30 January, 2018

Sjcam M10 Action Cam

I grow increasingly frustrated with my Thinkware dashcam. At best, it takes 45 seconds to boot up. This in itself is ridiculously and unacceptably long. Sometimes it restarts and doesn't start recording for 2 minutes!

So, I got the M10 (actually M10 wifi), mainly because it had auto start stop (search for action cam auto start stop), meaning when power is applied, it turns on and starts recording, and when power is removed, it shuts down.
MAIN PROBLEM: if you leave the battery in the camera and the camera in the car, the battery will swell in a few months. This sounds too dangerous. Fortunately it "works" without the battery, except the camera doesn't get to shut down properly so the last video is corrupted. Some people don't have this problem https://dashcamtalk.com/forum/threads/sjcam-m10-as-a-dashcam.13427/page-4#post-267637
Observations:
  • The M10 starts up and starts recording within 10 seconds when power is applied. This just highlights how abysmal the Thinkware is.
  • Videos are divided into a minimum of 3 minute blocks. There's less than a second gap between videos (I couldn't measure the gap on my watch). Remember, the last video is corrupted, so drives less than 3 minutes may not be recorded.
  • Speaking of corrupted, I suspect the data is there (the file is), it's just missing the "packaging" (headers). So it should be fixable. This is also a problem on Dji drones and GoPros, and there are small programs to fix them. I didn't manage to fix the M10 videos though.
  • Mine doesn't seem to have any internal power at all, if I remove the battery when the camera is off, even for a few seconds, the clock is reset.

Problems:
Update: This is complicated. I'm doing more tests. It seems files are ok before the card is full.
There's a major problem since I'm using it without the battery. The clock resets, and since files are named from the date and time, all the files have the same name and the camera wasn't designed to handle this. I'm not sure if it flat out doesn't save if there's already a file with the same name, or overwrites it, but most of my files couldn't be played and I couldn't find any of when just starting the car, the sole aim of this camera. If you're looking for a dash cam, a dedicated one may be better. Not really this camera's fault, it wasn't designed to be used without the battery.
Possible solutions?
  • Set the clock / keep formatting the card - not practical.
  • Manually start/stop recording at a random time so the files don't collide.
  • Use the battery. Protect the camera from heat / avoid continuous charging to prevent battery swelling.

Update
It's not that bad. The filename format is:
yyyy_mmdd_hhmmss_xxx.MOV
where xxx is a kind of a running serial number. It's supposed to reset when the camera is switched off, but it takes longer than that (see how the first few files have serial numbers as high as 30. The date and time of 2016_0101_000005 indicates these files were the first created when the camera started, yet the serial number is already up to 30). Files are named with the time at the START of the recording. You can see most of the hhmmss in the files below are 000004 or 000005, showing that the clock starts 4-5 seconds before recording starts. Thanks to the serial number, there don't seem to be any conflicts.

The files without thumbnails are the corrupted ones because the camera wasn't shutdown properly.

So, the problems are:
  1. Last file before shutdown is corrupted - you can avoid this simply by stopping recording before turning off the engine. It only takes 2 button presses and no waiting.
  2. All the dates are the same so it's hard to tell which file is today's, yesterday's etc. 
  3. When the card is full, overwriting older files doesn't work so well. Because the camera can't tell which files are really older when they all start with 2016_0101. In particular, it rewrites the 0 and 3 minute files first. Other files seem ok:
This is troublesome for me because the 0 and 3 minute files are exactly the files I want, those that cover the startup of the Thinkware camera.

Summary:
It seems to work ok until the card gets full and has to overwrite files. So if I format the card before it gets full, it can cover my needs, except the last file is corrupted.

end

06 January, 2018

Xiaomi PM2.5 Detector

https://xiaomi-mi.com/air-and-water-purifiers/xiaomi-mi-pm25-detector-white/

Remember my air purifier posts?

My search for quantifiable air quality led me to this PM2.5 meter. Random specs:
  • OLED screen (black and white, dot matrix)
  • 2 hour battery life
  • Has wifi, but not very useful
  • Has clock mode
  • There's a tiny fan in the back
Yea... what else do you want to know? This blog probably knows more than me about air purifiers http://www.myhealthbeijing.com/china-public-health/my-quest-for-the-ideal-air-purifier-is-over-xiaomi/
Again, air and water. Everybody needs these. All the time. Yet there is very little, you could say practically none, measurement and control over their purity, done by individuals. People only react to problems when they arise. No prevention and monitoring.
Singaporeans baffled by strong, mystery smell 26 Sep 2017
"A strong odour that smelt like burning chemicals or petrol, along with smoke that stung the eyes, fanned anxiety among many yesterday as it spread from north-eastern parts to the western areas of Singapore."
"The SCDF said at 9.55pm that its monitoring teams have not detected the presence of toxic industrial chemicals in the air.
In an update at 10.34pm, the NEA said it had received feed-back from the public about a gas smell in Sengkang and Punggol around 5pm.
"NEA officers were deployed to those areas immediately to investigate the smell feedback," it said, adding that air quality levels during the period were found to be well within safety limits."
Does anyone see the problem with this? We can only test for specific things, things we expect. Faced with an unknown chemical, we're helpless.

