Monday, December 30, 2013


In Glasgow, the sunshine capitol of Europe, global warming has caused the Mediterranean cafe culture to take off big time.

And that's not all that is blue...


Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Origami

And the turkey was nice too.

It is, however, very dark in Scotland at this time of year.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

People sheeple

Much enjoying the improved sheep density in Ole Blighty compared to Japan, although we have yet to eat any of them, because the relatives have naturally been mostly serving fatted calves.


Thursday, December 12, 2013


The people came and packed up our stuff and took it all away - in 143 packages.


Getting ready to eject the sofa out the window and over the balcony; a standard procedure in Japan.

Wrapping a tandem

This being Japan the level of service and organisation was extraordinary.

They were amused by the number of unicycles, bicycles and tandems, and quantity of bicycle parts so it was fitting that the last package, no. 143 was Tandem Bicycle (blue). Naturally we have another tandem tucked away in our check-in baggage. Wouldn't do to be without any tandems at all for 6 whole weeks!

Don't know what Pickfords are like at the UK end, but at this end they were just as careful as you'd expect a normal Japanese moving crew to be.. (super-careful).

What now, you are thinking? This is Japan! Now we CLEAN!


Saturday, December 7, 2013

MAC Excess

It's a tough life working for JAMSTEC. Here's my desk on our last day.

MAC excess

By the third from last purchase, when we were told to buy new computers if ours were more than 3 years old, because there was too much money to spend, I'd run out of good names and called my new Mac Pro "MACXS". The only mitigating circumstance is that these are the sum total of both our computers. The oldest dates from 2008, which is a long time in PC world, but Macs almost all just keep looking new. One is broken beyond repair and another so well used that it is held together with string and sticky tape. But another only has a dodgy trackpad, and the iMac's disk blew up a few weeks ago; we would have got that fixed if we were staying.

So what happens to all these computers now? Usually when someone leaves, precisely nothing happens. We have been there longer than almost everyone, and since our research was so fundable, we had three large budgets we had to help spend on our really rather cheap science. Computers and travel are what we bought. So I think we have accumulated more than average. We have at least got someone in another program interested in taking the latest two laptops. But I don't hold out much chance of the Mac Pros going to a good home - everyone will want the new style tiny black desktop thingie... I prefer the old one, as the modularity was very useful for spending up budget. Buy a base model one year and then ramp up the disks, RAM, graphics whenever the budget demanded to be spent. If only the motherboard could also have bee upgraded...

Things are going to be different now! We have a beautiful second hand laptop from Akihabara with his'n'hers partitions.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

New website!

hachinamngu (1 of 1)
Inspired by the blue skies which are the norm for eastern Japan at this time of year, I started work on our new website this week – seems quite good. I tried a couple of others, but they mostly seem focussed towards simple display of piccies rather than useful things like uploading and linking to PDFs. Next step is to try to get the blog posts to forward to James' Empty Blog - so if you see a few weird things there in the next few days, that will be our experimentation!


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Blue skies research

Since that was (sniffle) the last Japanese mountain adventure ever, and soon we are off to do blue skies research in the land of famously cloudy skies, here are some unashamedly gratuitous bonus blue skies!!



Saturday, November 9, 2013


The aim of the day was climbing Akadake, Yatsugatake's highest peak. With Fuji-san visible from early morning, we set off expectant of blue skies.

Deciduous leaves were already gone at this altitude, leaving the berries to flaunt their red-ness against the sky.
As it was a public holiday (exercise day, no less), there were plenty of stumbling grockels around. Knowing the fun scrambling that lay ahead, we felt quite sorry for one woman, when her legs started to visibly shake before the first ladder of the day. But she carried on, so I expect she followed the all white circles all the way to the top, eventually.
The top is, of course a bit wrecked, with some bits of concrete shrine things and a hut just over the summit.
With plenty of people milling about on the top of Akadake, we didn't hang about for long.
Over the other side of the mountain, the far end of the Yatsugatake range was visible...that somewhat Fuji-san shaped mountain in the distance is the last peak. We once spent several days walking the ridge the other way from that end, but that time we didn't make it to Akadake, due to being blown off the mountain by a blizzard.
After coffee at the second hut over the summit, it was a romp through changing seasons, 1500m down the valley.
We had a bath at the hut next to the bus stop before catching the public transport home.


