Funny dog toys from Japan

I’m going back home to Paris with the girlfriend for a week after Golden Week so of course the usual shopping lists start dropping in my mailbox. They are mainly filled with tech related stuff and gadgets that are quite a bit cheaper than in France (with a VAT at 20%, it’s hard not to be competitive…) – like digital cameras, or just not available anywhere but in whacky Japan – like USB humping dogs.

But this time I got something really original. My brother asked me to bring him back a special chewtoy for dogs that he wants to offer to a friend of his. I found the design so cool and original I wanted to share it with you guys.


There are 4 different types and they go for ¥238 on Rakuten. Pretty awesome.

Prime Ministers of Japan

  • Junichiro Koizumi小泉 純一郎 – 2001 to 2006 – grandfather was Minister of Posts and Telecommunications
  • Shinzo Abe安倍 晋三 – 2006 to 2007 – grandfather was Prime Minister
  • Yasuo Fukuda福田 康夫 – 2007 to 2008 – father was Prime Minister
  • Taro Aso麻生 太郎 – soon to be sworn in – grandfather was Prime Minister, father in law was Prime Minister

Can you see a pattern here?

Otaku rush on the new Fukutoshin

Last Saturday morning I was leaving a party at 5 A.M. in Shibuya and decided it would be nice to come back home to Shiki with the new Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin line which was opening the very day and interfaces with my usual Tobu Tojo line for an almost direct trip to and from Shibuya (I just have to hop from one side of the platform to another at Wakoushi) in a breeze.

fukutoshin line - map

So my girlfriend and I arrived at 5:30 after being guided by cops that were all over the station for the opening and got there to climb in the first train to arrive at Shibuya station and reversing for the journey back to Saitama.

Ruiko said:
Do not under-estimate the Japanese Otaku…

Remembering this saying by a good friend of mine, I wasn’t surprised when that first train came in Shibuya station packed full of weirdos with backpacks and cameras (the classic Otaku costume). They came out of the train clapping and cheering, taking photos of each other in front of the driving cabin and macroing on every little details of the new train and station.

After the flow ebbed, we climbed on the train and were followed by a dozen of guys who must’ve missed the very first train. Losers… One of them was recording the trip and announcements with a microphone, bobbing his head to each of the stations’ distinctive music as if to music from heaven… One of them had long pommeled hair and wore a flowery dress…

I didn’t take any photos of them as my girlfriend was afraid I would get shanked by one of the weirdos like what happened in Akihabara 2 weeks ago, but I do have some photos of the brand new piece of station in Shibuya.

ctype_digit error in WordPress 2.5

wordpress-image-uploadI’ve upgraded my blog to WordPress 2.5 last weekend. The new design of the admin backend is great and seeing things evolve like that really motivates me to pour more time into my blog and add some nice little functionalities that I’ve been thinking about lately.

But it happens that I came upon an error when trying out the new image uploader and I’m sure many people will get it too:

PHP Fatal error: Call to undefined function ctype_digit() in wp-includes/link-template.php on line 182

What happens is that my flavor of PHP5 is not compiled with the ctype flag. This seems to be the default on Gentoo, so if you run it be sure to add the ctype use flag to your portage config. But if you can’t recompile PHP, you can just open up the file wp-includes/link-template.php and replace the line 182 as follows:

Replace ctype_digit with is_numeric

That should do the trick until the version 2.5.1 that should patch things up according to what I see in the bug tracker (pending issue on link-template.php and a similar issue in another file already merged in 2.5).

Meeting shenanigans

Just a random conversation during one of my team’s daily meetings at work:

Colleague: We have a problem with the *censored* server.
Boss: Where is that server located?
Colleague: It’s in the Intellectual Property room, on the 2nd floor of the Reliability building.
Me: Yeah, you know that place? It’s right next to the office of Lost Causes.

We always have lots of fun during our daily meetings.

Sand storm

Last Saturday in the early afternoon, we had a huge dust storm all over the 関東 area. It started out as a very nice day, sunny 15°C, I went for grocery shopping in just a light sweater. Then around 2PM, the sky suddenly became dark, great gusts of wind started whistling around the corners of our building, we could see the road signs and city lights shaking in the street and parked bicycles being blown away. The sky became dark yellowish / light brown as the huge dust cloud passed over us. Then it was over in 15 minutes.

砂嵐 by surround on flickr

I couldn’t take a good photo as my girlfriend wouldn’t let me open the windows or open the door to go outside (we just cleaned up the apartment, so letting all this dust come in was definitely not a good idea), so I got this photo of the event from surround’s photostream on Flickr.

Apparently, these dust storms happen often in the Kanto plain at the turn of spring. This huge plain all around Tokyo is heavily farmed and parched fields, from the very dry winters we have here, go up in dust with the strong winds marking the coming of spring.

MQL baffles me

My job consists of writing functional specifications and generally managing the architecture of a big R&D information system based on a wonderful jack-of-all-trade application called eMatrix from Dassault.

I often delve deep into the application with the MQL console (for Matrix Query Language) to dig out some insight into the data we manage.

And, more often than not, I find things that makes me cringe:

MQL<45> print bus ECO ZCO3171 - select history.promote;
business object ECO ZCO3171 -
history.promote = time: 10/22/2007 9:56 state: Design Work
history.promote = time: 10/22/2007 17:23 state: Review
history.promote = time: 10/22/2007 18:28 state: Release
history.promote = time: 10/24/2007 21:33 state: Implemented
MQL<46> print bus ECO ZCO3171 - select history.promote[1];
business object ECO ZCO3171 -
history.promote[1] = time: 10/22/2007 17:23 state: Review
MQL<47> print bus ECO ZCO3171 - select history.promote[0];
business object ECO ZCO3171 -
history.promote[0] = time: 10/22/2007 9:56 state: Design Work
history.promote[0] = time: 10/22/2007 17:23 state: Review
history.promote[0] = time: 10/22/2007 18:28 state: Release
history.promote[0] = time: 10/24/2007 21:33 state: Implemented

If someone has any insight on how a query language can be this flawed, I’m all ears.

PS: If you don’t understand anything about this post, I’m deeply sorry for boring you with my tech rants…

New year woes

In Japan, the new year is a big thing. Unlike in western countries, it’s a family holiday when all come, eat traditional food (new year soba) and go to the temple for a blessing and good luck in the coming year. It’s also a rare time when all all shops, banks, etc. can close for a few days straight.

Do not get caught without cash on new year. Most banks will close all operations between January 1st and 4th, and that means everything, even ATMs. It’s advised to pack your pockets with cash, at least 100.000¥ for the duration of the black-out. Countless foreigners have been found sleeping under the bridge after not taking heed of this warning.

Anyways, back to my story, another service that shuts down during the first week of the year is trash collection. Just a week isn’t that bad you’ll say, but:

ゴミ overload

Bring together the Japanese love of over-packaging, presents for the kids, family reunions… all in a 15 storeys building (that’s 60 apartments), and you get a wall of detritus filling up from floor to ceiling the trash room.

This photo was taken on January 2nd, I can’t wait to see what happens by the end of the week.

FON Anniversary Campaign in Japan

If you’re in Japan and you want a free (or almost free) WiFi router, here’s your chance.

La Fonera +One year after its introduction in Japan, the FON network gives away their Fonera routers for free this weekend only: Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th December. These cool little boxes let you share your connection safely with the public, and if you do you’ll be granted free internet access through all the other boxes in the network: 208.000 access points around the world, 25.000 in Japan only.

I got one for free 1 year ago when they did the same campaign for the launch, it’s a nice initiative.