Archive for the ‘Family’ 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.

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.

Hana-chan comes home

June 16, 2008 Leave a comment

I’ve been a little bit preoccupied of late, what with there being a new baby and all! Anyway, I’m back with more random drivel and news about my life for family and friends.

Hana and Tomo came home from hospital on Saturday. It was a little earlier than planned. In Japan, at least here in Tokyo at any rate, it’s customary for a mother to stay in hospital for a week after the childbirth. Of course, in Tomo’s case, this was truncated.

Tomo left hospital on the 14th of June, after just four nights. Of course, this was down to both of them being in good health.


Hana-chan is doing very well. She has none of the Yoda-like wrinkliness of a newborn and it’s hard to imagine she’s less than a week old.


Who do you think she resembles most? In this last picture, she almost looks like Neil to me…


What do you think?

Categories: Family Tags:

Hana Marie was born at 2.30am on the 10th of June, 2008

June 10, 2008 1 comment

“Baby on Demand” continues with Tomoko giving birth to Hana chan at 2.30am on the first night in hospital.

Tomoko was still up and about, strolling around the hospital at ten o’clock, doing her Ayurevedic Yoga, which is supposed to promote easy labour and childbirth.


Tomoko “kind of” went into labour at about quarter to two. When I say “kind of”, I mean Tomoko was saying things like, “I think I’m in labour” and I was saying sagely, wise things like, “Er… Tomoko, I think you’d know if you were in Labour.”

At about ten past two, Tomoko really did go into labour and the doctor arrived, this time unflustered and prepared because Tomoko had been admitted to the delivery room earlier than last time, since at Julia’s birth, she only just made it to the bed before Julia popped out!

Apparently the Yoga worked, and Hana was born at around half two, after about twenty minutes of labour.

Tomoko, newborn Hana and me (looking more tired than Tomo)

I phoned my mum to tell her, “Mum! You’re a grandmother again! Although lucky it wasn’t a boy or you’d have been a grandfather as well!”

Categories: Family

Raj and Taeko’s Wedding

May 24, 2008 Leave a comment

Went to Raj and Taeko’s wedding this weekend. A nice, casual affair with none of the pomp and circumstance of some weddings… Brought back memories of our own wedding, now over two years ago.

They had the Jinzenshiki (civil ceremony) and the reception at a posh Indian restaurant in the Century Hotel, Shinjuku.  The reasurant, apparently had not hosted a wedding before and that showed in the wedding’s rough edges, which gave the whole event a charmingly unrehearsed and truthful feeling, rather than some of the stilted, practiced all week, efforts I’ve been to.

There was lots of talking, eating, congratulating. Catching up with old acquaintances and making new ones. If all weddings were like this one, it’d take the stigma out of attending them.

It has to be said, though, that I did end up spending most of my time looking after Julia and Haruki, so although there was free cury and beer, I ended up only drinking about a pint of beer and foodwise, I ate only half a samosa, a sheesh kebab, a popadom and a curried shrimp.

Apparently, the curry was delicious. Shame I didn’t get more than a mouthful…


Categories: Family

Julia 1 – Haruki 0

May 23, 2008 Leave a comment

I found this old video on my mobile phone and uploaded it to Youtube… Can’t remember when it was taken. Must have been about 9 months ago.

Julia might have been smaller and still crawling, but she manages to overcome her older cousin with apparent ease.

Please try to ignore my insane cackling on the video (You have been warned).

Categories: Family Tags: ,

HAND foot and mouth disease, Part II

May 19, 2008 Leave a comment

Guys and gals, I’d like to point out that I am not a sheep, even though I have a Welsh surname. Nor am I suffering from an affliction of the herd.

I had (past tense) hand foot and mouth disease (HFMD) as opposed to Foot and Mouth (FMD), also known as Hoof and Mouth Disease (HMD).

Don’t any of you guys and gals out there actually *read* my posts??? 🙂

You’ll no doubt be relieved to know that Julia has recovered fully from HFMD and I never really got more than a couple of little splintery like twinges in the palms of my hands.

Julia had a fever which pushed 40C over the weekend. She had some fever medicine which brought her down to about 38C and throat syrup in case she had a sore thoat. I stopped Tomoko from giving Julia the obligatory antibiotics from the doctor since they don’t do anything against a virus.

Some of the major symptoms were supposed to include lethargy, lack of enthusiasm and loss of appetite. Julia suffered none of the above. In fact, we had trouble getting her to calm down for bed! 

On Sunday, the small spots on her hands turned reddish but she never developed blisters or sores anywhere.

She also had a few spots below her nose, but they didn’t even really turn red.

According to the doctor, it was a particularly mild case, rare in children below the age of three, who usually become quite ill for a week.

Julia even managed to go to nursery on Monday after a cursory checkup, since the doctor said that because she had no blisters, there was little to no chance of infecting the other children.

Way to go JooJoo!

