical issues such as the video capabilities and the lack of VGA support

Upton then explains Broadcom's relationship with the Raspberry Pi and the key issues of balancing openness, price and performance.

The interview ends with Eben Upton expressing his hope that the Raspberry Pi will have a transformative effect on industry in the UK.


Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Marching Into March 2012

Quick life update: Lots of good stuff happening in my life at the moment, mainly due to Jim Grisanzio http://jimgrisanzio.com and Jacinta http://nytrist.com It's funny to think that the phrase "life coach" would have made me vomit blood just a few months ago...

Scott Lockman recently told me about something called "Grasshopper Pie". Sounds pretty grim but I'm still going to make one.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Best Japanese Textbooks

Over the years I've read hundreds of Japanese textbooks but one stands out as being the best Japanese textbook for beginners. There really is no better Japanese textbook for beginners than "Read Japanese Today" by Len Walsh. It is so beautifully written that even if you aren't intending to learn Japanese you should read it just to see how good a language textbook can be.

Before you buy Read Japanese Today make sure you take a look at this review:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Card Cheat: Goodbye America

When things go away we forget them. America is starting to go away, and we are starting to forget all about it. Strange, but true.

Many people have commented on the situation in the US but few seem to understand just how bad it is. The US economy has been in serious difficulty since 2007. Indeed, it has been argued that this is the longest recession in US history as the Great Depression lasted "only" about 40 months.

In the mainstream media, it is frequently claimed that the US economy will be overtaken by that of China, India or Europe. Differing figures are giving by the IMF, the World Bank and the CIA but they all agree that the US is going to fall a couple of places. They are mistaken. The economic system in the US is inherently unstable because it relies on pretending that everything is ok. Once things start to unravel, people rapidly lose confidence, share prices fall, currencies collapse and assets are sold off. With this in mind, I predict that the US will fall into 10th place within a few years.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Learn Travel Japanese Quickly

If you want to quickly learn travel Japanese it's worth trying out the 10-dollar Japanese language course from Sulantra.

Sulantra focuses on "Survival Language Training" so that you learn the right travel Japanese phrases and vocabulary to get yourself out of difficult situations while traveling in Japan. If you're planning to go to Japan you should do the Japanese course 30 days before you are due to leave. That way all the important Japanese words and phrases will be fresh in your mind when you arrive.

It's very convenient to be able to just log in any time to the Sulantra Japanese course and start studying. Although I've lived in Japan for a long time I've been going through the course because there are so many gaps in my Japanese vocabulary such as medical terms or the necessary phrases to rent a car.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Technology and Language

It's funny how ubiquitous technology has changed the meaning of various words, phrases and acronyms. I remember when:
(1) A "PDA" was a Public Display of Aggression.
(2) A "window" was a transparent device enabling you to see the scum in the streets without having to smell them.
(3) "Ruby" was a type of Tuesday.
(4) BASIC stood for "Basically, After Sex I Cringe"
(5) A "relational database management system" was a plastic box on your desk that held record cards detailing distant relatives you were planning to stalk.
(6) A "server" was someone exploited by the service industry; they were so unimportant they didn't even have a name.
(7) "Hypertext" refered to sophisticated, non-linear, branching text systems allowing transclusion, high-resolution linking, view control, side-by-side comparison and versioning, not the crappy Web we have now.
(8) A "Mouse" was something dropped down the blouses of female guests when they had outstayed their welcome.
(9) "FTP" stood for "FTP The Pr0n".
(10) An "Eigen value" was the ratio of West German GDP to sales of blue denim jackets and Elton John singles.
(11) "Garbage Collection" referred to books and articles by Nicholas Negroponte.
(12) A "hashing algorithm" was a technique to maximize the narcotic effects of cannabis, often utilizing a euphonium.
(13) "Polymorphism" was my friend Polly after she bought a Wonderbra.
(14) "Duck typing" was something you occasionally saw in the early hours of the morning when the ducks, thinking all humans were still in bed, used their Panasonic Toughbooks.
(15) "Packet switching" was a technique that allowed you to steal your neighbor's mail. (well, maybe that hasn't changed).

