Category Archives: Miscellaneous

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Icon font

A Japanese designer called Yūgo Kajiwara (梶原勇吾) of Creative Studio Condense has just released an icon font called CONDENSEicon that looks like it would be quite useful for web application developers and web designers. The font is available in TrueType, OpenType, WOFF and EOT formats, so it can easily be embedded in web pages. Best of all, it’s freeware. Here’s the licence text: 営利、非営利問わず自由に使用できます。但し、再配布は禁止しています。また、使用上のトラブルに関しては、全て無保証とさせていただきます。 And here’s an English translation: This font is free for personal and commercial use, but may not be redistributed. There is absolutely no warranty that use of this font will be error-free.

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The world’s most difficult sudoku puzzle

Finnish mathematician Arto Inkala recently claimed to have created the world’s hardest Sudoku puzzle. Based on the number of deductions that need to be made to fill in a single cell, this puzzle achieves a difficulty rating of 11 stars, compared with five stars for the average newspaper sudoku. Can you crack it? Have a go. If you get stuck — or rather, when you get stuck — just paste the following grid into Bill DuPree’s sudoku solver, which will solve it for you in a fraction of a second. Thanks, Bill! 8 . . . . . . . . . . 3 6 . . . . . . 7 . . 9 . 2 . . . 5 . . . 7 . . . . . . . 4 5 7 . . . . . 1 . . . 3 . . . 1 . . . . 6 8 . . 8 5 . . . 1 . . 9 . . . . 4 . . Incidentally, if you install Bill’s software on your [More…]

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The song Ue o muite arukō (上を向いて歩こう) by Kyū Sakamoto (坂本 九) was given the rather cheerful title of “Sukiyaki” when released in the West back in the early 1960s. The title actually means “I’ll look up as I walk”, and the song explains that this is because the singer doesn’t want to let his tears of sorrow fall to the ground. This stoical attitude to misfortune resonated strongly with the Japanese as they came to terms with last year’s disastrous earthquake and the events that followed. For example, in April the drinks manufacturer Suntory bought up advertising time on TV to lift people’s spirits with recordings of two Sakamoto songs sung by various celebrities who had appeared in Suntory adverts in the past. A rendering of Ue o muite arukō by artists including Tommy Lee Jones can still be seen on YouTube. But here’s the original version: Japanese Pronunciation Translation 上を向いて歩こう Ue o muite arukō I’ll look up as I walk 涙がこぼれないように Namida ga koborenai yō ni So the tears won’t fall 思い出す春の日 Omoidasu haru no hi As I remember those days in spring [More…]

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QR code failure

QR codes are continuing to grow in popularity across Europe and the United States, according to a report by 3G Vision (Global Growth in Mobile Barcode Usage – Q2 / 2011). I’ve been suggesting for a long time that it might be worth adding one when you get your business card translated into Japanese. Well now it seems that you should maybe have one on your English business card already. On a related note, last weekend’s newspaper carried an advert for the 20th anniversary edition of Nirvana’s groundbreaking album Nevermind: It might not look like it, but that yellow blob at the bottom right is a QR code. Unfortunately the designers of this advert have mangled the thing up so much that it’s unlikely anyone will be able to scan it successfully. The inventors of QR codes (a Japanese company called Denso Wave) clearly state in their specifications that codes should be surrounded by a clear margin of at least four dot-widths (or “modules”). Without this margin, your scanner will probably be unable to locate the QR code at all, [More…]

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Moving house (part 2)

We have now arranged the purchase of another house in Exeter. Unfortunately we won’t be able to move in before the end of the temporary lease on the house where we are currently staying. So from Thursday 25th August, we will have another temporary address, which is as follows: 48 Polsloe Road Exeter EX1 2DS If you need to contact me by telephone, please use the mobile number: +44 (0)754 683 1591.

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Inside the Hiroshima Peace Memorial

One of the unmistakable features of the Hiroshima skyline is the shattered remains of the dome structure at the top of what used to be known as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. This building lies almost directly at the hypocentre of the atomic explosion that devastated much of the city 66 years ago yesterday (August 6th 1945). Today, the locals call it the A-bomb dome (原爆ドーム; genbaku dōmu), although it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is officially known as the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (広島平和記念碑; Hiroshima heiwa kinenhi). The building isn’t normally open to the public, so can only be seen from the outside. However, Google Japan announced on Friday that they had added the site to Google Maps (Google 日本 Blog; Japanese only). So now you can take a virtual walk around the ruins whenever you like.

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The company hosting this website will be updating their network switches later today. As a result, this site will be temporarily offline between 23:15 and 00:45 BST tonight (22:15 and 23:45 GMT). If you’re in Japan, that means the site will be unavailable between 07:15 and 08:45 tomorrow morning (August 3rd). Apologies for any inconvenience.

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Moving house

I’ve just sold the house on Hamllin Lane where I was living for the last few years. Hopefully I will be buying another place in Exeter some time soon. In the meantime, I will be renting a property at the following address: 20 Commins Road Exeter EX1 2PZ The phone number has also changed. Assuming Virgin Media are able to hook us up tomorrow as planned, the new number will be +44 (0)1392 678269. (2/Jun/2011: The phone line is now operational.) Please update your address book.

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On May 26th 2011, a half-baked piece of EU legislation called the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 is going to become part of UK law. This means it will essentially become illegal for a website to set a cookie in your browser without your explicit consent. Unfortunately, the only reliable way for a website to store visitor preferences is by setting a cookie. So if you don’t consent to these cookies, then every time you visit a website that uses them, you will be shown a message asking you to enable cookies in your browser. This message will most likely appear on every single page, and the nagging will not stop unless and until you give permission for the site to set cookies. You may even be completely denied access to some websites until cookies are enabled. The legislators also seem to have overlooked the fact that it’s already possible for users to control the use of cookies within their own web browsers. If you need help with that, click the name of your browser in the list below: Internet Explorer Safari Firefox Google Chrome Opera [More…]

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New website

Regular visitors might have noticed that this website started looking a bit different this afternoon. Underneath the shiny new exterior, it is now running on the WordPress content management system. Hopefully this means I’ll be able to update the site a little more often than before. A few things have broken: The “portfolio” section of the old website has gone away, but I’m planning to reproduce the content of these pages as blog posts, so they will be back here soon. I’ll also get the site map back online soon. The sudoku solver tool hasn’t yet been integrated into the new site, but in the meantime I’ve set up a temporary page that you can use instead. The sudoku tool is now available at /home/sudoku-solver/. Users of older browsers like Internet Explorer 6 might experience a few problems with the new layout. Unfortunately I’m unable to run IE6 on this computer, so it’s difficult to test these things properly. If the site looks completely broken, try using a newer browser instead. If you can see anything that needs putting right, [More…]

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Header image: Banzuiin Chobei (幡随院長兵衛; 1622–1657) — the Japanese Robin Hood, who became a popular figure in Japanese literature. This image is from a ukiyoe portrait by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (歌川国芳; 1798–1861). From Wikimedia Commons.

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