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Importance of Verticality

Another view of Yatsugatake, for those who have forgotten the story so far (sorry for the delay in posting).

There was a hut just over the peak, where we had stayed before,
but from the peak we could see in the distance another hut so we decided it was our goal for the night. It took only about 90mins to get there. I'm not very good at taking level photographs (but I note that neither are some great artiste photographers), but how come the people are vertical while the hut is not? None of my camera lenses have that much distortion!
The truth became very clear when I tried to walk up the little corridor inside the hut and fell over instead. The hut was vertically challenged!
Actually most people seemed to not have as much of a problem walking straight in a crooked hut, and perhaps some didn't even notice. There was a newish looking diagonal wire on the outside of the hut. Perhaps it was helping slow down the rate of slide, but it seemed likely that the ground was moving under the hut, causing it to tip down the mountainside.
Actually, at altitude, I quite like to have my head well above my feet while sleeping, so it was quite comfortable in some respects. In others it was not so good, as the sleeping theory of this hut was access to the upper sleeping floor from one end, with everyone sleeping in a row, such that everyone further from the door had to step over your body when they wanted the toilet in the night.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

blue skies weather magic

It has been the wettest October in Yokohama since 2004 with a series of typhoons trundling by (394mm so far - footling British storms take note). Even when they don't really hit, the typhoons disturb the weather forecast, leading us to think that the typhoon forecast and weather forecast are not that well integrated. But the Japanese Met. Agency fixed it for everyone to enjoy the October public holiday that is specially set aside for exercise. A week in advance, the forecast was set fair, and so it proved to be! We headed for Yatsugatake.

Leaves were turning around 1500m.
Kita alps in the distance.
The plan had been for a quick up and down from the west, with an overnight on the top, but, for the first time ever when taking a trip to the mountains, we got on the wrong train, and so missed the bus. The plan was quickly changed to involve a longer walk from the south.
This was the first peak we got to, with more of Yatsugatake (it means 8 peaks!), behind James. Last time we came here, all we could see was cloud.
Yatsugatake view!
More Yatsugatake, and note some examples of the distinctive windily shaped trees. Not much wind this time though.


Sunday, October 27, 2013


After the hornet plague came the typhoon plague. Two at once yesterday.

Two typhoons
The morning after the typhoon, everyone is busy repairing their houses.
The finished home is certainly worth all the work. I wonder if we computer modellers could learn something from this intricate grid system. There seems to be a row of knots every 5 or 6 rows.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

Battle of the predators

It was starting to cool a little in early September and I braved a run to work. To wile away the time I decided to count hornets and, in about 45 minutes, got to 29. In the weeks that followed the numbers dwindled. It was the year of the plague of hornets, but now it is almost all over. New predators have arisen!

Hornets like to use the human-made paths in the thick forest vegetation. They are kind of like hornet motorways. A couple of weeks ago, suspended over such a path at Jufukuji temple were a series of webs of which this was one.

Jufukuji - spider eats hornet
Yes - it is a spider sucking out the insides of a neatly wrapped hornet. Now we know why the thread in their webs is so ridiculously tough - it's to make the most of the once-in-a-decade hornet bonanza!

Elsewhere smaller spiders were just posing attractively over gravestones, eager to attract boyfriends for supper.
Jufukuji - spider


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Sasuke Inari

Red for Shinto. Sasuke Inari Shrine is all about a man who saw a fox...

Sasuke Inari
And here are some of the foxes.
sasuke inari
Sasuke Inari


Monday, October 21, 2013

Zeniaraibenten - the church of mammon

Zeniaraibenten is one of the most visited shrines in Kamakura.

The reason is that if you wash your money in the stream in the cave, you are sure to get very rich. The origami cranes hanging down from the roof of the cave presumably add to the likelihood of increased wealth and happiness.
In a similar vein, it can surely do no harm to worship in clothing emblazoned with the emblem by a large and prosperous company.
The fish in the ponds are suitably golden.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Lost in translation? No guns in 'bux, Kamakura stylee.

A while ago it was in the news that Starbucks in the USA is encouraging people to not bring guns into their shops. But is the intention that the weapons are left propped up by the door while their owner relaxes over a cuppa inside? Behind the sign asking us to please not lean our tandem against the wall are Japanese Archery bow and arrows, owner nowhere in sight.



Saturday, October 19, 2013

Kamakura characters

James and the god of happiness:

James and Amida Buddha:


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