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rudie Can't Fail: The Continuing Saga of Karamoon

Yesterday I tried to remember the order of 30 shuffled playing cards. I only made 3 mistakes so I'm extremely satisfied with the progress I've been making; a few months ago I'd have struggled to remember more than 7 cards. I'm now about halfway through memorizing 100 people and their actions which I will use to remember numbers. The system I'm using is called The DOMINIC System. It was invented by Dominic O'Brien and is a bit like the Major System.

In a couple of week's time I'll be beginning a new life. More on that soon.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Somebody Got Murdered (By TEPCO)

I heard that TEPCO had someone killed a few years ago. The victim was a woman working for TEPCO who is alleged to have been about to reveal something grave before she was killed. Anyone have details on this?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Indonesian Indie Music

If Music Could Talk

Scottlo, who I consider to be my main teacher at the moment, recommended that I listen to an Indonesian mix tape called "Perempuan". As the name suggests (at least to those who understand Indonesian), all the songs feature female vocalists.

It's a great mix of music, but three tracks stand out:
"The Tears Never Stop Until I Close My Eyes" by Sarin
"Lagu Hujan" by Amazing In Bed (originally by Koil)
"For Now" by The Wispy Hummers

I'm still waiting for Scottlo to talk about Southeast Asia, and Thailand in particular...

You can, and should, listen to Scottlo here:

You can download the mix tape here:

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lost In The Supermarket

There's nothing "super" about supermarkets. They are in fact, the opposite of "super".

Some basic questions:
Where does the food in the supermarket come from?
How far does the have to travel in order to reach my local supermarket?
How much energy is required for this journey?
In emergency situations where time is of the essence, can the food be moved faster?
In emergency situations where fuel is of the essence, can the food be moved more efficiently?
If I panic-buy all the monkey food at my local supermarket, does this mean that a child in Sendai can't feed her pet monkey?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nuclear Japan Who's Who

I intend this post to serve as a reference to interested parties, providing only the most basic of information. I shall endeavor to keep opinion to a minimum.

The Elements
Atomic weight 238.02891 grams per mole, atomic number 92, phone number 555-HOT-STUFF, uranium-238 can be used as a nuclear fuel when it is enriched with 3 % uranium-235, a more unstable isotope.

Contrary to popular belief, plutonium does not come from disgraced ex-planet Pluto. With an atomic weight of 244 grams per mole, an atomic number of 94 and a phone number that is unlisted, plutonium has a deservedly bad reputation. It's used by reactor 3 at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station that was hit the tsunami.

During nuclear accidents and explosions any iodine that's lying around becomes radioactive. If people eat or drink the radioactive iodine, or breathe it in, it can be absorbed by the body and result in thyroid cancer. This only happens if your body is in need of iodine. This can be prevented by taking potassium-iodide or potassium-iodate tablets, or by eating iodein-rich foods such as seaweed. The British embassy in Tokyo has been distributing potassium-iodate tablets to people who can prove they are British citizens.


The radioisotopes of cesium present a high health risk during and after nuclear accidents. Cesium's radioactive isotopes don't accumulate in the body but they do accumulate in fruits and vegetables. Best avoided if possible.

The Radiation
Alpha Particles
These can be thought of as helium nuclei with both electrons missing. If someone tells you that alpha particles are not dangerous because they are non-penetrating just punch the person in the side of their jaw at a 45 degree angle to the X, Y and Z planes. When alpha particles are ingested or inhaled they about 20 times more dangerous than beta and gamma radiation.

Beta Particles
High-energy electrons or positrons traveling at high speeds, beta particles have a medium ability to penetrate, and a medium ability to ionize, when compared to alpha and gamma radiation. Nobody likes Mr Average.

Gamma Rays
What most people think of as "nuclear radiation". Gamma rays are very high frequency waves that are released when subatomic particles do things. Blocking gamma rays requires thick, dense barriers such as concrete blocks or packed earth.

The Companies
The Tokyo Electric Power Company has a history of covering up nuclear accidents. TEPCO has admitted that over the 25-year period from 1977 to 2002 they lied more than 200 times to the authorities.

General Electric
The US company that built three of the six light water reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station. They also make nuclear weapons. Nice work if you can get it. Here's an ABC News article about problems with design of the reactors and their containment systems:

Hitachi built reactor number 4. Read into that what you will.

