Top Flickr Cameras

This is interesting:
The top camera makes and models used to take photos uploaded to Flickr

“The lists are generated automatically by periodically sampling the EXIF data from the stream of recent uploads.”

I had no idea my camera, the D50, was so popular. Of course, I feel it’s still the best DSLR for the money (I bought mine over a year ago), so it’s unsurprising other people feel the same. Shit, if I wasn’t completely happy with it, I’d switch to a different model just to not have the most popular one…
Now that I’ve invested in Nikon glass, if I were ever to lose or break my current camera body, I wouldn’t hesitate in buying another D50 – it’s currently listed for around 54,000 yen on kakaku (link to current price). That’s cheap, and it will probably get cheaper, especially after the new D80 comes out.


This is perhaps the most interesting Wikipedia entry I have ever seen: List of Unusual Deaths
Most Notable:

  • 892: Sigurd I of Orkney. Sigurd the Mighty conquered much of northern Scotland, which brought him into conflict with Maelbrigte of Moray. Sigurd defeated Maelbrigte in 892, killed him, cut off his head and strapped it to his saddle as a sign of triumph. As he rode, however, Maelbrigte’s tooth rubbed against Sigurd’s leg causing a wound which turned septic and Sigurd died of the poison.
  • 1063: King Béla I of Hungary died when his tall wooden throne collapsed due to sabotage.
  • 1327: King Edward II of England (to be later reincarnated as the Big Hominid), after being deposed and imprisoned by his Queen consort Isabella and her lover Roger Mortimer, was rumored to have been murdered by having a red-hot iron inserted into his anus.
  • 1514: György Dózsa, leader of a peasants’ revolt in the Kingdom of Hungary, was roasted alive on a white hot iron chair. His captured companions were forced to eat his flesh.
  • 1834: David Douglas, Scottish botanist, who fell in a pit trap, was crushed by a bull that fell in the same pit.
  • 1927: J.G. Parry-Thomas, a British racing driver, was decapitated by his car’s drive chain which, under duress, snapped and whipped into the cockpit. He was attempting to break his own Land speed record which he had set the previous year. Despite being killed in the attempt, he succeeded in setting a new record of 171 mph.
  • 1940: Leon Trotsky, the Soviet revolutionary leader in exile, was assassinated with an ice axe in his Mexico home. His killer, spanish born soviet agent Ramon Mercader, acquired the ice axe in Trotsky’s own office after being invited in. After receiving a brutal blow to the head, Trotsky fought and literally took a bite out of his murderer.

There seems to be a disproportionately large number of unusual deaths in ancient Hungary – sounds like it sucked to be a prominent figure then & there.

Street Legal, Jet-powered Beetle


“The engine is a General Electric Model T58-8F. This is a helicopter turboshaft engine that was converted to a jet engine by some internal modifications and a custom tailpipe. The engine spins up to 26,000 RPM (idle is 13,000 RPM), draws air at 11,000 CFM, and is rated at 1350 hp. It weighs only 300 lbm. It grows as it warms up so the engine mounts have to account for this. The mounts in the front are rubber and the back are sliding mounts on rubber. The structure holding the engine was designed using finite element analysis and is redundant. Strong, damage tolerant, and light. Second battery and fuse/relay panel on the right, halon fire system and 5 gallon dry sump tank on left. 24V starter motor is in the nose of the engine. 700 A of current goes into that motor for 20 seconds during start-up. Due to heat, must limit starts to three in one hour. Big screen is to avoid FOD (foreign object damage). Jet keeps sucking the rose out of the bud vase on the dash!”


LARK – full circle

Behold two separate gifts from two different people, one from a person who doesn’t smoke, and another from a person who… doesn’t brush?
At first I thought it genius that a tobacco company would sell a toothbrush specifically to remove tar, but the logos aren”t exactly alike.
This product (the toothbrush) is just so… Japanese, somehow, although I can’t explain it. It has something to so with the free packs of Larks they used to hand out at ski lifts, and Mickey Rourke doing commercials for them as a matador (“Speak Lark.”), but I can’t pin it down any better than that.

