A Geek in Japan | 2008 February
Adventures of a geek living in Japan
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I've seen lines of code…

I’ve seen lines of code you people wouldn’t believe.
I’ve seen DDOS attack ships on fire off the shoulder of BIG-IP.
I watched zettabytes glittering in the darkness of my command line near the Tokyo Tower.
All those lines of code will be lost in time, like binary code in a corporation.
Time to leave… time to rule!

Tokyo Matrix

I made the image mixing a Tokyo Tower picture taken by Mechanics and an image from The Matrix.


Video game guides

Many Japanese bookstores have some shelves filled with video game guides. There are huge guides, some of them have more than one volume! Those big ones explain even the most “stupid” detail about the game. There will be a day when you need to graduate from university in order to be able to finish a game.

Lately I’m playing Super Mario Galaxy (It’s great) and some various DS games recommended by Aitor, Danny Choo and Ale/Pepino. These are some pictures I took in a huge department store in Akihabara.

librosvideojuegos akihabara videogamebooks
Those are all video game books!

librosvideojuegos akihabara videogamebooks

librosvideojuegos akihabara videogamebooks

librosvideojuegos akihabara videogamebooks


Alcoholic vending machine

This a vending machine filled with alcoholic drinks (Mostly beer). It has an electronic driver’s license reader that checks if the customer has the age of majority or not. Not all these vending machines have the driver’s license checking system, but the government wants to introduce the system in all of them. It’s a cool system, but I don’t think it will accomplish the objective for which it is supposed to be designed.


License reader detail.


Article 9 – No war

Japan “doesn’t” have an army since 1947, that’s because of what is written in the Article 9 from the new constitution designed by the USA:

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. Read original

But Japan HAS an army, in fact it has one of the most powerful armies in the world, but instead of calling it “army” they call it “Japan Self-Defense Forces”(JSDF). Where is the super-trick? Well, what they did is to create a special department inside the National Police Agency. Legally talking, the Japanese army is just a “special police”. I’m sure the Japanese National Police Agency is the police with more money in the world! In fact, only the “Self-Defense Forces” (A police department) are the 6th “army” in terms of annual expenditure in the world. They are after USA, France, UK, China and Germany. That’s a lot of money for “just a” police department, isn’t it?

article9 japaneseconstitution
“Let’s protect the Article 9″

Even having an army with guns, boats, planes and all that kind of useless stuff, they can’t shoot or attack, they can’t even defend themselves. In fact, if you think about it, they have even less power than the National Police. For example, when Mishima Yukio captured the commandant of the Ichigaya Camp, headquarters of the Eastern Command of Japan’s Self Defence Forces. They could not stop him, and they had to call the police! The army had to call the police in order to stop five civilians armed with katanas, sounds stupid right? But rules are the rules, and sometimes rules are stupid. I wonder why they don’t respect the Article 9, that it’s a nice rule instead of playing with riddles.

Isn’t it interesting that the “Self-Defense forces”, the Japanese Army, it is supposed to protect a constitution that prohibits its existence as an army. Stupid! Stupid! Stupid! But that’s not new, the world is full of stupidity, hypocrisy and irony.

I like the Article 9, the world would be better if every constitution would have a similar article and everyone would RESPECT it 100%.


In the red – 赤字 – Números rojos

I was thinking that “in the red” (English), “赤字 – red characters” (Chinese and Japanese) and “números rojos – red numbers” (Spanish); are all similar expressions which have “red” in common and they are all referred to the same concept: budget deficit. It’s interesting ¿Why most of the cultures associate the red color with negative numbers and black with positive? ¿Why red and not another color? Ockham would say that we humans associate red with danger and deficit is a dangerous, but let’s explore other ways to think about the red-deficit relationship.

At the beginning of the first millennium some Chinese mathematicians wrote a book called “The Nine Chapter on the Mathematical Art”. It was the first book in the history with a consistent explanation on how to calculate using negative numbers.

The begining of the first book ever that explained the idea and use of negative numbers

In this book they explained a system to operate using negative numbers in which the representation of the positive numbers was made using red ink and negative numbers using black ink. Nowadays is the “same” but swapped, red for negative and black for positive.

Negative numbers in black and positive numbers en red. Image from Maths.org.

Why black changed from from negative to positive? No idea, do you know why? I’ve been thinking and sometimes, at least in Japan, red is still used for “positive” things like for instance when representing candlestick charts in Japanese websites where the red bars indicate gains! What I see pretty obvious is that the colors red and black where chosen because those where the two easiest ink colors to acquire in the old times.

Chinese emblem using red ink.

In Asia they’ve been using negative numbers since 2000 years ago, in the western world we had to wait until Descartes arrived with his coordinate system in the XVII century. It was hard for us to accept the number 0, even harder was to consider negative numbers as acceptable.

If you want to learn how to add and subtract using red and black rods here and here you can find more information.

This article is an hypothesis, any comments or ideas?


Trains decorated by kids

“Odakyu” railways organized a contest to celebrate their 80th aniversary. The contest is about designing the external look for Express, Semiexpress and Local Odakyu trains; only kids from primary school can participate. It’s curious and makes me happy to see those colorful trains painted by kids traveling through the boring Tokyo gray houses and buildings. One of the winner designs is this one, and the rest you can seem them from this website.

train odakyu trenpintado tren

train odakyu trenpintado tren

train odakyu trenpintado tren