Toshiba built reactors number 3 and 5, and supplied most of the equipment for the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station including the cooling pumps.

The People
The "Fukushima 50"
The Fukushima 50 refers to a group of about 200 TEPCO workers, police, firemen and others who are working at Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station to deal with the numerous incidents that are occurring there.

Naoto Kan
Being president of Japan must be tough during times of crisis. On a good day, the Japanese government is lazy, ignorant, incompetent and corrupt. There haven't been any good days since the earthquake.

John Beddington
The UK Government's Chief Scientific Adviser. He sometimes chats with the UK ambassador to Japan. Read one of his conversations here:

Akio Komori
Foreign media have been focusing on the fact that Komri, managing director of TEPCO
, cried when leaving a press conference. Crying at press conference is a standard operating procedure in Japan so I wouldn't read too much into it.

Dr Masashi Goto,
Goto designed the reactor containment vessels while working as an engineer for Toshiba. Shortly after the earthquake he gave a lecture at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan explaining why he thought the situation was much worse than TEPCO had made out.

Josef Oehmen
Oehmen was the author of a (fake?)letter asserting that Fukushima Dai-Ichi posed no threat to the public. It went viral the day after the earthquake but was quite quickly by myself and others.

Keely Fujiyama
When UK tabloid newspaper The Sun published a bizzare apocalyptic account of the situation in Tokyo by Keely Fujiyama, several people in the Twattersphere suggested Fujiyama may have been a fabrication. I can reveal that she is in fact, a real person. She was born in Nottinghamshire, UK in 1975 and married Ryu Fujiyama in 2002. She may have a famous sister. More information will be released shortly...

Taro Kono
Japanese MP who Wikileaks has revealed, expressed serious concern about the safety of Japan's nuclear power industry during dinner with a US official in 2008. Read the leaked cable here:

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How Can Hackers Help the Quake Victims?

Over the past few days members and friends of Tokyo hackerspace have been discussing the best way to help the earthquake victims in northern Japan. We now have a clear plan, but we need some cash. Please donate if you can:

Japan Earthquake Update

Despite what the timestamp may say, I'm writing this on Wednesday afternoon, 4 days after the huge earthquake in northern Japan.

Here is the current situation as I see it, written in micro-paragraphs for the Twatter/Facebook generation:

There continue to be problems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station. There may be problems at other nuclear power stations, but none has been reported recently.

There's been a lot of hype/disinformation in the Twattersphere. Interestingly, at least among the people I follow on the web, there has been as much calm-mongering as there has been scaremongering. I find this type of head-in-the-sand response very upsetting.

The information provided by the axis-of-stupidity(Japanese government, NHK and TEPCO) has been worse than useless. They are largely the ones to blame for any hype in foreign media. They have talked in vague generalities that frequently don't make any sense at all. I'm never one to defend the shit-for-brains BBC, but at least they've talked to a variety of "experts" about the unfolding situation.

Due to the fact I'm quite far from the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, I'm not really very concerned about the acute effects of radiation. The general concensus, if you can call it that, is that the radioactive isotopes produced in the even of a major fuckstorm would have relatively short half-lives and therefore pose little risk to people in Tokyo.

The chronic effects of increased radiation are a different matter. Tokyo is my home and I would like to remain here for the foreseeable future. I'm concerned that background radiation here might rise significantly and remain high for months or even years. The authorities in Japan don't seem to believe "Honesty is the best policy" so without purchasing a Geiger counter and using it to check food and water, it would be hard to know if we're being exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.

Many of the key issues regarding the short-term outlook here are not being addressed by anyone. I'll post a list of the key issues(as I see them) later today.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Friends Don't Let Friends Read Josef Oehmen

Many people, including some I know personally, have been linking to an article by Josef Oehmen that explains why Japan's nuclear reactors are entirely safe, and will remain so, despite the recent earthquake, tsunami and aftershocks.

Here is a quote from the MIT website:
Josef is the author of the essay “Why I’m not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors”. It was an email he sent to his family in Japan. When his cousin posted it on his blog, it went viral.

Josef is working hard with a team from MIT to provide an appropriate response to the interest the post has generated. The original blog will be migrated to an MIT site, managed by a team of experts from MIT's Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. The link will be posted here when it becomes available.