Sex Trafficking in Japan

An interesting article on the current state of affairs: The trafficking scourge

“Yet to paint a picture of the victims of trafficking as poor, uneducated women duped into prostitution and kept under close guard would not be completely accurate. “Most cases are not that simple,” says Ms. Fujiwara of the Polaris Project.
She tells a story of one woman from an East Asian country who had a degree from a vocational school and was making a decent living in the social welfare field, but wanted to change careers and save enough money to study in Japan. She read an advertisement for a position in a café in Tokyo that would provide her with transportation and a free place to stay. The mamasan in charge of the bar even flew from Japan to meet her and interview her in person. Although her friends said it sounded sketchy, she decided to take the job and flew to Japan.
However, she soon realized that the café where she would work was really a hostess bar. Soon after she started working, the mamasan closed the bar, citing financial troubles. She provided her with a high-interest loan, and referred her to another hostess club. But her new club required dohan, which is “dating” clients, and usually included sex. Other women working at the bar advised her to do it, as it would be “dangerous” for her to refuse.
Two years later, unable to pay off her debt, she contacted Ms. Fujiwara. She was identified as a trafficking victim, and the authorities were contacted. However, soon after, she ceased contact with Ms. Fujiwara, and her whereabouts are currently unknown. The club she worked at is still in business.”

I’ve heard a million stories like this. Fucking sad. I would say that the victims are usually aware that they are in for something like this, and choose to go anyway, which makes it no less sad.
Tobita (Google Images link), the largest red light district in Osaka, is truly a side of Japan you need to see to believe. It is one of only two areas in Osaka that I’ve been to where drug dealers are brazen enough to deal in the open. The article describes open air rooms, but when I went the girls were actually displayed behind large windows ala Amsterdam. The cops patrol the area on bicycles or on foot, but the only law enforcement I saw them doing was ticketing cars on the street (but ignoring the obviously yak ones – the local saying is that there are “as many yakuza as there are girls” in Tobita).
*note: I went to Tobita with a friend, three times over the space of 12 years to see what it was about. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to see a Japanese crack whore in a kimono, or for that matter what a Japanese cop getting paid off looks like.

Biwako Hot Dog (??????????)

This is a foodblogging post I have put off for a year and a half. The photos were waiting patiently to be edited on my desktop for all that time, and I continually ignored their pleas of “Post me! Post me!” So it is finally time for the story to be told:
A short time before encountering the Biwako Hot Dog, I wrote a post detailing the history of the Japanese fish sausage (which has turned into sort of a resource center for aspiring fish sausage makers worldwide – go read the comments!). So it was a happy coincidence that found us cruising the mountains around Lake Biwa, because the snowboarding trip we planned had been rained out. It was an absolutely miserable day, weather-wise. And the photos of death and decay on that link convey the mood we were in quite well.
The day was saved, however, by the appearance of a black and yellow kei (ultra compact 660cc class) van on the side of the road:

(click any of the images above to open a larger version)
The menu hanging off the back door of the van says:
Hot Dogs
w/wiener: 350 (yen)
w/hamburger patty: 350
w/ham: 350
Coffee: 100
Cola: 100
The photocopied papers stuck to the side windows were pretty crazy, stuff about how women are the bane of mankind and how God hates them (but men must respect them) and whatnot… The message was basically that the owner had had a hard life and gone completely batshit – we were intrigued.
The owner, an old fellow, was snoring when we walked up – classic! – and had apparently fallen asleep in the middle of preparations. He woke suddenly as we called to him and carried on with his actions exactly where he had left off, as if nothing had happened. We felt bad for waking him, and ordered three of each kind of dog. He was cool and gave us a couple extra – not many customers that day because of the crappy weather, I think.
The traditional Japanese hot dog is a hot dog purist’s worst nightmare. Even discounting the type with a hamburger patty or a slice of ham, the wiener type is sacrilege mainly because it employs fish sausage (examples here and here). Because of the use of this quite-inferior sausage, the entire experience is ruined for approximately 100% (+/-.001%) of westerners. (This is especially ironic because of the word ?? (“European style”) written on the passenger door of the van.) However, many Japanese profess to love this taste because it brings back memories of school lunches… Hey, to each his own – I sometimes yearn for the days of sloppy joes and tater tots, too.
Behold the traditional Japanese hot dog in its full glory:
What sets the real thing apart from all fish-dog wannabes is the curried cabbage shreds (prepared in the RINNAI oven seen in the photo third from the top), as well as the karashi (hot mustard) infused sauce slathered all over the top. Since the fish sausage has so little flavor (and actually the hamburger patty and “ham” were ALSO fish-based processed meat), the main flavor comes from the karashi, the cabbage, and the white bread bun. In a word: blah. However, if you ever have a chance to try this food item, it will give you a chance to taste the cafeteria youth of your Japanese friends, and in this regard, it has true cultural value (and at least it tastes better than okara, another contender for this honor)

