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And now comes the boring part

Jul. 18th, 2012 | 03:00 pm

Car crashes and surgery are very exciting and all, but after the dramatic bit, there’s this long, slow, dreadfully-boring process called recovery. With its considerably-more-tedious cousin paperwork.

The paperwork has been in the form of the clerk at the insurance company that holds the policy for the car that ran me over. The office I’ve been dealing with is in Takasaki, which is in Gunma, which is where the company that owns the car which hit me is based in. Apparently Takasaki drivers never have congestion. I’m envious.

Come to think of it, whenever I’ve been there, I’ve never encountered any congestion. Certainly never to the point where I’ve ever had to do any filtering. Maybe that’s why the guy from there never figured that there’d be more than one person in his lane. He could have taken out anyone at all—it’s just that I drew the short straw this time. It almost makes me wish that someone ahead of me had taken the hit, because then I’d have the entire incident on camera instead of just the stuff right ahead of me. But if someone else had been hit, he’d have likely been hurt considerably worse than I was, on account of all of the protective gear that I wear, which most Japanese people don’t.

So this insurance-company clerk has been calling me up and asking me about things like the company I work at and the hospital I’ve been admitted to and various things like that. She seems to have a set of preconceptions, unfortunately—for instance, she asked me whether I was working at a junior high school or a high school. I’m not sure what impression she’d gotten when I told her I worked at a company with the word “Internet” in its name. Some sort of online English-teacher services?

Eventually—and we’re talking over the course of a number of days—I think I’ve finally got her believing that working for the System Division, Service Development Department does not involve teaching anyone how to speak English. When it finally sank in, I could actually audibly hear her face go pale—suddenly the payout for lost wages got quite a lot larger than she’d thought it would have been. Especially when I told her the quite-prestigious address of the company I work at.

Enough about paperwork, though.

I’ve been eased into some measure of physiotherapy. When I came out of that horrible night after the operation, my left foot was, more-or-less, absent, at least as far as I was concerned. I mean, it was still yelling pain at me, in an unuseful way, but otherwise it had no feeling, no movement, and was about the size and color of a beef liver.

My dressings, having started out loose, had on account of the ridiculous swelling which had been happening, become ridiculously tight, so that my entire leg looked like an Ace-bandage sausage. Fortunately, a doctor and a retinue of assistants stopped by my bed in the morning to change the dressings. While they were at it, I snapped a picture of my naked leg just because of the staggering number of staples in it.

You can thank me later for waiting until they’d cleaned all of the blood off the leg before taking that picture. I counted 57 staples there. The drain was quite a nice touch too—I managed to fill up two bottles of blood the first night, one bottle the next day, then half a bottle the next two days. Yuk. But I understand the purpose.

There are so many incisions because the alternative would have been to make one gigantic incision going all the way down my leg, and as the surgeon explained to me, We’re Smarter Than That These days. There’s one incision to install the front plate and a selection of screws to hold it in place, another incision to install the rear plate and a selection of screws to hold that in place, two small incisions for endoscopic cameras so he can see exactly what’s going on in there without to have things wide open, and the lower incision to finish installing the bolts for the large, main plate.

They kept me basically nonstop in bed for the next few days after the operation. I was literally tied to the bed—the drip stand kept me tied to one side, and the drain from the operation site kept me tied to the other. On Monday they finally finished pumping IV drugs into me, and on Tuesday they finally decided to take out the drain. Today, they decided that the drain entrance had cleared up enough that they only need cover it up with a bit of plastic bandage.

So now even though I’m the one with the worst injuries in the room I’m staying in, I have the least amount of dressing. I guess that’s because my “cast” is mostly internal, and everything external is just by way of incisions to install the cast.

Yesterday they finally pushed me out of bed, by way of forcing me to have a seat in a wheelchair while eating lunch, instead of doing so comfortably (okay, not so comfortably) in bed. I hadn’t quite figured out how much I dared bend my knee, for example, so I was still keeping my leg ruler-straight in the wheelchair which is made for, let’s not put too fine a point on it, people with much shorter legs than mine. Then I brushed my teeth and went to the bathroom. Let me tell you, eating lunch, brushing my teeth and going to the bathroom were the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

Later on in the evening, I ventured out in the wheelchair again to buy some drinks from a vending machine. The worst thing that happened there was I couldn’t hold the drinks I’d bought on my lap as I wheeled myself back to my room.

