Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Today it was snowing. Not as much as when it snows "a lot by Sapporo standards", but still enough to block out the view from my balcony. These two photos are taken in roughly the same direction (the temple can be seen in both) but in one you can see much farther.

Not today

Sudden deafness, 9 weeks

Not so much has happened on the sudden deafness side of my life. I hear most sounds again, and I still do not hear low frequencies at all on my left ear (but hopefully the low frequencies will also come back later). This makes my brain think that the face or the ear are paralyzed when you for instance run a comb near the left ear (since the sensory inputs do not match up; you feel something moving but the low frequency so that should accompany that are not present), though to a lesser extent than before. The gradual cut down in steroids progresses and I now only take 5 mg of steroids per day, and in one week from today I will stop completely.

The side effects of the steroids have gone down a bit now that I am not taking such large doses any more. My skin looks nicer, I am less hungry all the time.

Taking all these steroids weakens your immune system so I have been staying away from people to large extents. I have gone to my job, since I rarely meet people there anyway (large room, few coworkers). Apart from that, I have been at home watching movies on my laptop for 9 weeks, which I have grown very tired of. I had managed to stay healthy for 8 weeks through this procedure of boredom, but three days ago I got a cold. It is not that bad, but still a bit annoying.

Friday, January 25, 2013


I stumbled over someone blogging about me today! They mention my old research on making robots tell jokes, and they mention me hammering nails into my nose. I love Improbable research and their IgNobel Prize, so it is great to be mentioned there.

Natulicious, and strawberry chocolate potato chips

Today I noticed that our university coop is selling "Natulicous" candy, and potato chips covered in pink strawberry taste chocolate.

Yet another strange toilet design

There are many strange toilets in Japan. They can have remote controls, tens of buttons with unclear uses, an electronic voice talking to you, a sound effect system to hide any sounds you make with other sounds, and much more.

An absurdly hot heating element placed right were your leg would be if you used the toilet.
This week, I found a toilet that in itself was not so strange, but someone had decided to put a heating element right next to it. That made it very uncomfortable to use the toilet, since it was similar to placing your leg in a frying pan... Very hot very quickly. At least it keeps the lines to the toilet short, I guess.

"American" menu

My colleagues were raving about a place that serves American style hamburgers. Last week we tried to go there but it was full so we could not get a table. A few weeks before, the same thing happened. This week, my colleagues had me book a table in advance (since I can speak Japanese well enough to book a table over the phone) and we finally got to go there together.

 The hamburgers were indeed nice. They also had a menu with "interesting" English translations.

Gingarale and Pepsi Coke are two funny translations/spelling variants.

Tom Colines is probably wrong, but I especially like the Orabge Blossom

Supmoni, another interesting spelling of orang, and of course the whole Campali section.

Painapple sounded interesting so I ordered a painapple based drink. Tasted less of pain and more of pineapple, but still.
This was called pizza, and was somewhat similar to pizza. It was good, though.


Lots of snow, annoying both drivers and pedestrians.

A road that has lost about one meter on each side to the snow (the road normally starts were the signpost is).

Seeing if there are any cars coming before crossing the street is not as easy in the winter.
February is the time of the year when we have the most snow, but January still has quite a lot of snow. The roads become narrower and traffic suffers.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Compliment or insult? Free chocolate!

Today a guy came up to me at the university and gave me a magazine titled "Helpful for people living alone". I am not sure if he intended it as a compliment, as in "You look 20 years younger than you are, like a student who just moved to his first apartment"; or if it was insulting "You must surely live a sad lonely life, no one could possibly want to live with you".

But it came with chocolate, so even though he was insultingly correct about my lonely life, at least I got some free chocolate! The chocolate was "passing the exam"-chocolate (which was very similar to normal chocolate), which might indicate that he thought I looked half my age.

Food and 3D

This week me and some of my colleagues tried to go out and eat hamburgers at a place they tell me is great. We tried once before, but then it was full and we could not get a table. This time too, the place was not actually full but all the seats were booked by people who were about to arrive, so we could not get a table this time either.

Instead, we went to a nearby izakaya and ate Japanese food. We also discussed all kinds of things and one topic that came up was 3D printing. We have a broken 3D printer in our lab, which was probably extremely expensive when it was bought (long before I came to our lab). Nowadays, 3D printers are much cheaper.

We also had a Swedish friend of mine who is here on four weeks of vacation now with us to dinner. He turned out to know a lot about 3D printing, and even though we were then ones who brought this topic up, he later produced a cup from his bag which was made by 3D printing! Why he had a cup in his bag is a mystery, why he had brought this cup from Sweden to Japan is also a mystery, and the fact that he had brought this 3D printed cup to Japan is a strange coincidence.

