Monday, January 29, 2007

Heart Of Darkness

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

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Easy Like Sunday Mourning

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

Saturday, January 27, 2007


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

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

Friday, January 26, 2007

Fuck Work

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

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

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

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Hacker Calendar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


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

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

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Tokyo Calling

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

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

Monday, January 22, 2007

Hobbit House

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

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

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

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Riding A Wave

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

  • Studying Japanese

  • Thinking about Japan all the time

  • Working on the Tokyo Robotnik website

  • Eating at sensible times, and eating less junk

  • Getting good advice from friends

  • Making solid plans to leave the UK

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

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Weaving Dreams With Dreamweaver

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

Friday, January 19, 2007

Memories Of Japan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Stormy Thursday

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

23C3 Reloaded

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Teaching And Learning Of The Japanese Language

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 15, 2007

Productivity And Positivity

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

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

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

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

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hero's Return

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

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

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Crumpets And Trumpets

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

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

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

Friday, January 12, 2007


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

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

Thursday, January 11, 2007

No Gods, No Masters, I Will Not Serve

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Black Wednesday

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


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

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

Monday, January 08, 2007

Back At Work (With A Smirk?)

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

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

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

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Room With A View

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

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

Friday, January 05, 2007

The Long Walk To Boredom

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Photography And Pornography

I slept most of the morning and early afternoon.

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Checkpoint Charlie

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

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

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

Mitch Altman

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

(Photo by Jacob Appelbaum)

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bursting The Bubble

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

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

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

Monday, January 01, 2007

Television, The Drug Of The Nation

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

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

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

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

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