One of the things I’ve been learning while trying to get into and out of wheelchairs is that if anyone tries to help, they’re not helping. They’re pulling my duff leg in ways I don’t want to go, or they’re doing things too fast, or too slow—all I want them to do is put the wheelchair under my butt if it’s not there, or take it away when I’m getting up. Which is at least part of why it was a hundred times harder to mount and dismount the wheelchair the first few times—people kept solicitously helping, when all I wanted them to do was to let me take care of as much as possible myself.

This morning featured my first session of formal physiotherapy (or rehabilitation as it’s known here). First I was strapped into a machine which moved my leg back and forth, bending my knee more and less by degrees. I got about an hour in the knee bender. Then I had another 20-minute session with the physiotherapist, who painfully pointed out that while my leg was now incredibly stiff, it wasn’t actually nearly as stiff as I’d thought.

Tomorrow and the next day each feature two sessions on the knee-bending machine, and another session with the physiotherapist. And then there’s at least another week in the hospital before they decide if they can give me a pair of crutches and a cast, and discharge me back into the world.

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"Hammer. Drill. Screwdriver. 45mm screw."

Jul. 16th, 2012 | 01:37 pm

This particular posting will have no pictures in it. I promise. You definitely wouldn’t want to see them.

With the surgery all explained to me, all the consent forms signed, and me all washed and dressed up in a surgery robe with this strange T-shaped bandage on instead of underwear (turns out when one of your legs Don’t Work No More, you need to find undies that work differently, or go commando at the risk of shocking nurses or, more likely, other patients), with my leg shaved so that no hair got into incisions and the other leg being entombed in a very long, very tight sock (yet another hint to the surgeon to work on the other lag, and also to encourage the body to send blood the other way), I was basically prepared for a starring role in a really bad submission to

Far worse things were about to happen to me than that, though, unless catheters really turn you on, in which case you’re a weirdo. Or you have a real laziness problem.

The usual selection of medical staff happened to me in the morning, with the temperature and blood pressure checks, and the mobility checks that I hadn’t yet clued into the importance of because sometimes I am not a clever person. Also, it was the third day I’d spent on my back with my leg feeling fragile beyond belief on account of it having a selection of non-set broken bones rattling around in it. I was starting to get pretty tired of that, and figured anything would be an improvement.

I suppose it will be in the end, mind.

I was fasting because they didn’t want me barfing all over the operating theatre, so I skipped breakfast and lunch; and the surgeon’s work went into overtime so I wasn’t called into theatre until 3pm. That basically meant I spent the entire day twiddling my thumbs—well, playing inane games on my phone, which amounts to more-or-less the same thing.

I was finally called to theater at 3pm. The surgery was originally scheduled for 2pm to 5pm, so I figured it’d be done by 6. So since Drew was playing the part of the member of the family, I told him he should come by at 6 to make sure I’d survived.

The hospital had different ideas, though. They figured that what he should do is get to the hospital as soon as possible so that if something happened during the surgery, they could, I dunno, give him the bad news as soon as possible. As well as, I suppose, ask him his opinion on such matters as whether he thinks my organs are worth donating or not. (For future reference, if I’m dead, use my organs however you please. It won’t bother me.)

A spinal anaesthetic is administered by having you lie on your side and curl up into a ball. This is made easier said than done when one of your legs is no longer allowed to bend any more. I sort of had to 3/4 curl up into the ball, and try my hardest to ensure that my spine was curved enough that they could fit the needle between my vertebrae. The bum leg complicated basically all aspects of that particular procedure—from moving me from the stretcher to the operating table, to rolling me over on my side, to curling me up, to getting me back.

Fortunately when they went to check that the anaesthetic had actually worked, they used a cotton swab dipped in iced water. I was a bit worried that they’d do the more sadistic thing that I hear American doctors like to do, which is jabbing pins into various parts of your body and asking if that hurt.

Fun fact: when your entire lower body has been anaesthetized, it feels like your legs are comfortably bent and you’re sitting in a very casual position. They were actually both ruler-straight as far as I knew intellectually, but that was only a guess based on the fact that a surgeon was working on one of them.

They put up a big screen in front of me, and then stuck a catheter up my thing all the way into my bladder (YEOW), put my earphones on, and started working.