Josef is not a nuclear scientist or engineer. He is a mechanical engineer by training, working on product development processes with MIT's Lean Advancement Initiative and the MIT-KFUPM Center for Clean Water and Energy.

Please direct all media inquiries to MIT's News Office.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Fukushima Nuclear Spring

The situation here in Tokyo is becoming very grave indeed. I managed to get quite a lot of food and drink today but I couldn't get batteries, lights, candles or medical supplies. I can't imagine supermarkets and chemists reopening in the next few days, but just in case I'll go out tomorrow to see if I can get some iodine tablets and other medicines.

I'm about 220 km from Fukushima where the reactors are located which sounds quite far but really isn't when you are considering the movement of radioactive dust and water. Although I have a few hand tools and some basic materials I don't think it would be possible to seal my house against fallout. The nearest DIY store is about a hour on foot, and is very unlikely to be open.

Here are a couple of practical links for people in the Kanto area of Japan.

How to build a fallout meter:

Very practical book on dealing with aftereffects of nuclear accidents:

Another book on surviving nuclear accidents is "Life After Doomsday". It's available on BitTorrent or eBook websites like http://www.ebookee.com

Here is some info on previous cover-ups of nuclear disasters in Japan:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan Earthquake and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: How To Survive

IMMEDIATE ACTION: Prepare enough food and supplies for at least a week, longer if you can.

This is not a wait-and-see situation. If we assume that there will be no more major earthquakes, and no worsening of the situation surrounding Fukushima Dai-ishi nuclear power station, it is still likely that the Kanto region of Japan will suffer food shortages.

Some causes of food shortages:
(1) People panicking and buying up all the food. :)
(2) Existing food in Japan failing to reach supermarkets due to lack of fuel etc.
(3) A cessation of food imports. (Japan imports more than half of its food).

Something else to consider: if the nuclear situation worsens, it may not be possible to leave your house(or homestead, as you will learn to call it) for days or even weeks.

My homestead strategy is to stock up on foods that keep well and that I would usually eat. If, as I very much hope, there proves to be no food shortages, I won't have a lot of strange food on my hands.

While there is fresh food in the supermarket, I strongly recommend only eating fresh food, my thinking being that you might not get a chance to eat fresh food for a few days or weeks, so make the most of it while you can.

When buying food aim for 4 things: food that doesn't require lots of water to digest, food that is nutritious, food that is high in calories and food that makes you feel good. Buy a wide selection of spices and sauces as you might be eating the same food several days in a row.

Canned food is great because it can be eaten cold in an emergency and doesn't require water. Dried food such as pasta keeps well, but requires water to cook. On the topic of pasta, here's how you cook it: don't boil and then drain it. Instead, just leave it in a covered saucepan of very hot water until it softens. If you expect water shortages, ensure that you use the water for soup once the pasta is soft enough.

Good luck.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Death Or Glory: The Earthquake

Having quite a tough night, what with all the death around here and everything. I'm on the western side of Tokyo; there doesn't seem to have been any damage here so far. The death toll is currently 350 but it's going to go to at least several thousand, assuming nothing more happens. I guess most deaths will be a result of the tsunami, not the quake itself.

There have been serious aftershocks in other parts of japan. The earthquake warning system here is predicting the quakes but the predictions about epicentre locations are not accurate.

I've been sleeping in my clothes, with three bug-out bags next to my futon. Obviously my main concern is my book collection....

Good night, and hopefully not good bye.
Karamoon, Tokyo.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Magnificent Seven

In order to get somewhere useful once your brain has suffered sustained attack in the form of industrialized education, one possible approach is to learn from people who were able to get somewhere useful, or people who at least were well on the way. Here are seven people who will be my teachers for the foreseeable future.

Ted Nelson
Still fighting, almost winning.

Mister Rogers
A man of immeasurable power.

Alan Kay
Angry, intelligent and doing something about it

R. Buckminster Fuller
Look for pressing problems, the solutions to which would make things much better for everyone.

Doug Engelbart
We can find better ways to do things, and then apply the methodologies, languages and tools to themselves.