Anyway, sorry, this product won't help with this. It only measures particles. It doesn't detect organic compounds like alcohols. There are some detectors that detect formaldehyde and CO, but, again, these are very specific and won't warn you about other chemicals. Interestingly, the air quality sensors in air purifiers like the Panasonic one I have react to solvents like alcohol, as well as particles. If only there were a way to get a number out of them...

So here are some observations about the Xiaomi one:
  • Has wifi, which doesn't do much. Can connect to the Xiaomi server and let you see remotely, and occasionally log data. You can use it 100% standalone without wifi, then it's a simple display of PM2.5. Wifi can't be turned off though.
  • Seems to be meant for the China market for now. You have to set your locale to China in the Xiaomi app. At least you can switch the language to English.
  • DOES NOT LOG. Not their fault, I don't know why I expected it to. If you're connected to wifi, it seems to save readings every 30 minutes in the server. Doesn't seem to have memory of its own.
  • There's a clock mode, which isn't very useful. Time in 24hr format, date and day in Chinese. Can't be changed. Main problem is it reverts to clock display, which doesn't show PM2.5, you know, its primary purpose. No wait, main problem is IT DOESN'T SEEM TO EVEN MEASURE PM2.5 IN CLOCK MODE. By this I mean when I switch from time display to PM2.5, it acts like it's booting up and you need to wait to get a reading. At least clock mode can be turned off.
  • There's also a night mode, which doesn't do anything that I can see.
  • PM2.5 doesn't seem correlated to visible dust. I mean I still get low PM2.5 readings in dusty environments. I guess dust is bigger.
  • Shuts off in 30 minutes when running on battery.

So far, I think design is good, quality is ok, but it can be so much better with a firmware update. Choose clock faces? Display PM2.5 and time... together? Ok I'm assuming it doesn't even have a few kB of data for logging, which is poor design, but... log directly to the phone? Wifi hosting for portable use?

28 September, 2017

Reminiscing 2

Reminiscing, 18 November 2011

  1. Wow, this blog is 8 years old
  2. The wave of nostalgia continues, greatly boosted by SG50. Now there are all kinds of products inspired by history, not just the 90s. I'm perfectly ok with reminiscing, but not with pretending like you're part of a secret club that turned out ok despite the trauma of growing up without the Internet.

Amidakuji

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_Leg
I was thinking about this mini-game in a Sega Genesis game, where there are 5 vertical, straight, parallel, narrow islands and you pick 1. You walk up the island, and there are bridges randomly connecting adjacent islands. If you come to a bridge, you must cross it. It's a random chance way of picking a bonus prize, like drawing lots. Read the Wikipedia article, it's got a better description.

Anyway the Genesis game is very old and I thought it was pretty small and unknown, but I still found it. It's called Magical Hat no Buttobi Tabo! Daiboken. Aah, this brings back memories.
http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/victokai/victokai2.htm

22 September, 2017

Things In 2017, Part 2

July 
  • Lee Hsien Loong has public disagreement with siblings over Lee Kwan Yew's Oxley Road house 

August 
  • SMRT delays on 17 Aug evening and 18 Aug morning 
  • US protests by nazis? racist somethings? counter protests? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unite_the_Right_rally and removal of Civil War statues 
  • Total solar eclipse over a large region of the US 
  • Hurricane Harvey, biggest hurricane in the US in 12 years, mainly in Texas
  • North Korea launches missiles over Japan on 29 August and 15 September

US Ship Collisions 

September

October
  • Gunman kills 60 and injures 500 in Las Vegas
  • Flooding in SMRT tunnel between Bishan and Braddell. Lapses in maintenance found.
  • Hollywood stars accused of sexual abuse. Particularly Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey 

November
  • SMRT trains collide at Joo Koon

December

  • Freelance taxi companies/apps like Uber take off around the world
  • Bike sharing companies (that let you pick up their bikes from the street and leave them anywhere afterwards) explode in popularity in Singapore and Australia despite not having proven their business model. Leading to bikes stolen, vandalised, abandoned, put up in trees, and thrown in rivers.
end

