Yokohama Trip

Sarah wanted me to blog about our trip to Yokohama. As an early birthday treat I have taken her to stay at the Yokohama Royal Park Hotel. The hotel is beautiful and Sarah is fascinated by how helpful the staff are. We haven’t had to queue for anything as someone rushes to help us when we are picking up our key or just waiting for a lift. The room is beautiful and the view, from the 59th floor, over the city is spectacular. Sarah likes to sit on the window ledge and look down but it makes me feel a bit dizzy to do that.

So far there has been only one problem with the hotel. Guests can use a gym and health club that’s located in the same building. Sarah loves to swim and to go to the gym. But once we got here we were informed that it was for over 18s only. So we can’t use this. And much as I dream about the peace of using it by myself I wouldn’t dream of leaving Sarah on her own – even in a hotel room. Last night she managed to fall and bang her head on the floor as she thought that practicing ice skating jumps in a hotel room was a good idea…

I am not used to sharing a hotel room with a teenager. And I can’t work out what is more annoying – the endless questions or the mess. She has emptied out everything from our suitcase, including my clothes, all over the floor. There are empty water bottles, used faces wipes, hankies, pieces of paper, and wrappers scattered over the room. When I went to use the shower I noticed that her coat was in the bath and that all her toiletries were lying around. And I’ve just noticed that she has spilt make-up all over the leather chair and the TV cabinet!

And as for the questions. Here are a few that I have been asked this morning:

  • Where is the nail place?
  • Do you think they’ll be able to do my nails?
  • Can I get more make-up?
  • Will it cover my spots?
  • Do I have more spots that yesterday?
  • Is make-up good for your skin?
  • But surely some make-up must be good for your skin?
  • Why don’t you have spots?
  • What’s a hormone?
  • Could you make money from your boobs?

I’m was going to tell her that I wouldn’t answer any more questions. But I know if I try to do that she’ll just say “why” over and over until I give in and answer.

2 Responses to “Yokohama Trip”

  1. sarah mcdowell (karens wee sis) Says:

    Why are you not as thin as me?

    i would neva say dat u must have made a mistake i always go on about ma wait i would neva dream of sayin dat 2 family 🙁 loveeeyouuu 🙂 x0x

  2. karen Says:

    I have removed the offending question. I could easily have misheard or misunderstood. You were probably talking about Jordan at the time. Hard to remember as you asked so many questions!

    Love you too 🙂

Small Fork

Sarah wasn’t happy with just one blog post. She wants me to write about her day out.

Sarah can’t use chopsticks. This doesn’t usually cause a problem as most restaurants are able to provide forks. Tonight I wanted to eat tonkatsu. When our meal arrived I realised that Sarah needed a fork and I asked for one. The waitress rushed away and about five minutes later came back with an apology.

They didn’t have any dinner forks. They only had dessert forks. I told her it was fine and she came back with the little fork and presented it to Sarah on a little plate. Sarah looked horrified and I must admit when I was told it would be a little fork I wasn’t expecting anything quite so small. I managed to stop Sarah from having a hissy fit by telling her that she looked very elegant using such a little fork.

The questions Sarah asked whilst I was writing those few sentences:

  • How do you use that computer?
  • What’s a Japanese keyboard?
  • What’s that light that keeps flashing?
  • What could it actually be?
  • Is it a thing for planes or something?
  • Do you get robes?
  • Do you get dressing gowns?
  • What was that noise?
  • Was that a bird?
  • What is that flipping light?
  • Why is not happening now that I’m sitting here?

8 Responses to “Small Fork”

  1. Alan in Belfast Says:

    So what is with the light?

  2. karen Says:

    It was lightning. The hotel has a large window and every so often Sarah could see a flash. She tried watching for it and got really annoyed when it didn’t seem to have a regular pattern.

  3. Alan in Belfast Says:

    Simple enough really.

    While UK mainland has had snow and fierce gales, NI has enjoyed sunshine and a few showers1

  4. karen Says:

    Not that Sarah believed me about the lightning. She has never seen lightning without rain before. She suggested a lighthouse (actually she suggested “you know one of those things that sits in a rock out to sea and spins”), an ambulance, something to guide planes, a camera flash, and workmen. Good to know that she thinks an ambulance can light up a room on the 59th floor of a tower…

    Of course when she asked Marty tonight, and he hadn’t even been in the hotel, she believed him when he said it was lightning.