There was a lot of faffing about (presumably making incisions and stuff), and then the surgeon’s assistant came over to me and quietly, as if sharing some dark secret, informed me that the operation proper had begun.

Orthopedic surgery really isn’t like other kinds of surgery. No quiet surgeons saying “scalpel” and “swab” and things like that. When the surgeon was working on me, what I could hear of what he was saying. “Hammer.” BANG BANG BANG “Drill” BVWEEEEEEEEEEuhruhrEEEEE (I realized that the “uhruhr” bit was the drill going through marrow like it wasn’t there) “45mm screw,” followed by “screwdriver” (I guess he placesd them by hand first). There was also quite a lot of blacksmithery going on as he hammered the titanium plate he was installing into my leg into shape.

When 6pm came, he was still going at it hammer and tongs. I’m pretty sure there were some tongs involved at any rate. Then he started using this industrial-sounding stapler on my leg. I lost count of how many staples.

Then just as I thought he was done, he picked up the task again. Working feverishly away, he was a man inspired! I wish I’d known what he was doing. All I could do was go along with it until he finally finished—at 9pm.

Then he came to me and said, “I did it. I’ve completely fixed it.” He took X-rays of his handiwork, then went back and wrapped the operation up with absorbent pads and a tensor bandage, not wrapped up particularly tightly as far as I could tell.

He showed me his handiwork on the big computer monitor in the theater. Instead of just installing one plate, he’d put another one on the opposite side, to make it more stable and hold everything together better. And I’ll be damned if it didn’t look like a perfectly healthy tibia, only with two big slabs of metal and a ridiculous number of screws in it.

He wheeled me back to my room, bumping into Drew on the way, who I completely didn’t notice (I was rather foolishly looking forward to a good night’s sleep, still swimming on the anaesthetic). Turns out the hospital had ordered him to stick around well past the end of visiting hours, just in case they still needed him to tell them how to dispose of my remains (I choose mulching, personally). Instead, the surgeon explained to Drew exactly what he’d been up to and how come it’d taken such a long time.

After some other attending doctors gave me some pain pills, Drew came in and commented on how long the operation had taken, but how the surgeon seemed really smart and explained what he’d done particularly clearly. Then he made his manners and hopped onto my bike and rode home. Nice to see the bike recuperating so well.

The rest of the night consisted of me making strange groaning noises as (a) the effects of the anaesthetic wore off, (b) my body realized that someone had been slicing it to bits with various garage tools, and (c) the fact that my leg had been in a tourniquet for six hours became evident as I suffered from a level of pins and needles which was beyond the most exquisite agony.

This resulted in a sort of arms race between my pain levels and the doctors. The first thing they tried was loxoprophen, a fairly mild nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory. That, as you might effect, didn’t even effect anything.

The next thing they tried was this terrifyingly-huge suppository. When the nurse inserted it (of course they sent a cute nurse to stick something up my butt), I said, “Are you sure it actually went in?” She said, “Oh yes, it’s all the way in.” I guess my butt was still anaesthetized.

The last thing they had in their inventory was wonderful, glorious morphine. At this point, the various things hurting me had arrayed themselves against me in a mental image of mob of people, with the most dangerous one representing my foot being this giant pugnacious woman who kept beating me with a stick and yelling insults at me. The morphine turned the unruly mob into a bunch of smaller animals that were merely mildly irritated, with my foot’s representative having turned into a well-trained but territorial pit bull terrior.

What I hadn’t been told, and hadn’t figured out on my own, was that my leg would swell to massive proportions overnight—and when your foot swells up, it stops working. That’s why they’d been doing all those mobility tests on my foot the last few days—to find out how well it works under normal circumstances.

The next morning, after a sweat-drenched, pain-filled, sleepless night (not even the morphine managed to knock me out) the doctor came by to do the normal motility test early in the morning. There was none. Whatsoever. And my foot looked like it’d been inflated, and was a startling shade of purple.

The surgeon was paged. The on-duty doctor was gravely concerned that something had gone terribly wrong with the surgery. The surgeon, unfazed, came strolling in at his usual 9:30, took one look at it, and said, “Yup. That takes a few days to go away. Just keep trying to move it and you’ll dislodge the sludge. And if you don’t keep trying to move it, you’ll end up getting the deep vein thrombosis you were warned about.” Well okay then!