More Jonas chocolate

Our coop has started selling something that in Japanese is written "Jonas filled chocolate", but the word is not "Jonas" it is of course "European pears". Still, I felt obliged to buy one box. It was OK.


Recently it has been quite cold, but not snowing very much. Then it started snowing again, and got a little bit warmer. So now it is difficult to sleep because the whole night the snow removal teams are working quite noisily on the streets around where I live to shuttle all the snow out of the city.


On Tuesday we had a conference here at our university. Having a conference in Sapporo in January is risky, since we get a lot of snow during the winters. We get around 6 meters of snow per year, most of it in January and February. This means that there are many days when the airport is closed due to heavy snow etc.

We did have snow problems for our conference, but of an unexpected type. There was a lot of snow falling in Sapporo, but not enough to close down airports or trains (since the infrastructure here is made to function in "normal" snowfall conditions). There was however also snow falling in Tokyo, which is not so common. They had so much snow that the Tokyo airport closed, and the people coming from Tokyo could not reach Sapporo. The people who flew in from Osaka or Fukuoka had no problems, though.

I gave a presentation at the conference and managed to show 85 slides in 10 minutes (most of the slides were screenshots from a movie, so just stepping through them was a quick affair). I also demoed a system I have built (on my laptop screen in the photo above).

After the conference there was also a dinner party. It was pretty much mandatory and cost 5000 yen. The food was quite nice, though, as was the company.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A letter from a cute girl to ... well not exactly me, but still.

Last week one of our quite frequent customers in the magic bar brought her six year old daughter with her. It was the first time for the daughter to come see magic at our place, I think (at least it was the first time I met her). She had written a letter "to the magician" and I figure that means at least a third of it was addressed to me :-) She has better hand writing than I do, and she did not even start school yet... But I think I can still beat her if it comes to writing with the Latin alphabet.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Two man magic show at another start of the new year party

Yesterday me and my boss in the magic bar went to a hotel and did a magic show for about an hour. It was the shinnenkai (start of the new year party) for the company where one of our regular customers work. They asked us to do magic for them last year too. It was about 60~70 guests, and they were having dinner (a very nice dinner it looked like) while we did our show.

First I did a card trick where I hammer a big nail into my nose to help with determining which card has been selected. I also produced a bunch of flower boxes out of an empty paper bag. Then me and my boss went around to the different tables and did close up magic for half an hour or so. I did some mentalist style card predictions, and I produced sushi from my t-shirt.

Finally, my boss got up on the small stage and mad a signed card end up inside an unopened PET-bottle, and made the company name magically appear on his t-shirt.

Backstage in the very fancy waiting room we had to ourselves, we got fruits, sandwiches, tea, coffee, all kinds of nice stuff.

The never ending line of Christmas presents!

I received yet another Christmas present! This time it was from two Swedish friends of mine that I have met many times in Sapporo. They live in Sweden now, but one of them is here in Sapporo on vacation now. I got a creatively wrapped present that had two compartments. The top compartment contained a cute Christmas card, and the bottom compartment contained chocolate. One of the chocolate bars was filled with salty licorice, which is very nice (and unavailable in Japan).

Start of the year party, at work

In Japan it is common to have parties called "bounenkai" (忘年会, end of the year party). In December you have such parties at work, with your friends, with your club mates of any club you are in, etc.

It is also common to have "shinnenkai" (新年会, start of the new year party). This is more or less the same, except you have these parties in January. At our university, there is a staff shinnenkai for the people working at the computer science department that I get invited to every year. The food is usually not that great, but not bad either. It is also very cheap. It costs about a quarter of the parties the students in our lab organize, and unlike the parties of our lab that are always on Friday nights (when I do magic in our magic bar and cannot attend), the staff parties are always on Mondays when there is nothing else to do.

Our party starts at 17:30 with some fairly long and boring speeches about the finances of the department and other things like that. Once that part is over, you are allowed to dig into the buffet, and there is unlimited amounts of beer for people who like that sort of thing.

After 90 minutes, the party is over and there is another speech, and then everyone leaves. This year, the food was surprisingly good. I found it to be much better than previous years.

Last year, one of my friends introduced me to a Japanese researcher and when my friend introduced me as "a magician from Sweden", the other guy went nuts. He had just started practicing magic and wanted me to show him something. I said I did not have any props with me, but he had his whole bag full of cards and stuff so in the end I had to do some tricks with his cards.

We met this year too, of course. And he had cards with him again. He first showed me three tricks that I had shown him last year that he said he had practiced. Two of them went fine, one not so fine. He also wanted me to do some new magic tricks for him (and others) of course, so I ended up doing some magic too.

All in all, a quite nice Monday evening. I ate way too much, though.