  5. Norwin Says:

    And I thought that you’d be relaxing for a few days to psych yourself up to Andrew Wilson!
    Will the two of them be there together?
    May the force be with you…

  6. karen Says:

    They won’t be here together. One set of guests leaves on Friday morning and then Andrew arrives on Saturday morning.

    We will have a guest overlap though – but nothing as scary as the concept of Andrew and Sarah in my small apartment together.

  7. sarah mcdowell (karens wee sis) Says:

    hiya karen well i didnt no it was lighting becus it was blue n der was workmen below wif lights so a faught it was dem lol.cant wait to go bk to japan it was amazin n so was da hotel thanks karen n marty.

  8. karen Says:

    Glad you had a good time. The hotel was lovely – even with the lightning 🙂

Sick in Japan

All my visitors are sick. Tom has a head cold that looks like it may become flu. Sarah has some sort of tummy ache and my Mum threw up three times on the way back from the train station. We were really worried that she was going to vomit on the train as we have no clue what to do if that happens.

3 Responses to “Sick in Japan”

  1. Endrew Says:

    Bummer! 🙁 I hope everyone is all feeling better (or on a plane back here, either works for me) before I arrive 🙂

  2. karen Says:

    Tom’s cold hasn’t become flu. And the other two are fine again. But knowing your luck one of them will give me the plague to pass onto you when you get here 🙂

  3. sarah mcdowell (karens wee sis) Says:

    regan andrew! ma dad give it 2 karen so u probz get it 😛

Thinking About Perl

I’m thinking about Perl related things tonight. I’ve recently joined TPF and volunteered to be part of the crew at YAPC::Asia. I’m considering submitting a talk for YAPC::NA as they have extended the deadline.

I am not coming up with any decent talk ideas this year. I’ve been reading a lot about organisations and communities and considered putting together a semi-serious talk called “The Bluffers Guide to the Perl Community” – but I can’t decide if anyone is interested in organisational theory and whether I want to put together a talk that will need to use humour to get the point across. I also considered writing something about the reasons why we hate managers but really need them – this would be based on the writings on Charles Handy and an analysis of the sort of people who are involved in open source projects.

Hopefully I get inspired soon.

St. Patrick's Day in Tokyo

I don’t think I have ever been to see a St. Patrick’s Day parade before today. Growing up in Belfast everything connected with being British / Irish was political. And if there were parades I wasn’t taken to see them.

Flags blowing over Omotesando Dori

Last year Marty walked in the Tokyo parade but I missed it as I was back in Northern Ireland. I have family here at the minute and we decided it would be fun to go out and see what the Irish are doing in Tokyo. I found the whole thing slightly weird as it was an odd mixture of Irish, Japanese, American, and the colour green. My favourite part was watching the Irish Wolfhound society. I have no idea where anyone could afford to live in Tokyo with room for a dog that size.

Irish Wolfhounds in Tokyo St. Patrick’s Day Parade

There were also parts that I just didn’t understand and I still can’t work out exactly what the Irish connection was.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

3 Responses to “St. Patrick’s Day in Tokyo”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    Pittsburgh is really big on St. Patrick’s Day too, with a big parade and pub crawls and events that last for at least 24 hours straight. Next year I’ll have to go to the parade and get some pictures.
    That last picture is…puzzling.

  2. karen Says:

    I’ve been told that the creature in the last picture is a pink rabbit. But I have no idea what the connection between Ireland and a pink rabbit is.

  3. Khaos » Blog Archive » St. Patrick’s Day, Japan Says:

    […] beef and cabbage.  Last year I attended my first St. Patrick’s Day parade – though this was in Tokyo.  This year Marty took the day off work and we went for a walk.  We won’t be eating […]

What Does Handsome Mean?

I was reading some Japanese today in which a girl described her friend’s family. It was all really normal until I got to the line “your Dad is handsome”. I don’t think I have ever told a female friend that her Dad was handsome. At first I thought it was because the word seems old-fashioned but I had difficultly thinking of a more modern word. My teacher suggested “good-looking” or “attractive” but both these seemed to be a strange way to describe a friend’s Dad. I realised that the problem had to do with sexual connotations and how I think a female friend would react if she thought I found her father attractive.

As a teenager I would have avoided describing anyone’s family members in any way that would have made my friends think that I found either their brothers or Dads attractive. Children don’t like to think of members of their family as sexual and even some adults don’t cope well with the concept. And I certainly wouldn’t have wanted anyone to think I was only her friend because I thought her brother was hot.