So there I was, with a big bandage on my leg which had gone from being quite loose, to extremely tight, trying to move my poor foot more than a millimeter in either direction, which it wasn’t even quite up to. But that was okay—it’s routine.

I only wish he’d mentioned it before.

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Eventually, a diagnosis

Jul. 16th, 2012 | 09:34 am

On Wednesday afternoon after the MRI, a police officer phoned me telling me that the eyewitnesses pretty well agreed with what I remembered happening, to wit, the car turning left without checking his mirrors or anything. Then he asked me for my license and insurance information and I was a bit incapable of getting to my bag. I told him I’d send a friend around with them later.

As it turns out, my friend Drew stopped by, and he offered to take the information round to the police station that very night, and while he was at it, see if he could find my bike and assess what damage it had suffered.

He took the information to the police and showed the officer the video from my helmet camera, which showed that even though the driver had had his turn signals on, he had made no sign of even bothering to check his mirrors or the intersection for safety before turning. Bad driver.

Then he went to find the bike, and found it in a closed construction site. He snuck in, and then did a bit of an inspection of the bike. Here is the complete list of damage he found:

  • Broken clutch lever
  • Bent shifter

That’s it!

The shift lever was bent

The police officer had warned him that the front fork was likely to have gotten bent (which would be a bike-writing-off bit of damage, generally), but not even that had happened. It was nearly roadworthy.

Then a doctor showed up to check up on me, but he hadn’t seen my X-rays, CT scan or MRI data. But at least he managed to take my temperature and blood pressure!

Thursday started out with not a bad breakfast, and people checking up on me seemingly every hour to take my temperature and ask me how much I could move the foot on my broken leg.

Turns out I could move the foot on my broken leg just fine, so I thought that that was a good thing. Turns out, I arrived at that conclusion prematurely. They were just checking how much it could move now so they had a baseline to compare it to later. But I get ahead of myself.

The morning proceeded without any word from my surgeon (this is the sort of thing I’ve since learned to get used to). Eventually word came round that I was to be prepped for surgery on Friday, so I was wheeled over to the pre-op shower room to have a good thorough shower (lying on my back, while two nurses did the job). That sort of convinced me that I may as well give up any further pretense of dignity until at least I was mobile again. After the shower, one of the nurses got out a red Sharpie and drew a red arrow on my left foot to make sure the surgeon operated on the proper foot.

Also, the anaesthesia procedure was explained to me. Since it was a spinal anaesthesia, I would be conscious throughout the whole thing. I was advised (literally) to bring a Walkman. I figured I’d bring one of those more modern things which can also make phone calls. If the phone functionality was going to be a problem, I could always turn it off after all.

I was advised to have my primary contact available while the surgery was explained to me, so I asked Drew if he minded coming up, and he said, “No, of course not”…and arrived on my bike. It wasn’t until he’d been here a while that he mentioned that, though. Turns out his own bike was on the fritz, so he took mine instead, because at least it went, damage or not. Since the bike had gotten a taste of blood, it tried to get into an accident playing chicken with a Mercedes, explained Drew.

Eventually the doctor showed up and said, “So why don’t we go to my office so I can explain this to you properly?” I pointed out why we wouldn’t be going to his office, and he looked a bit crestfallen, as if that was something which he’d just forgotten about. He said, “Sorry, I’ll be right back,” disappeared, and came back a few minutes later with a bunch of papers.

He said, “You have a depressed fibia platform fracture combined with a standard fracture a little further down your fibia. I’ve seen this kind of thing quite a few times before though, and I’m confident that I can fix you up. Also, I would advice that you let me do this surgery on you, because if you don’t let me, you will never walk again.” Oh. That sounded like more of a threat, really, but I guess he was just stating facts.

He showed me a print-out of the CT scan, and it looked pretty gruesome (CT scans of bone injuries always look particularly gruesome though). He also showed me an X-ray, showing how the top part of the tibia now resembled not so much a fibia as a sort of malignant toadstool.

