Now this is a bunch of well-behaved cats!

Kurutoga Mechanical Pencil

Bought a new pencil today, for my kanji studies. One of the weaknesses of ordinary mechanical pencils, is that the point of the lead flattens on one side as you write, so you have to turn the pencil all the time yourself. This results in lines of uneven thickness.

This pencil is relatively new, and is special in that it constantly turns the lead as you write, meaning you always get a sharp point, and thus lines of even thickness. It's available in both 0.5mm and 0.3mm thicknesses, and I went for the thinner one, as it enables me to write smaller kanji. So far, it seems to work very well, and I'm not disappointed at having spent the best part of ¥500 (£4) on it.

House, in summary. Love it


I do like this vegetable drink, supposedly giving a whole day's portion of vegetables in one hit. Tastes a bit like canned tomato soup!

ただいま!First thing I find, a 24-hour hot food vending machine.

It holds "casual"(!) frozen foods like chips and fried chicken, and as you press the button it must defrost it and pop it out. Everything costs ¥350 or about £2.75. This machine was at a service area on the motorway, but I wonder if I'll see them popping up in other places. Might have to try something next time...

“Without heart we would be mere machines”

The new Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

571bhp, 0-60 in 3.8s. Extras including a £5k B&O stereo, yours for a cool £180k.

What are Microsoft saying with this ad?

"We mark all your email as spam, so you don't have to waste time reading it."

Tux and Quake III

Suppose there's no denying where my allegiance lay prior to my first Mac. Tux guarding my favourite game of the time.

Cool Nokias from the past

Found two of my old Nokia phones in the loft; the 8110 'banana phone' and the 7110 with slide/WAP. They were so cool!

London Underground find it necessary to remind everybody about good manners

My eyes! They bleed!

Well okay, I exaggerated a bit. But today I went to my eye doctor for my forth visit about my always-dry left eye, and again like the first time I went he gave me the dreaded 'dry eye' test. It's so uncomfortable! They start by telling you they're going to put drops in your eyes that will make your eyes hurt, and thus make you cry. And then if that's not bad enough they get paper strips and hang them over your bottom eyelids. Not pleasant.

If you look closely you can see that my left eye has released 16mm of tears, whereas my right eye is at 34mm; more than double! But on my first visit a few months ago my left eye produced even less, so at least it seems slightly better than it was. And certainly my left eye hasn't been quite so dry throughout the day recently.

Wooden air conditioner

It was my first time to see a wooden-cased air conditioner this afternoon while clearing out an old apartment. As you can see in the photos it's a Mitsubishi unit, and according to a PDF I found online (you can see a segment of it as the last photo) it was made in 1982. I love the wired "micro computer" remote control.

Hip cushion (complete with thong!)

Yes, you read that right. Wouldn't you love to bury your head in this cushion? Stimulating (according to the label) and yours for just 998 yen (about £6.50). Just one of the many thousands of (seeminly random) products for sale in Don Quijote (ドンキホーテ) stores across the country. We were in the centre of Kobe at the time.

Enough money for a huge TV or a new MacBook Pro!

But no, I won't be buying either of those. Instead it's for a Lasik eye operation early next week.
I drew out the 310,000 yen (just over 2000 pounds) on the way home today, but I'm not relishing the thought of carrying that much cash with me to Tokyo. I'm not worried about it getting stolen; just that I might lose it or something. Guess I'd best be extra careful with my bag!
Hoping for a good result from the op, to go from about -12.5 to about -3 or so. Fingers crossed!

Having an onsen to myself for an after-lunch dip

After our Jingisukan lunch we had already planned to go for a relaxing bath in the onsen constructed inside the same building as the restaurant. As there was nobody else there in the men's bath I managed to get some photos of the bathing and changing areas. It's a very small onsen with just a single bath - and no outside bath despite initially looking like there might be - but there was a nice view from the window.
The place is called Sagirisou (さぎり荘) in Shinshushinmachi (信州新町), which is about 30 minutes south-west of Nagano city by car. It was a great day out in all, and the weather was pleasantly cool.

View from my balcony: clouds over the mountains

Late this afternoon I caught a view of some great colours and cloud formations, but I wish I had a way of capturing it as a panoramic photo. (I know, there's an app for that.)

 The raised train track going through the middle is for the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo.

“Natural” Lawson

This won't mean anything to people who aren't in Japan, but last night I passed a shop called Natural Lawson, and had to go in for a peek. Lawson (of the non-natural kind) is a chain of convenience stores (コンビニ) across Japan - possibly the second largest chain after 7-11.

 Came out with a raspberry smoothie from Sweden (smoothies, like "real" fruit juices, aren't popular and thus aren't readily available in Japan), a French grapefruit tea drink, and a bottle of Natural Lawson mineral water.

 It's pretty interesting to see this store as health food shops generally don't seem to exist in Japan, so perhaps this is paving the way for things to come.

It starts here

Let's go!