In Japan the adjective handsome does not imply that the person is sexually attractive and refers only to the person having a pleasing or dignified appearance. My teacher assumed that the meanings would be identical because the Japanese word is a loan-word taken from English.

I wonder if I think the word means more than that because I associate it with the “handsome prince” in fairy tales who goes on to become the heroine’s lover or is at least someone who is desired?

2 Responses to “What Does Handsome Mean?”

  1. Tatsuhiko Miyagawa Says:

    Handsome is definitely an old word, but your teacher is correct that it just means “good-looking”. And I agree that describing your friends’ family member as hot/handsome/good-looking is weird. We rarely do that…

  2. Jessica Marie Says:

    I agree; handsome is a word I’ve heard only my grandmother use to describe my grandfather, so I’ve always thought it was an old-fashioned word for good-looking.
    Now that I think about it, there was in high school a boy who had an exceptionally good-looking father, but we only talked about it amongst girls.

Terrible Tune

I wish that I had never heard the song “Horse It Into Ya Cynthia”. I want to forget that it ever existed. This shouldn’t be that hard to do – I never listen to the song and I’m not around people who sing it.

Earlier today I was cleaning out the bins in the kitchen. Normally I don’t clean them both at the same time but today both were empty. When I moved them I noticed that one had a blue label on the back. I wish I had never seen it as it wasn’t a label but rather a blue post-it note. This post-it note had the words “Horse it into ya Cynthia” written on it and the number 8.

Last year Marty and I invited a friend to come and stay with us for a couple of weeks. And how does he repay us? By sticking little post-it notes under the chairs, under the table, on the bookshelves, in kitchen cupboards, and who knows where else to remind me of one of the most dreadful songs ever written.

My day will come.

7 Responses to “Terrible Tune”

  1. Alan in Belfast Says:

    Well done on getting him started. From the moment your post mentioned hiding post-its, I knew who’d be behind the “friend” link.

    A trick we used to play in work too.

    Now, he’s away from his desk all week … I wonder what we could get up to! Now, where is that pad of post-its?

  2. Geoff!! Says:

    That’s OK – I’ve been pestering him with the Levan Polkka ^_^

    Especially the Vocaloid “Hatsune Miku” version… now maybe I should hide a few leeks around his desk at work…

  3. karen Says:

    I don’t know that version – I’ll have to look it up. I still like the Holly Dolly version. Much better than that “horse” song.

  4. Norwin Says:

    I’m shocked and apalled Karen! What kind of terrible people do you invite to stay with you 🙂

  5. karen Says:

    People who like to mess around…

  6. Norwin Says:

    Just wait until you see what kind of songs Sarah will leave for you. It’ll be that horrible pop music that those young people listen to!!

  7. karen Says:

    Sarah isn’t really into music. It’s a bit odd. She does go to concerts as I know she went to some Clubland thing at New Year and to hear 50 Cent and Gwen Stefani but she doesn’t play it or sing it.

    So, I have heard no horrible pop music. What I have heard was the score to Enchanted which Sarah and I went to see. And I’ve been driving her mad singing the songs from it. Sarah is truly appalled that I only have to hear a song once or twice and can then sing it.

OSDC Taiwan - Sold Out

I have spent this afternoon looking for flights. And I was just about to book flights to Taiwan when I decided to check the registration for the OSDC. I’m glad I didn’t book the flights first because the conference is sold out. One less place to go to this year!

It does mean that I am now going to go and register for the other conferences I am planning to attend before I get the flights.

Problems with Managing Volunteers

I am reading Gods of Management by Charles Handy. I am just over half way through and so far I have found it both fascinating and depressing. He adequately highlights the differences in culture within organisations and then complicates this by pointing out that knowledge of the culture surrounding the organisation, such as the country it’s in, is also important.

I have just read a section on voluntary organisations:

“…it needs to be emphasised that voluntary groups are always harder to run well than more ordinary organisations.”

He describes three different types of voluntary cultures and the problems that they face. The first type of organisation is fellowship. In the Perl community an example would be a Perl Mongers’ group. It’s a group of people who come together for mutual support and enjoyment. Anyone is welcome to join and management would never be spoken of – even though there is management involved in organising meetings and the group may have a leader.

The second type is service. This happens when people realise that it isn’t enough to organise meetings and that more community needs could be met. It gives rise to structured organisations like The Perl Foundation. This is a natural progression but can be a problematic one. The service will be run much more like a standard company as it needs to be managed, controlled and directed.