CT scans always look gruesome

He explained what the surgical procedure would entail—essentially, this:

A rough explanation of the surgery, with scribbles

He’d push the depressed bit of bone back up to where it’s supposed to be (that’s what the hammer represents) and then he’d sort of fill it up with artificial-bone putty. Then he’d screw a titanium plate to the broken-off bit to put it back in the right place, and while he was at it, he’d keep on screwing the titanium plate in further down to handle the other fracture. Almost exactly this:

I guess this fracture really is quite common

Also, as required by law, he went through a complete list of risks of the operation—there were 10 of them in told, including #10 “unforseen complications”. One of my favorite ones was “Economy Class syndrome,” or deep-vein thrombosis. Other risks included bleeding (duh), stiffness if I don’t participate fully in physiotherapy, and the rather frightening “surgeon error” (but on the other hand, before the practise of carefully labeling which parts to operate on, people did occasionally get the wrong limbs amputated, so you can’t be too careful).

So all of the relevant disclaimers and consent forms signed, he said, “Right, surgery should start at 2pm, unless I’m running late” and swept out of the room.

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Jul. 16th, 2012 | 08:25 am

In my previous entry I said things which turn out, upon closer investigation of the facts, to be somewhat different from how I understood them. This may be related to me having just been run over by a car.

When someone asked me, “Shall I call an ambulance?”, the response that I gave was not, as I thought, “Please do”. A review of the video evidence reveals that my actual response was “K-ghurk”. It only turned out that the ambulance arrived because people saw no choice but to call one.

Also, the ambulance did not show up within seconds. Rather, I passed out from shock, and the sound of the ambulance arriving was what revived me. Time flies when you’re unconscious.

Apologies for the inconvenience.

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It's not that your wishes won't be answered, you just might not like the implementation

Jul. 15th, 2012 | 10:06 am

On Wednesday morning I woke up, feeling tired and burned out. I wished that I didn’t have to get out of bed. I was on the verge of calling in sick at work and just taking the day off, which in retrospect would have been the wiser course of action. Instead, I just decided that I’d get up and go to work regardless of my actual desires.

I hopped onto my bike, waved at the neighborhood kids in a friendly way because that’s what you do, and headed on my way to work. There was lots of congestion on route 17, because there quite often was, and when that happens, motorcyclists ride on the boarder of the road between the cars and the sidewalk. The motorists all know that they do this, so they’re on the lookout.

Shame that one of the motorists wasn’t a local, and he was also under the misimpression that doing this was illegal (and, being a cager, didn’t think that killing the odd motorcyclist for doing something he didn’t think was allowed was even a problem). So when he decided to turn left to find a route that didn’t have as much congestion, he didn’t even think to check his mirrors like any local would, and even though there was a bicyclist at the intersection and Tokyo-area cyclists are notorious for ignoring any traffic signals, he assumed that since the pedestrian light was red, the cyclist wouldn’t cross against him.

So round the corner he went without even so much as slowing down. Shame I was filtering through traffic right around him. Down I went with a bang, and my bike landed on my knee. That hurt quite a lot, and some swearing ensued, which quickly turned into incoherent shouts of pain. So then there I was, under my bike, which was under the car.

The driver of the car, then, instead of doing something sensible like stopping and getting out to assess the situation before proceeding further, then proceeded to drive his car over my bike with me under it “out of the way”.

I attempted to move—nothing doing. My left leg insisted that stay where I was. I attempted to move it manually, and it told me in no uncertain terms that it was going to be damn well staying where it was, thank you very much. Someone asked me if I wanted them to call me an ambulance, and I said, “Please do that.” Someone else picked up my bike and wheeled it out of the way, and as if my magic, seconds later, an ambulance arrived. I was amazed. I’ve never seen an ambulance arrive as fast as that before.

After quickly gathering up my helmet and some quick-thinking individual giving the medics my bike’s key (really, so many nice people just happened to be around at that time), the ambulance whisked me off to the nearest hospital that had a CT scanner and X-ray machine, which turned out to be a little clinic a mere five minutes away. Very handy, that. On the way, while the paramedics were undressing me, they commented that what with the full-face helmet, armored jacket, armored pants, armored gloves and sturdy boots, I could have come out of that incident much, much worse than I actually did. So I guess that was nice to know. As far as they were concerned, though, it was just a sore leg I was suffering from—probably a fracture of some description.

When they got me to the clinic with the CT scanner, the CT scanner was right by the door so they popped me into that first. When they were done with that, they much, much more gently moved me back onto my stretcher and took me to the X-ray room. I didn’t consider that a very good sign. After the X-Rays were done, the doctor in charge spent quite a while on the phone.

