Archive for the ‘3) Life’ Category

The original IXY / IXUS Digital, 10 years later

November 25, 2010 Leave a comment

I was Julia’s fourth birthday a little way back and I had been thinking of what to buy her, when I remembered that she’s always fiddling with my iPhone and taking pictures with it.

So I decided to get her a secondhand camera. The problem with that is that most shops only stock decent and recent models at fairly hefty (for a four year old) price.

Thus, when I found that my favorite junk shop, Shop Inverse in Akihabara had a little box of old cameras in one corner all going for 1000 yen, I started digging though.

The majority were around 3MP, early fujifilms a couple of old casios of unknown sub megapixel vintage and some cameras so worn out as to be unrecognizable. There were a few newer cameras among them, too, but nothing could see my daughter using.

Then I found a little black, almost cube-like case. Curious, I opened it and found an IXY Digital in pristine condition, complete with a lithium ion battery and battery cover. A quick search online reveals spare lithium-ion batteries and a charger for less than 1000 yen! Bargain.

I had had the good fortune of using a first generation IXY  when Sam came to visit in 2000 and remember it survived serious drunken droppage, down stairs and on to concrete. Perfect for Julia.

IXY / IXUS Digial Overview

corner-on picture of Ixy Digital

IXY Digital

The Bad News

If one is to compare with today’s cameras, one might say the following:

  • Low resolution
  • Tiny, noisy image sensor
  • Chunky build
  • Heavy for its size
  • Tiny view finder
  • Tiny display
  • Slow to start up
  • Long recycling delay between shots
  • Wimpy flash
  • Eats batteries at a rather astonishing rate – so much so that the camera could be used as a hand warmer in the winter.

The Good News

So, what’s to actually like about it? Quite a lot actually.

  • It’s solid, all-stainless-steel construction is an eye-opener in today’s world of the plastic fantastic. The build quality is truly something to behold.
  • It is heavy and tough and should be able to take a battering.
  • It is small but chunky… Ideal for wee little hands.
  • It takes Compact Flash cards, which are also solid and chunky.
  • The screen is small but relatively clear.
  • It is simple, with few functions, again perfect for a first camera.
  • The flash won’t burn your retinas out if released in front of your face.
  • It is shiny and cute. Julia loves it.
  • Accessories like batteries are dirt cheap.

IXUS / IXY Main Features

  • UXGA 1600 × 1200 image size (1.92MP)
  • 2.11MP, 0.37″ image sensor with CYGM filter.
  • 2 × optical zoom (35mm ~ 70mm equiv)
  • Bright lens, F2.8~F4
  • ISO 100
  • 1~1/1500 shutter
  • Macro feature with an impressive 10cm minimum focus range.
  • Fill flash
  • Centre weighted metering
  • ±2EV exposure adjustment
  • Compact Flash Type I slot

Image Quality

Since I bought the camera, I have taken a few photos, mostly just to test it, but also a few family snaps.

One of the interesting things about this camera is the rare CYGM filter which has a significantly different gamut to the standard RGBG Bayer filter used on practically every modern digital camera except for Simga’s Foveon.

Due to the more serious colour conversion required to shift between CYGM and RGB, the IXY Digital has a distinctive, almost cyan cast to overexposed highlights.

Colour balance is definitely a little “off” but it’s actually quite a pleasingly smooth colour balance.

The other issue is that the CYGM sensor has a wider dynamic range than standard, thus there is a distinctive HDR feeling to the photos. i.e. a little flat and low contrast.

The pic below shows both the bluish tinge and the slightly off cast to the colours.

Unedited image of a plan with an ornamental bird perched on a branch.

Here is the original IXY image, showing realistic colours, but lacking in contrast.

However, the high dynamic range means lower noise in the darker areas and a smoother overall image. This makes the IXY photos remarkably amenable to Photoshopping.

Retouched image of bush with bird perched in branch

Images taken by the IXY can be adjusted significantly without jpeg or other artifacts showing

Final Virdict

Although it’s minuscule size and both tiny finder and rear screen make this an occasionally squint inducing affair and both the autofocus and zoom are lethargic, pictures taken with it remain sharp and crisp. There is the added benefit of wide dynamic range and lack of JPEG artificing means that despite its age, the IXY is more than adequate for the occasional snap.

