Christmas Time in the UK


Christmas tree with warning sign 'CCTV in Operation'

Seen in Canary Wharf.

Dinner is Ready


A bottle of vodka and a can of Pringles.

Seen in Monteverde, Costa Rica.


2010-08-17 article (in Japanese) about several Japanese manufacturers creating devices for eating potato chips... without getting your keyboard or game controller all greasy. It talks about one company's annual sales targets of 500,000 units and also mentions a recent survey among 1,200 women in their their 30s, revealing that 20% of them use chop sticks to eat potato chips. Now we know.

Ernesto Neto: The Edges of the World


Ernesto Neto: The Edges of the WorldPhoto by ninebelow

I went to see The Edges of the World by Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto at Hayward Gallery today. It's a great exhibition. His art is organic and sensuous. The flowing shapes and soft pastell color gradients form a nice contrast with the brutalist concrete architecture of surrounding Southbank Centre. The sculptures are immersive and fun: You can walk through the installations, touch, feel, and smell them and play with them. There's even a swimming pool that you can dip into if you have the right kind of admission ticket. This being in London, though, the pool was closed for planned engineering work...

The show reminded me of Kusamatrix by Kusama Yayoi, which I saw in Tokyo some years ago and also quite enjoyed.

Recommended. Open until September 5.



Maguro at Midori-Sushi in Umegaoka.

Tokyo Bay Time Lapse


Looks best in HD and full screen.

This is the view from my old apartment in Konan, Minato-ku, Tokyo. Filmed in September 2006. Looking east towards Odaiba; Chiba is dimly visible on the horizon. The office building in the foreground is the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau (seen from above, this structure looks like a "batsu mark", but I'm sure that's just a coincidence...)

Colophon: I used my Nikon D70 to take one picture per minute for 16.5 hours. This resuled in 976 jpegs sized 2240x1488 pixels. I resized them to 1626x1080 pixels with iPhoto and merged them into a 196 MByte video file using ffmpeg and these instructions. The command was

ffmpeg -r 20 -i Img%04d.jpg -vcodec mjpeg -qscale 1 -an "Tokyo Bay Time Lapse.avi"



Favorite line from Futurama: In the episode The Deep South, Fry is sitting on the bottom of the ocean, flirting with Umbriel, a mermaid.

You know what I like best about you, Umbriel? You find me fascinating, even when I'm not claiming to be a jewel thief or a lion tamer...
Lions? There are sealions on the land!?
Yup. We call them "land-sealions". I tame them.

Dental Practice... and Prayer Room


Sign saying 'Dental Practice and Prayer Room'

Seen in Canary Wharf area.

My Favorite Doctor Fun Cartoons


Doctor Fun Logo

Doctor Fun was a great webcomic by David Farley. It ran from 1993 to 2006. It's a bit reminiscent of Gary Larson's The Far Side: Lots of cavemen, mad scientists, heads floating in jars, bears mauling campers, talking amoebae, etc. The archives are still online.

Here are three good ones I remember off the top of my head:

Goodbye, WordPress


I finally managed to stop using WordPress for my blog.

WordPress suffers (suffered?) from a stream of security holes, which require constant software upgrades. In the end, since I didn't have time to deal with all these issues, I ended up removing write permissions from the WordPress MySQL user account. This way, even if the code was broken into, at least nobody could add hidden spam posts. Every time I wanted to actually post something, I temporarily gave write permissions back, just long enough to post...

I need a setup that's just keeps working, even if I'm too busy for web site maintenance and even if I can't look after my blog for some months or even a year. WordPress is definitely not that solution, at least not if you run your own installation.

The last time I read some WordPress source code and tried to hack it, I found its quality quite low: It suffered from duplicated magic numbers and similar beginner's mistakes. Every little change I tried to make required altering the code in multiple places. Being written in a language with plenty of known issues does not help. Overall, it's software that I no longer want running on my server. I don't trust it enough.

Also, WordPress is much too complex for me because it does much more than what is really needed for a low-volume, one-person blog: A sign-up form? Mailing replacement passwords? An XML RPC interface? I don't need any of these, but they are enabled by default and each is a potential security hole.

So what do I use instead?

A very simple setup: The web server has only static files. No CGI, no PHP. I keep the blog posts in a plain text file and edit it with Emacs. I can search-and-replace in old posts without having to fiddle with SQL. The file format is org-mode compatible, so later on I might add org-mode tags to blog posts. (The format is similar to blorg's, but I'm not using that.)

A short Perl script generates the HTML pages. It runs on my notebook, not on the web server. Most of the work is done by Template Toolkit. I upload the rendered pages using rsync.

Managing comments (which is the only dynamic feature of my blog) is done by Disqus. The new setup stopped displaying any comments from before I started using Disqus. Perhaps I'll still be able to import these old comments, using this method.

Everything, including the source of my blog posts, is kept in a git repository, so if you're curious about the Perl scripts or the templates, go ahead and take a look.

This was a fun Christmas hacking project and I'm glad I don't have to deal with WordPress anymore. Maybe the new setup will even motivate me to crank up my posting frequency to more than once a year....



Google suggestions for "how to get"



Graffiti seen in Meguro

Seen in Meguro.

Please do it at home


Sign seen on the Hibiya-line

Please do it at home
Please refrain from putting on make-up in the train.

Seen on the Hibiya-line.

Enabled Disqus Comments


I’ve re-enabled comments on this blog. I had to disable them a while ago because the spam was getting out of control. This time the comments will be hosted by Disqus.


What I like about Disqus so far:

  • In order to leave a comment, you can create a Disqus account and edit your profile, but you don’t have to. Casual, anonymous comments are still possible. Disqus calls them “unverified”. I find this important because I never felt like creating an account for commenting on somebody else’s blog, so my readers shouldn’t have to do this, either.
  • Disqus lets me export all comments, so if I decide to stop using the service, I should be able to migrate all comments into whatever I’ll use next.
  • It has avatars, threaded comments, RSS feeds, mail notification, etc.
  • It has an API and plug-ins for various blog systems.
  • Alternatively, it supports integrating comments using JavaScript. This way, it’s possible to have comments even on a completely static web site. No CGI needs to run on the web-server. I’m planning to get rid of WordPress and make my blog completely static (more about that later), so this feature will be essential.
  • Hopefully I won’t have to deal with comment spam. Let’s see how that works out…

What I don’t like:

  • Disqus doesn’t have an import function yet, so for now I’ll have to live with a mix of old comments in WordPress and new comments in Disqus, such as in this post. Actually, it’s really not as bad as I first thought. In any case, this feature has been requested and promised, so we’ll see.

So, why don’t you give it a try, I’m looking forward to your comments!



Yakatabune on Tokyo Bay

Yakatabune (roofed pleasure boats) on Tokyo Bay, near Odaiba.