Eventually she explained to me, “I was looking around for a really good knee specialist.” My heart sank. “There’s an excellent orthopedic surgeon at a hospital that’s about 15 minutes away, would you like us to send you there?” I sort of mumbled assent, as I wasn’t feeling entirely coherent at that point, and then she stuck a suppository up my butt, tensor-bandaged a large splint to my leg and sent me on my way where there was an ambulance waiting.

The spint Tensor-banadaged to my leg

On the way to the ambulance, I encountered the driver of the car (or as the Japanese put it, my “accident partner”). He apologized for any trouble I’d been put to and gave me his contact details plus an accident card that his company had preprinted (in a sign of amazing confidence in their drivers) with checkmarks by which documents they would like to complete the paperwork. I had no idea what I was looking at. I vaguely recognized the business card for what it was and apologized that I didn’t have one of my own to give him in return.

The ambulance drivers apologized in advance that the hospital I was to be taken to was a bit far, then they fired up the sirens and, as far as I could tell, every single intersection they came to had a red light which they had to blow through. Also, during that ride, I had the only occasion to complain that the standard way that Japanese drivers turn left (by coming to a near-complete halt and double checking everything before proceeding) was too fast and ferocious for me.

Eventually we got to the hospital where I was unloaded and wound up in a doctor’s office where a doctor was waiting to attend to me, and got right down to doing medicine immediately. I was confused by that—wasn’t there supposed to be a lot of paperwork first? He took off the splint, noticed the swelling in my leg and proceeded to extract quite a lot of blood to bring the swelling down, put a rather-more-industrial-looking splint on and sent me off for more X-rays and a CT scan. While this was happening, various administrative types had me fill in paperwork while I was being carted from one place to another. Not that I was doing a very good job of that.

A rather-more-industrial-looking splint

I got most of one form filled in by the time they got me to the bit where they were doing routine blood tests as part of the normal admittance, and I got some sort of idea of how serious the situation was by the time they’d set me up with a bed. This wasn’t going to be a bandage-me-up-and-wish-me-luck situation after all, was it? I realized that it was even more serious when they then brought me lunch.

My first hospital lunch

Eventually a nurse came by and said, “The doctor who examined you would also like to take an MRI.” With some effort involving, among other things, moving my bed to the other side of the room where there was more room (two beds on the one side, three on the other), and very carefully holding my leg while another nurse attempted to help me get into the wheelchair, I was on my way. Every time we encountered a bump on the way, I said “ow!” because as it turns out, having just the brace to hold up a broken leg doesn’t work that well. I eventually realized that if I wheeled myself over the bumps instead of the nurse pushing me, it worked quite a lot better because I could slow down more for them.

The MRI had a similar result as the CT scan had had in the first hospital. After the MRI, they had a stretcher waiting for me—no more faffing about with wheelchairs apparently. And then, as was my wish in the morning, I spent the rest of the day in bed.

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The Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway tolls are broken

Jun. 26th, 2012 | 10:09 pm

The Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway recently revamped their toll system. If you have an electronic toll transponder, the rates range from ¥500 to ¥900 to take the expressway. But if you pay in cash, then you’re charged the maximum ¥900 toll.

But that’s where it gets interesting. If you pay cash, what you actually get is a free pass to drive on the tollways for 90 minutes. Which means that if, for instance, you’re like me on the way home and hop onto the expressway at Tomigaya, then hop off it at Nishi-Ikebukuro because there’s inevitably a giant traffic jam at the big complicated junction around Itabashi, then hop back onto it after the traffic jam and go the rest of the way home, you pay a total of ¥900.

But if you use the electronic transponder, the run from Tomigaya to Nishi-Ikebukuro costs you ¥600, and then the run from Itabashi-Honcho up to Toda-Minami costs another ¥600. That’s a bit of a bug. The expressway company is supposed to be encouraging people to use the electronic toll transponders, but this actually does the opposite—it encourages people to roll up to the cash gate and pay the cash fare, and not be penalized for avoiding traffic jams by taking the surface roads instead.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway guys definitely need to do some work on their software.

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The air is always so clear after a typhoon

Jun. 20th, 2012 | 09:05 am

I wasn’t particularly surprised to see the number of bicycles that’d been blown over after the storm last night.