You say tomato…

The most confusing terminology discussion I’ve ever read to the very end (because it has to do with food, of course!): If an English biscuit is an American cookie, what is an American biscuit called in England?
Hint: It’s neither a lorry, a brolly, nor a faggot.

“Fanny would never have a Spotted Dick unless it had a nice big blob of nice hot custard on it”

Run, Dick, run!

I, Couples Therapist

Recently, after returning home from work I’ve been hiking up Mt. Magata, conveniently located just down my street. Right now, the cicadas are out in full force and their incessant cries drown out the sound of my own footsteps as I ascend the paved hiking trail. The heat under the (natural, not planted!) forest canopy is quite oppressive, and the mosquitoes dive bomb at fresh meat quite mercilessly, so I usually only hike up and back down again.
Yesterday, though, I was feeling spunky, and after descending halfway down the slope I turned around and jogged another circuit up the steps. I like exercising up there because it’s basically deserted; the only time I’ve seen people other than joggers up there is in the spring, for the majestic sakura bloom. Then it becomes crowded with the drunk and merry – basically the bane of my people-hating inaka existence. So it was with great disappointment that I spotted a young couple ascending the trail as I carefully made my final descent.
As I got closer, I realized that they were high school age, and that they were fighting about something. The guy was yelling at the girl in that ear-grating, wannebe-tough Japanese guy sort of way, and my feelings of resentment at them for invading my territory gradually gave way to pity for the girl for having an asshole boyfriend. More than anything, I did not want them to ruin my mountain vibe.
So as I passed them, I said in a friendly manner, “Hey, watch out – there’s a snake at the top of the stairs!”
The girl actually bowed and thanked me politely for the heads-up, and the guy said excitedly, “let’s go check it out!”
And with that, they bolted off, all worries forgotten.
PS – The question you are burning to ask, it is not the point.

Speed Tribes

Holy shit! I just read a supercritical review of Speed Tribes! By a real Karl Taro hater!
Karl Taro does drugs! Karl Taro ineffectively mixes fact and fiction! Karl Taro BAD!!!
Now, I can see why some think the book is overrated (it was covered in both Wired and Time back in the day; it is apparently required reading in some Japanese courses back in the states). I can see how some might not agree with the subject matter. What I fail to see is how this can be considered a book not worth reading.
As for the authenticity of it – did people like the characters in his book really exist in Japan? – I assure you, they still do, and in great numbers. If that doesn’t matter, have a fun time living in that wonderful bubble you’ve created, even as you accuse others of doing the same.

Worst nightmare

I have a hole in my bottom left molar, I assume from a cavity. I thought I’d wait until I go to Bangkok to get it worked on (medical care in Bangkok is excellent and cheap), but I spent a few minutes examining it in the mirror, and I basically think the tooth is being held together by a previous filling. It probably needs to be removed, or at least I’ll need a crown.
Going to the dentist in Japan is just a major pain in the ass – they make you visit multiple times for any work, sometimes even for routine cleaning. Nam had to get a couple fillings and a cleaning a couple years ago, and she ended up going every week for three or four months!
Plus, there’s the whole thing about me being a gigantic pussy about dental work.