More importantly, the sheer Premium-Canon quality, stainless-steel build and overall toughness make you feel that this is a camera you can really rely on. It’s weight also makes it feel stable and solid, even in larger hands and makes both taking slower exposures and using higher zooms a little more straight forward.

Finally, compatible batteries and compact flash cards are two a penny, which means this camera can continue to be used for the foreseeable future.

I would put the picture quality generally on par with the iPhone, but it pushes ahead with the 2 x zoom and semi-decent flash. Of course, it is a Canon digital camera based on a “real” Canon film camera and not a computer peripheral.

Weight Watching

May 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Over the last 17 years, I have kept tabs on my weight, on and off but had simply come to the conclusion that, just like taxes, weight is one of those things that tends to steadily increase.

Various stages in my life were met with variable weight, however each stage had something in common with all the others: I was heavier when I left than when I arrived.

I’d also come to the conclusion that weight was a monotonic function of time. Except for when I ate sushi nearly every day for six months on arrival in Japan in 1999!

Just recently, however, I noticed that I was able to fit into clothes I hadn’t been able to wear for several years and decided to keep new tabs on my weight.

This new weight watching phase was brought on by the start of Sunnyside English Café, our little venture into starting a business.

It suffices to say that my lifestyle has changed:

  • 3 hours of running around every day when teaching 2 ~ 4 year olds.
  • Regular exercise and weight training three times a week on average.
  • Running up the stairs to the ninth floor rather than using the lift.
  • Eating Less.
  • Drinking virtually no beer (!)

If you really think that you are stuck, just getting heavier for the rest of your life, take a look at this graph:

My Weight

Yep! Check that bit out on the right! That’s a decrease in weight, 16kg in just less than 6 months.

For a while, I thought I might be loosing a bit too much weight, too quickly, but this last couple of weeks,my weight has stabilised between 70 and 72kg, just where I used to be between the ages of 16 and 18! However, this time, since I’ve been working out, the only tightness in my cloths is around my shoulders and biceps.

My BMI is around 21, which is about ideal at my age and I can now run the 1.5km from the station and up nine flights of stairs to my flat without breaking into a sweat.

So, for those of you who are concerned about your weight, just start your own business right, slap bang in a recession, work 13 hours a day (just to cover the rent) Make sure you’re running around like a madman for 2~3 hours a day, quit beer and junk food due to lack of money and start ignoring the lift in your building the weight’ll melt away in no time.

Either that or go on a sensible diet.

Categories: 3) Life

Norovirus attacks the Lloydies without mercy

December 19, 2008 1 comment

Over the last few days all four of us have come down with Gastroenteritis (Gastric Flu, Winter Vomiting Sickness or call it what you will.)

First Contact

Julia suddenly vomited during Saturday night for no apparent reason. It was the first time I remember her being sick since I swung her around a bit too energetically as a toddler…

At the time, I instantly thought NORO! (which is what all the Norovirus caused illnesses are colloquially called here in Japan) because of the suddenness and lack of preceding lethargy, whining, mardiness.

But she made a complete recovery in about 24 hours, which is usually not the case for such a powerful viral attack. Also, given the incredible “Boogey Man” image that Noro has been given here in the press, one expects to immediately, clearly and without doubt know if one has the virus, like coming home to find your house burgled.

However, we convinced ourselves that it was nothing, and so did Julia.


I’m talking purely from personal experience here you your milage may vary.

I’d worked an eleven hour day and had had a chirpy and cheerful conversation at the end of it with my boss and until that point had felt nothing untoward at all.

I had been alert, able to concentrate and perform my work as usual.

I was travelling home on the train from work at about 10.30 at night with a small can of beer when I first felt a bit odd. The first sign was heartburn and a slight uncomfortable feeling, like being too full.

At first I suspected the sushi I’d eaten at work that afternoon had been dodgy. Although it would have been the first time I’d ever got ill from Japanese food. 