I was quite impressed, though, at the number of motorcycles that’d been blown over. Fortunately none of mine were among them.

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Something called a Surface

Jun. 19th, 2012 | 04:43 pm

When I heard rumours that Microsoft was going to announce a tablet, I had a sort of a jocular internal idea of what Microsoft’s idea of a tablet would be.

These included:

  • an x86 CPU
  • lots and lots of superfluous ports so that you’ll end up with something festooned with wires to plug everything in
  • visible screws holding it all together
  • a physical keyboard

Well, they’ve gone and (sort of) announced a tablet, and it has all those things. It’s about as Microsoft a design as any I could have thought of.

That keyboard in the cover is pretty neat though, at least I’ll give them that.

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I love living in the future, part n

Nov. 15th, 2010 | 10:47 pm

One of the great things about living in the future is that you can treat movies like books. Since I have a future-phone, I can just load it up with movies and watch them whenever.

Right now I’m watching The Straight Story. When I get tired, I’ll pause it, go to bed, and pick it up tomorrow. It’s fantastic. But, so far, it’s given me the best opening panels of a movie I’ve ever seen:



Just the juxtaposition is fantastic. Apparently David Lynch made a G-rated movie almost entirely by accident, because he was captivated by the story of Alvin Straight and the journey he made across America on his lawnmower, and there just wasn’t anything David-Lynchishly-shocking in the story. It’s a story that’s so excellent that it really had no choice but to be made into a movie—if David Lynch hadn’t done it, someone else would have.

I’m very impressed by Sissy Spacek’s performance as Alvin Straight’s mentally-handicapped daughter, Rose. It’s very hard to act handicaps that you don’t suffer from, especially convincingly—but she did a fantastic job.

It’s a great story, but it’s also a delightfully-American story. And I think that its, well, locality just makes it that much more enjoyable.

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There's something about hill roads

Nov. 7th, 2010 | 09:53 pm

I went for a quick bomb up and down a famous Japanese road called “Irohazaka” today. Its name translates loosely into English as “Alphabet Hill”—each hairpin bend on Irohazaka is named after a character in the classical Japanese syllabary. There are 50 classical Japanese characters, and there are 50 hairpin bends on Irohazaka.

I’ve ridden up and down Irohazaka before, but the last time I did it, rain was pouring down. And, on the downhill stretch (the extra-scary bit), it was not only pouring down with rain, but it was also dark, and foggy. All of which combined to make my Irohazaka experience somewhat sub-optimal.

However, today I decided to avoid the monotonous boring expressways on the way to Irohazaka and just take normal roads. And that turned out to be an excellent decision—the roads on the way to Irohazaka are nearly as much fun as the hill road itself. I ended up driving on miles and miles of these wonderful technical twisty hillside roads, with my reward at the end being exceptionally-twisty hill roads. It’s like the standard Geek Reward Program—your reward for solving this difficult puzzle is a more-difficult puzzle to solve.

Irohazaka, when I finally got to it, was like a bike-nerd-orgasm experience. After threading my way through exceptionally-technical roads, I finally got to experience a road that’s so technical that it’s a_bonus level in a video game_.

Going up it was a hell of a lot of fun. Going down again—via the separate downward route (it used to be a two-way road both ways, until the local authorities realized that making a road like that two-way was ridiculously-dumb, so now one road is a two-lane uphill-only stretch, and the other road is a downhill-only one-late stretch, only the single lane is especially wide) was an entirely different, and much scarier prospect.

Add into that the fact that I still don’t entirely trust the steering on my bike. I have a weird feeling that at low speeds, the steering tends to lock up, requiring the rider to fight with it, I’m still not entirely convinced if this is real or just an impression I have thanks to riding with dodgy steering for way too long, so I suspect I shall just have to lend my bike to a friend for a few dfays and ask him what he thinks of it.

However, today I finally did something I’ve wanted to do for ages—I rode up and down Irohazaka in good conditions. To be honest, it wasn’t that much more fun than riding down it in absolutely-horrible conditions. The major difference was that when I rode down it in pouring rain, at night, with fog, I was mainly fighting with the road. When I rode down it in clear weather, with neither fog nor clouds nor rain, I found myself fighting my bike more than anything else.

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