Here are a few pictures of Julia’s hands at the peak of the illness…

No need to cover your eyes or stop eating. 😉

Back of her hands during HFMD infection

It first starts off with little pin pricks of white spots, like the ones on her hand above. These thend develop and turn red. In most cases, the spots will turn into blisters and sores which require regular cleaning and attention. The liquid in the blisters is highly contagious and should be cleaned away thoroughly.

In Julia’s case, however, no blisters ever developed. These red patched faded away and by today, Monday, they are hardly visible.

Categories: Family Tags: ,

Oh my God, we’ve contracted Hand, Foot and Mouth disease!!!

May 16, 2008 Leave a comment

Julia went to the doctor’s yesterday after banging her head on the coffee table and was told that although the injury was luckily nothing beyond having a black-eye, she’d somehow contracted Hand Foot and Mouth Disease.

When I heard that, I hurriedly looked it up online. Of course, I imediately thought she’d contracted Foot and Mouth disease, and wondered if the lamb in the curry I’d eaten last weekend – and subsequently given an insistant Julia a little taste of – was entirely dead at the time of consumption or not.

Then I read that foot and mouth is nigh on impossible to catch from food… hmm…

Of course, a few minutes of Wikipedia and British Medical Journal referencing later, I realised that the two: hand, foot and mouth disease and foot and mouth disease are completely unrelated.

I won’t shock you into donating money to charity – or at least put you off your food – with photos of the poor afflicted souls (actually, there’d not be much to see) so I’ll show you a picture of the trend-lines instead.

One of the things I always like to do when I learn about a disease or phenomenon for the first time is plot it out on Google Trends. This very nicely shows just how worried people are about something.

Hand Foot and Mouth Search Trends
Yup, pretty worried

I found out that people are so worried about it they’ve started using the abbreviated term as of March, 2008.

It didn’t take long from the formation of the abbreviated term to my personal contraction of said ailment.

In order to put an end to your obvious and kind concerns for our health, dear readers, I can assure you once and for all that under normal circumstances, this disease in not life threatening.

I had thought that something was amiss last week when I started getting slight prickly sensations in the palm of my hands and fingers here and there, only noticeable when I picked something up or accidentally brushed the affected areas. At first I assumed that I’d somehow got little splinters in my fingers – I’d packed a load of cardboard up for disposal a couple of days before. I looked closely at each affected spot but could see nothing.

A few days later, different parts of my hands felt like they had splinters in them and the original ones had gone and there was definite tiny, almost invisible hard pimples here and there.

I started thinking that I had dry skin, Tomoko the optimist 😉 immediately said it was probably Gout… I don’t know why that particular one sprang into mind.

I tried putting cream on my hands and the problem seemed to go away after a couple of days.

Then, yesterday morning, for the first time I noticed a couple of little red spots on the backs of my hands. Just a couple. Tiny little red dots with pale white rings around them. Insects I thought… But I never get bitten by insects, not in spring anyway… still, not being the sleuthiest inspectorate on the block, I didn’t put two and two together.

Then Tomoko phoned me with Julia’s prognosis: HFMD.

And due to their immature immune systems, children suffer a lot worse than adults. Last night, Julia’s temperature went up to nearly 40C! And this morning, her hands were covered in red patches.

As for myself, I now have a sore throat and felt tired last night. That’s about it.

Typical symptoms include:

  • High Fever
  • Unsettled stomach and headache
  • Loss of apetite
  • Sore throat
  • Red splotches which may turn into small blisters on palms of hands and fingers.
  • Same on feet.
  • Sometimes around the mouth, too… Hence the Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease.

Except for the spots on the hands, the symptoms are mildly flu-like.

It is an infection caused by Coxsackie A virus or Enterovirus 71 (EV71). There is no direct cure or treatment for the illness and it must be left to run its full course.

  • Anitbiotics offer no help and are generally not administered (Although, if you live in Japan, you will receive complimentary antibiotics even if you visit a doctor with the flu – It’s part of their being polite!)
  • Fever lowering treatment may be administered, headache tables and throat remedies may help.
  • Creams and ointments to stop the itching and discomfort caused by the blsters and sores may be applied.
  • Gargling with saltwater can help stop additional infections.

There’s a bit of a HFMD epedemic in Asia at the moment with tens of thousands of Asia mainland children affected. It looks like Japan has it, too.

I’ll keep you posted.

Categories: Family Tags: ,

Julia starts at nursery

April 2, 2008 Leave a comment

Julia goes to hoikuen

Things are happening so fast, it’s hard to believe. It seems just a few weeks ago that Julia started walking and now she’s taking her first steps away from home.

She’ll be graduating from university and leaving home before you know it!!!

We were very lucky to get a place in the nearby hoikuen (nursery) starting this month and for five months. Despite the fact that there are virtually no children around, the facilities they have are in such high demand that there’s no guarantee there’ll be a place for your child. It seems that they’re closing schools down faster than the children’s numbers are declining!

Anyway, Julia will be going to the school for the next five months. That should give Tomoko some time while pregnant and for a few months after giving birth to our next baby.

Also, Tomoko’s Sunnyside English Cafe should be starting up towards the end of the Year (I’m helping with that) and so we’ll be able to make another high-priority application for a more permanent placement then.

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