Why is this problematic?

Handy states that the biggest problem is a change in ethos. Anyone was not only allowed to take part in the fellowship – they were encouraged to do so. But the service only wants specific people with specific skills. In the case of Perl anyone can join the Perl Mongers but not everyone can become part of The Perl Foundation.

The Perl Foundation is looking for new members and I am applying for the role of Steering Committee Chair. Over the next few weeks I will discover whether I have the specific skills required to manage a group of culturally diverse volunteers.

3 Responses to “Problems with Managing Volunteers”

  1. Simon Says:

    What’s the third type? Or should I go read the book? 🙂

  2. Stray Taoist Says:

    If they have any sense, they will give you the job.

  3. karen Says:

    He calls the third type “campaigning” – an organisation that seeks to raise awareness of a cause or to fight for peace or something equally worthy. These organisations are led rather than managed and they again embrace all who want to be involved. They require a very personal and forceful leadership, a person who can clearly articulate what the movement stands for.

    There is a really nice paragraph about how the three voluntary organisation types exist within a church but this loses impact out of context of the rest of the book.

    Don’t buy it. I’ll lend it to you when you are next up in Tokyo.

Packed Trains

I don’t know if I will ever get used to how full trains get during rush hour. At one point this evening, with the press of people, I wasn’t able to keep both feet on the ground. I had to fight to stay standing as everyone around me was much bigger.

I’ve often wondered what would happen if the train stopped suddenly. Tonight at Shinjuku something got stuck in the door. The train started forwarded for a couple of seconds and then appeared to stop dead. Most people managed to stay standing with only one person in the carriage falling over. Thankfully it wasn’t me.

One Response to “Packed Trains”

  1. Simon Says:

    Occasionally my language teacher will go off on long monologues, and he did one on Monday that went like this:

    “You know I used to work for a company in Tokyo? You’d never imagine it now looking at me. But I did, back in the bubble era. I used to get on the commuter trains in the morning with everyone else. You’ve seen the railway attendants pushing people onto the trains, right? In those days, they also had to pull people out. People were so tightly crammed in that someone had to pull them off the train as well as pack them in. So one day, I thought I’d try it. You know what I did, right? I just picked my feet up, to see if I’d fall over. I didn’t fall over. I just stood there supported by everyone else as the train took me into work. That’s when I decided to get out of Tokyo.”

    That kind of thing is why I go to that language teacher. 🙂

What am I missing?

I wanted to find a picture to use on my blog. I looked on flickr as I remembered that they allowed people to use Creative Commons’ licenses. But I can’t find a picture I can use. Everything I looked at was using an attribution license. The license is worded as follows:

Attribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

So where on flickr do the licensors state how you should make the attribution?

2 Responses to “What am I missing?”

  1. Marcus Ramberg Says:

    I think the common way to attribute a photographer is to write photo by somewhere on the page where the photo is used. At least that would make me happy wrt to my Creative Commons Attribution/Non-Commercial photos.

  2. Tony Says:

    Each photograph should say in the Additional Information section either “All rights reserved” or “Some rights reserved”. In the latter cases that text will be a link to whichever Creative Commons license is in force.

    You can also browse by license at


I spent hours at the end of last week trying to translate a Japanese children’s story. Tonight I am trying to write one. I decided to pick something vaguely Irish to write about though it took a while to work out what story to tell. My first thought was of the legend of Finn MacCool. This was never told to me as a proper story but more as a series of snippets – “built the Giant’s Causeway”, “created the Isle of Man” – and neither of these scenarios inspired me. In the end I decided to write a short story based on a Leprechaun I have called Seamus. This pulls in a variety of elements from Leprechaun stories including a pot of gold and a red ribbon. So far I have only managed three sentences in Japanese. I need to finish this by Tuesday morning.

2 Responses to “Homework”

  1. Geoff! Says:

    Let me know how you get on! I’m sure Neil will be keen to have it read to him… he likes “hungry catepillar” both translated and in Japanese.

    Of course, you’ll have to illustrate too (in the local style, of course)!

  2. karen Says:

    I haven’t managed to finish yet – though I did get some new words today from my teacher. I now know the word for “farmer” which was needed for the story.

    We decided it was better than おじいさん as they are usually good, kind men in Japanese stories and not greedy money grabbing leprechaun kidnappers.