I started feeling a bit tired as a walked back home from the station. I just assumed it was probably because I was tired. It had been a hell of a long week…

Getting home, I managed three sets of exercises, but felt a little nauseated at the end of the third set and decided to cut short my second routine.

Thinking a nice shower would do me good I had one.

Then it hit me. It felt as if my abdomen was expanding, inflating. I started feeling fuller and fuller and more uncomfortable, like I’d drank a litre of soda in one go and then jumped up and down.

That was it; time to make the long distance call on the white china telephone.

It was 11:30.

From the first inklings of anything being amiss to  being on my hands and knees in front of the Toto (cf. Armitage Shanks) was less than an hour.

Ten minutes later, I felt right as rain and went to bed as usual.

The next day, however, I had the usual symptoms of flu. A minor fever, lack of appetite, aches and pains, lethargy and a strange, completely uncharacteristic disdain for all housework!

This lasted for two days.

On the third day (today), I’m feeling about 90% again.

A day after me, Tomoko caught it and a day later, our youngest, Hana caught it; although the children seemed much less affected than we were.

Norovirus: Things to remember.


  • Despite the huge media presence making it sound like the new Ebola, it is not a major life threatening disease, unless you are currently in a precariously weakened state. (Newborns should be referred to a clinic straight away, regardless.)
  • The main danger posed is through dehydration caused by vomiting and diarrhoea, which can be combatted through intake of regular, small volumes of liquid. 



  • If you have it, don’t go out. Stay indoors, call in sick, keep your children at home. Unless you and your entire family suffer from a cleanliness related OCD, you will all come down with it in short order, so keep your children out of school.
  • It can be passed on through children’s soiled nappies (diapers) and is especially easily transmitted through vomit.
  • Incubation is short and contraction to full-blown sickness can be less than two days.
  • The virus is hardy and can survive for days in the environment.
  • Regular 60 degree hot wash is insufficient for complete disinfection. Use a hot, 85 degrees or hotter dishwasher (or chlorine based cleansers) to clean kitchen utensils and surfaces which may have been contaminated.
  • It is not killed by alcohol or regular detergents. Clean all soiled linen and clothes with a mild solution of “traditional” chlorine, (not biological, enzyme or oxygen) based bleach.
  • Note: Vomit soiled blankets, bedsheets and carpets can give rise to airborne transmission for an extended period once dry, if not cleaned with steam or chlorine.
  • Do not prepare or handle food for others.
  • Practice a good hygiene regimen of hand cleaning and regular replacement of towels, etc. to minimise traces.



  • Stay at home, drink lots of liquids. Hydration is the one and only concern.
  • It’s a virus with no known cure or directly effective treatment. Just let it run its course and all will be well in two to three days.
  • Again, it’s a virus, don’t let your doctor pump you up with pointless antibiotics unless you have a special need.
  • Symptoms including nausea and aches and pains can be tackled with regular stomach preparations and paracetamol. (Although headache tablets such as Aspirin can exacerbate poor stomach conditions.)


Usual Disclaimer

Without wanting to sound condescending or trite, this is a blog, not a medical journal.

Being well informed by reading accurate, reliable, recognised sources of information is perhaps one of the best health precautions one can take, so please use this information only as a starting point for making an informed and educated decision, rather than as a complete guide, and if in doubt, contact your GP.

China food Scares and our “Just Say No! (To China)” Policy

October 17, 2008 Leave a comment

As a father of two, I’ve been very concerned about the endless string of food scares this year.

Perhaps overreacting, perhaps not, we have in any case successfully initiated a “Just Say No! (To China)” policy in our house, which has been in place since September.

  • No Directly imported Chinese foodstuffs of any kind.
  • Try to avoid Japanese food which contain Chinese products (difficult but not impossible).
  • No Chinese toys for Julia and Hana (tricky, but possible).
  •  Support local Japanese Producers

There was the big Frozen Gyoza (Chinese fried dumplings) scare. This was the one which really highlighted the whole incident for most people living in the blissfully, coddled sterilised safety of Japan’s sanitarily obsessed infrastructure and culture.


