Saturday, December 20, 2008 - 1:49 am


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Friday, December 05, 2008 - 11:34 pm

It's a Physical Limit

It was 2.30am, way past my bedtime. Neuron-firing rate dropped to 4 Hz. Brainwave pattern was transiting into the theta phase. High level of adenosine was detected. I tried to ignore the signs but the warning message flashing on the terminal distracted me from what I was working on.

Standing on the balls of the feet, I reached at the tallest part of the bookshelf. There it was, a thick tome with a woven binding, covered under a thick layer of dust collected over years of disuse. Blowing off the dust jacket off the cover revealed the title "A User Guide to the Human Body (5th Edition)".

I skimmed down the table of contents, stopping at the section "Your Brain: That Chunk of Stuff in between Your Ears". Flipping to the listed page showed the technical specifications of the brain.
  • Weight: Approximately two pounds
  • Size: Varies across individuals; ranges from something between the size of a peanut or a football
  • Number of neurons: Something between a hundred and a hundred billion
  • Temperature for optimum performance: 37゜C
These were but just a few selected points. The number of bolts and nuts required to build a brain from scratch was written in detail too, among other trivial stuff.

Nope. These were not what I was looking for. I needed to check the section on troubleshooting.
Q: I'm supposed to sleep two hours ago but I need to stay awake and finish some work first. There's this warning message flashing since an hour ago. I've been trying to ignore it but it's distracting. What should I do? Should I just smash the terminal?
A: Check your EEG, if it falls below 8Hz, go to bed already for the love of God. Forcing yourself to stay awake may undermine the hardware performance of your brain, or even cause the brain to switch to zombie mode Now, if that does not frighten you enough, please be informed that the warranty shall become void should the hardware be run beyond the recommended conditions (refer to section
See? Staying awake overnight was not as simple as a matter of will. It was a physical limit. And heck, I was compromising my warranty thanks to some sadistic guy who gave us an assignment which was to be submitted the next morning, by 10.

What the hell? Why 10am? Why not 5pm? I didn't have the first lesson in the morning. And why not just next Monday? This wasn't any assignment you could finish in minutes by enlisting the help your fingers and toes to do the arithmetics. These were the calculations for the designs of a hydraulic jack, the very beginning part of our project for the next six weeks. Obviously, we were screwed. And this was just the prelude to a worse nightmare that is to come.

Just a little bit more. Damn. I hate "Machine Design and Drawing".

Tuesday, December 02, 2008 - 12:51 am

A Cocoon in the City

No work last Saturday; it was a long weekend indeed. Despite the sunny weather out there, this is the season when pulling yourself out of the bed proves to be a major feat. I'm so proud of myself for being discipline enough to wake up early, well, after a couple of hours' struggling. So, it was no early than noon that I eventually got ready to go out before I rot in the suffocating room (Nowadays, I wonder if I'm claustrophobic).

Usual photo session. I had a couple of places in mind but somehow, I wasn't in the mood to travel far. Besides, I had to drop by at Bic Camera. So Shinjuku it was. After grabbing an ND filter (which sadly is yet to make its debut, so more on that some other time) at Bic Camera for my Tammy 17-50, I took a stroll in the west area of the station. Then, it caught my attention. Yes, one of the strangest buildings I've seen in Japan (if you don't consider the black pyramid next to Tokyo Tower). To some, it may look like a monolithic phallic monument. To me, it resembled some kind of monster cocoon from the Ultraman series.

Oh, it is the Cocoon Tower, duh!

Coccoon Tower

The first time the building caught my attention was during a trip to the observatory in the Tokyo metropolitan office building a few blocks away. Frankly, I was ignorant of the fact that the building was a recent addition to the already packed metropolitan district - as recent as last summer. In fact, the official opening was on last October.

Oh well. So we've got another high rise building in Shinjuku. What's new?

Hey, don't miss the point here. It's a piece of artwork, don't you think so? To put it curtly, it's a strange design. A subtle way of rephrasing that, would be "futuristic". It was hard to find a spot in the crowded district to take a shot at the structure in full. So just check out their official website for a photo of it. Simply speaking, it's a gigantic cocoon with a gigantic ball (or is it a dome?). Ah, pardon my lack of vocabulary.

Now, this building was designed by Tange Associates. Though it wasn't by Tange Kenzo himself, I must say that this building is second to none of his other works.

Peeping out of the Stairwell

So, what purpose does this cocoon serve? Believe it or not, it houses three vocational schools: Tokyo Mode Gakuen (東京モード学園), HAL (ハル東京) and Shuto Ikou (首都医校). The former two specializes in designing, and the latter, medistry.

Whoa, a 204-meter tall 50-story monolith as vocational schools... I wonder what justifies that...

Sunday, November 23, 2008 - 10:00 pm


Down there at Flickr's homepage, there's this section called "Explore". (You'd know what I mean if you're a Flickrite.) I had no idea what the hell it was. All I knew was if you click on it, it'd take you to some page called "Explore" (duh), where you can spend hours browsing through tonnes and tonnes of interesting photos. Obviously, someone, somehow, keeps track of all those photos and decides if they're interesting enough to be showcased on this page. That's all I knew all these while, despite having an active Flickr account since more than a year ago.

Alright, I'm a slow learner...

But two days ago, I eventually learned more about this interestingness thingy, when I stumbled upon Big Huge Labs. It hosts a number of cool Flickr toys developed by some generous folks. And one of the gadgets, Scout, has become my favourite.
Scout: Find your photographs in Flickr Explore
it says.

At that point, I still had no idea about Flickr Explore. But I gave it a try anyway. Then, voila! It returned two results.

I... what(?)... have two photos on Explore? Now, that's interesting!

This photo which I took in Miyajima last summer was one of them.

Otori @ Itsukushima Jinja 厳島神社大鳥居

What's more, this photo has a ranking of #57, it said.

Then, there was this other photo I posted the other day.

Mount Fuji @ Sunset

Mt Fuji at sunset, taken at Yamanaka Lake, one of the famous Fuji Five Lakes. And this one ranked in the #40's.

Wow, that's cool. I had to find out more.

By doing a quick search, I found out that Flickr has got some kind of algorithm that figures out the interestingness of each photo uploaded everyday. No one knows how the algorithm works exactly. But common sense tells that page views, number of comments and favourites are surely part of the recipe for the interestingness algo. So, obviously the ranking changes over time, as photos get viewed, commented or faved. I learned that my Miyajima photo was once a #8. It has slipped down the rankings over time.

As for the second photo, it now ranks at #10. I've no idea how much longer it'll remain on the front page of Explore 19 November 2008. But making it into Explore certainly meant a lot. I've been wanting to take a shot of Mt Fuji from the lakes but the weather hasn't been cooperative; sunny days on weekdays but when it comes to Sundays, it's always cloudy or rainy. When the weather forecast on Tuesday predicted a stretch of sunny days, I made up my mind about making a trip down to Yamanaka Lake the very next day after the first lesson. It cost me 4000 yen and frozen fingers (it dropped to as low as -1゜C after sunset). Of course, at first it was plainly for the pleasure I derive from photography that I took the trouble going there. Nevertheless, the fact that the other Flickrites like it is a very warm encouragement.

Though I'm very well aware that there're many other photos out there that deserve better compliments. So, let's not get too lightheaded.

Anyway, just one last little publicity.

View my photos at