F. M. Alexander
We must look at how we do things, not just what we do. In order to do this we need to pause.

Leonardo da Vinci
Train the senses. Study the art of science. Study the science of art. Understand that everything is connected to everything else.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

I'm So Bored Of The USA

I have some small but significant progress to report. I'm memorized all 50 US states and state capitals. The names of all the states took 10 minutes to remember. I found the state capitals to be much harder, they took almost 20 minutes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Career Opportunities

Dear Reader, I hope you are impressed that I continue to use Clash songs as my blog post titles...

Recently I've been thinking about what to do with my life. Here are some of the options:
(1) Become a Memory Man.
(2) Teach Tai-chi.(I'd have to learn it first, obviously)
(3) Teach study skills and memory techniques to children and adults.(but nobody in between)
(4) Go into space.
(5) Become a card sharp.(but I'm concerned about the passive smoking)
(6) Write and direct a film.
(7) Write and publish a novel.

Please leave your advice as a comment. Thanks.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Complete Control

It's high time that I took complete control of my life. Sadly this is not going to happen but I am endeavoring to take control of my mind.

I intend to memorize the first 101 digits of the number Pi, the first 50 digits of which are 3.1415 9265 3589 7932 3846 2643 3832 7950 2884 1971 6939 9375 10. I also intend to develop the ability to memorize a shuffled deck of cards.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rock the Casbah

I've recently started another blog, Song Secrets, which explores the many hidden themes and messages in songs. It's very likely that someone will try to get the blog shut down soon, so read it while you have the chance:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Train In Vain

I've recently found myself traveling by train rather regularly. And what do trains mean, dear reader? That's right, trains mean podcasts. I've been listening to Shift Run Stop, Retrobits, CompuCast and SpyCast.

I'm going to try hard to use a Clash song title for each of my blog posts in 2011.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tokyo Calling, Take Two

Tokyo Calling, Japan's first podcast, has returned, under the name "Tokyo Calling: Take Two". It's still at the old URL http://www.tokyocalling.org but the tone has changed somewhat.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Japan Podcast

Next week I will be launching the Japan podcast with Terri MacMillan. We will be putting out episodes at the rate of one or two a week, at least until the end of the year.

The podcast is mainly aimed at people outside of Japan who want to know more about Japanese culture or people who are planning to come to Japan. I hope, however, that Japanese people with a high level of English will find the podcast useful as well.

The episodes will be about 15 minutes long although some topics will span several episodes. The episodes will be available from the site as well as iTunes.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Blogging About Blogs

I've started looking for, and reading, blogs of people who have recently moved to Japan. This is far more interesting than reading blogs of people who have been here for a long time, especially if the bloggers live in Tokyo. Tokyo is a wonderful place, but it does tend to fuck you up, in that it weakens your character and makes you lazy. Reading blogs written by people who have just got here is very refreshing, and has given me a much-needed energy boost.

A couple of great blogs I've found are "Hello Sandwich" and "The Get-Go Tokyo".
Hello Sandwich is written by Ebony, who lives in Shimokitazawa. The blog deals mainly with Japanese design, and is packed with great photos of cool things and places.

The Get-Go Tokyo is written by Gaby, a young British woman who is a pre-school teacher in Tokyo. Full of great insights into getting your shit together in Japan.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Welcome To The Cheap Seats

Went to Ikea. Ate silly Swedish food in the cafeteria. A Japanese girl was trying, exceedingly badly, to sing western jazz songs. By some miracle I had left my suicide pills at home, if I had had them with me I would have downed the whole lot. Sometimes Japan does its best to kill me.

While wondering round Ikea, looking at the shit for sale, I was struck by the similarities between Northern Europe and Japan. They are quite similar. That is all. Sorry, Ikea wiped my brain.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I Should Cocoa

My friend Alex Brooke (http://learnjapanesepod.com/) has started an iPhone development group at Tokyo Hackerspace. Despite not having an iPhone, I decided to join. Both my Macs are too old to run the iPhone SDK so I've just been doing Cocoa programming for the Mac, as opposed to Cocoa-Touch programming for the iPhone.

Much as I hate Apple, the iPhone, the iPad and Steve "cunt" Jobs, I must admit Objective-C is a very reasonably language, and Cocoa isn't as lame as it could be.