I can’t recommend these, no matter how crispy.

One after the other, Chinese products were removed from shelves. At one point, sales of Chinese frozen produce dipped to below 30% of the typical amount sold at any time.

Food poisoning in a number of families were traced back to imported Chinese dumplings, which were found to contain pesticides banned in Japan.

The Chinese government’s reaction to the problem did not help matters. They insisted that the pesticide must have been deliberately introduced into the packaging after the packages left China, perhaps by injection, in order to stimulate domestic (Japanese) produce, which has the reputation of being expensive.

While the question as to whether indeed the contaminants entered the packaging in China or not was still unanswered, this unlikely scenario was still not utterly impossible.

The workers of the affected company which was unable to sell their produce to Japan, recieved “gifts” of the food to take home to their families and friends.

I have an old proverb I’ve just coined for this blog entry, which feels especially appropriate here: 

“With absolute stupidity comes absolute inevitability. “

The rest, as they say, is history and over 3000 cases of acute food poisoning.

Had the food scares ended there, things might have settled down more quickly, but unfortunately, in mid October, there was a contaminated green beans scare making people even more wary of discounted produce.


There’s more than just fibre
in these string beans!

But as a father both of these pale into insignificance compared the the baby milk powder scares.


Believe it or not, this child
is suffering from malnutrition

The “original” 2004 fake baby milk power scandal in China where baby milk powder was found to have no nutritional value since babies were basically drinking talcum power mixed with water was followed spectacularly this September by the kidney stone causing melamine contaminated baby powder, which resulted in over 13,000 cases of illness in babies.

Worse, the contamination was found in 10% of Chinese produced milk products, including fresh milk, ice-cream, yoghurt and Cheese. Blanket bans on Chinese dairy products are currently in force worldwide.

Of course, since food for the Chinese is akin to a religious belief, the Chinese government took great umbrage at this outrage, which stereotypically cemented the already strongly held belief among the Japanese that China is a country willfully unconcerned with the health of its populace.

China has perhaps been unfairly portrayed as a nation of poor hygiene and blissfully unconcerned about food contamination. This fortifies the notion among the Japanese that China itself is somehow dirty and contaminated. One of the best quotes ever is from Anthony Bourdain (2006 Salon interview) where he stated culinary xenophobia is “something kind of racist”

“Fear of dirt is often indistinguishable from the fear of unnamed dirty people.”

Japan’s fear of Chinese food (probably valid) simply goes to strengthening their opinions regarding the Chinese people themselves, and while I do NOT condone racism or even undue stereotyping, I fear that the Chinese government could do far more that it is to improve its image abroad.

Personally, we intend to keep up our private embargo for as long as we can and encourage anyone who takes the safety of their family seriously to do the same.

  • Apology for the long absence (ご無沙汰すみません “Go-busata sumimasen”, as they sey in Japan).

One month without a blog post… Must be getting into my old habits of procrastinating too much, again…
I promise it won’t happen again, for a while… if I’m good.

Steve Jobs Heart Attack Heart Attack Heart Attack (a.k.a. The Web 2.0 / Citizen Journalism mashup failure cocktail)

October 6, 2008 Leave a comment


How to make 1 serving of Journalistic failure:

  • Start with a couple of spoons of Web 2.0 jingoism, to pump the heart rates and emotions of all concerned and melting readers’  inhibitions and ability to discriminate fact from fiction.
  • Add a wIki, a forum or other user generated content source to naturally spread out responsibility with no hub of accountability.
  • Add a dash of twitter to concetrate the juciness and present the core information to millions worldwide with neither context or reference.
  • Drop in one fully formed false fact to create a credible yet ultimately
  • Drink with an open mind.

The recent brouhaha regarding the supposed heart attack of Apple’s Deity, Steve Jobs is just another example of why Web 2.0 “Citizen Journalism” mashups are fundamentally flawed.

I’ve always been a fan of eyewitness reports and blogs, but recently the two have become more and more intertwined in the case of the “New Press”.

Sure, just like traditional press, blogs and web journalists have been recently afforded some of the same protections, such as rights to conceal a story’s source and so on. However bloggers are playing both sides against the other: They are receiving protection by claiming freedom of speech abuse as soon as they get accosted for revealing trade secrets or defamatory comments and yet when it suits them, they play their blogger “rampant speculation presented as fact” card which enables them to release stories at much lower cost with titles that would make sensationalist tabloids like The Sun blush.

This then gets picked up, amplified and reflected by bloggers left and right in the massive echo chamber called the Blogosphere and before you know it, it’s become cold hard reality (virtually speaking, of course).

This so called “Citizen Journalism” when mixed with the user generated aspects of Web 2.0 seriously fails to meet the criteria which make modern press a keystone of any democracy: Veracity, responsibility, accountability and honour.

It fails to check the facts, take responsibility for claims made, and when the shit hits the fan, it points its finger at someone else like a six year old. Finally, in the event it is shown to be blatantly wrong, it makes some excuse like “well, that site got it right up till now!”

Now, I believe a part time blogger can be forgiven for such transgressions, after all, we can assume that they lack the resources to honestly confirm whether or not, for example, Steve Jobs had actually suffered a heart attack (And quite frankly, 10 million bloggers phoning Apple to confirm it would be counter productive, if anything).

The worst example of unfettered Citizen Journalism going wrong is when larger, more “responsible” organisations like CNN confuse first hand, eye-witness reports from multiple sources with unnamed, unconfirmed single source tips sent anonymously and in the orgasmic spasm of the potential world scoop, post before they even stop to think, “Is it actually true?”

Medium sized organisations, i.e. the majority of those publishing directly on the web,  are in a difficult situation when they post false news from other sites. They are neither individuals who can dispense with their responsibilities, nor are they vast organisation with massive resources to spend.

They also state that they are on the front line of “the new media” and often state that they have insider knowledge from “reliable sources”, expecting us to believe them yet when those sources are actually needed to verify a claim, they are mysteriously absent.

If they Just admit that they fucked up, we’d all nod our heads and say, “Try harder next time!”

But instead they insult us trying to justify their mistake by pointing to the readers as the reason for presenting unproven fiction as fact.

“Errr… we thought the readers should know it anyway, regardless… And… err… intelligent readers will make up their own mind!” LMFAO! Yeah right: And Apple’s stock dives 10% off the bat!

Come on, this is not Journalism, by any stretch. This is shoddy echoing of user generated content ala Web 2.0.

Link… Read this long and sickening justification piece by Silion Alley Insider.

Who is the iPhone Girl (or iPhonegirl as she’s known as online)?

September 2, 2008 Leave a comment

The iPhone Girl or iPhonegirl as she’s sometimes known has generated over 20 million searches on Google’s Chinese servers alone.

Who is she and why is she so famous?

Somehow, her picture was found on an iPhone bought by a customer from Kingston upon Hull in the UK going by the Mac Rumours handle of markm49uk. He apparently debated for a few days whether or not it was ethical to post her (rather cute) face online, but in the end put up for everyone to see.

It turns out that she is one of the 270000 employees of FOXCONN the Chinese factory that assembles the majority of Apple, Dell and HP computers.

Eventually, they found out who she was and she has been given some time off to avoid the press which have been hounding her since her name was released.

The good news is:

“She is definitely not fired,” an unidentified representative from Foxconn’s factory in Shenzhen, southern China, told the newspaper Xiandai Kuaibao who called the event, “a beautiful mistake”.

Thank goodness for that.

If I knew I was going to get some more pictures of her, I’d probably buy myself an iPhone, she’s very cute… although, probably only about 15!

Oh well. I guess I’ll just have to wait until DoCoMo starts selling them.

Categories: Strange, Technology Tags: , ,

Happy Ramadan

September 1, 2008 Leave a comment

To all those out there who observe the Islamic month of fasting, Happy Ramadan!
May this month bring you spiritual enlightenment and strengthen your resolve!

Peace and Respect!

Categories: 3) Life Tags: , , ,