Fractions Of Petroleum

I see that a lot of petroleum products are just mixtures based solely on molecular weight, nothing else. It's weird, right, petroleum is a multi-billion dollar industry and I can't find such a complete list of petroleum products, by increasing molecular weight, that contains terms used in different countries, that I had to make my own:
  1. Liquefied petroleum gas 
  2. Naphtha  (5-12 carbon atoms)
  3. Petrol/gasoline (5-8 carbon atoms)
  4. White spirit/mineral spirits/mineral turpentine/petroleum spirits (7-12 carbon atoms)
  5. Kerosene/paraffin/lamp oil (6-16 carbon atoms)
  6. Diesel (8-21 carbon atoms)
  7. Mineral oil/paraffin oil/liquid paraffin
  8. Petroleum jelly/Vaseline
  9. Paraffin wax (20-40 carbon atoms)
  10. Fuel oil
  11. Asphalt/bitumen/tar 

https://chem.libretexts.org/?title=LibreTexts/Sonoma_State_University/SSU_Chem_335A/Material_for_Exam_2/Unit_3:_Organic_Compounds:_Alkanes_%26_Their_Stereochemistry/3.8_Gasoline:_A_Deeper_Look has a good general classification:
  • 1-4 carbon atoms - gases
  • 5-10 - naphthas 
  • 10-16 - kerosenes
  • 16-60 - gas oils
  • >60 - lubricants
  • >70 - fuel oil
  • >80 - asphalt 

29 August, 2017

Types Of Memory

No, I'm not talking long term and short term, which seems to be the only differentiation.
It seems there are a few kinds of memory. At different times, some kinds are better than others. Here are some kinds I mean:

Self-Triggering / Reminders
Remember to do X when A happens. Siri, remind me to email Alex when I get home.

ToDo / Train Of Thought
Things I'm going to do next. Not so much a list as your next objective. What did I come into this room for? http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20160307-why-does-walking-through-doorways-make-us-forget
For me, most commonly it's when I'm browsing something, I'll think "shop for X next" or "visit website Y next", then a moment later I can't remember what I was going to do.
This is the kind of memory I seem to have problems with the most, or the first kind to have problems.
Might also be related to the nagging feeling that you're forgetting something. This could be due to you really forgetting, or actually not having forgotten anything ,just having problems clearing the reminder in your brain.

Lists
Speaking of lists, I wonder if they're another type of memory. Certainly memorising lists uses a different kind of memory.

Tip Of The Tongue / Vocab
Inability/difficulty to recall the word of choice.

Autopilot
Did I lock the door? Turn off the tap?
There are stretches of our experience that simply aren't recorded.

Cyclic Culture

"Life is a dream" movies
  • The Matrix, 1999
  • Inception, 2010

Songs about Superman
  • Kryptonite by 3 Doors Down, 2000
  • Superman by Five For Fighting, 2001
  • Waiting For Superman by Daughtry, 2013

The Way I Are
  • by Timbaland, 2007
  • by Bebe Rexha, 2017

Superman, Batman etc. movie reboots

09 August, 2017

Pattern Names

It's hard to search for something you don't know the name of, like instrumental songs or these (usually fabric) patterns.

Also known as the pattern on Pizza Hut tablecloths

Asanoha

It's a popular Japanese pattern, with triangular symmetry, said to be based on the hemp leaf.

30 June, 2017

Credit Cards In Singapore

  • 8% off dining (Citibank)
  • 6% off dining (OCBC)
  • 8% off groceries (Citibank)
  • 3% off everything! (UOB)
  • 1.5% off EVERYTHING! (Amex)
There are a few (advertisement-driven) sites comparing Singaporean credit cards. And indeed, there are some nice-sounding offers. But none of them tell you this. $75. That's the magic number. $75 is the most you'll get back from every card every month. It doesn't matter what they offer, 3% cashback or 8% or even 100%. In all their terms and conditions, it's all limited to $75 a month.

"Oh what about Amex? They say they have unlimited cashback" Well they use a sneaky trick. Tell me, what's the usual credit limit? 2-3× your salary, right? What's your credit limit on Amex? Well it's conveniently so that if you use it all up, your rebate is $75. What a coincidence!

24 June, 2017

Alarm Clocks

I really want an alarm clock that tells you "alarm set for x hours from now" whenever you set an alarm.
  • I don't want sleep analysis of times, sounds or movements
  • I don't want to be woken during light sleep within a period of time
  • I don't want a reminder of when to sleep
  • I don't want night/yellow light modes
  • I don't want fancy sounds, weather or news reports 
  • I DONT WANT TO SOLVE PUZZLES TO TURN OFF THE ALARM

Unfortunately although Apple has run out of ideas and is poorly implementing whatever they can think of (
https://discussions.apple.com/thread/7668973?start=15&tstart=0) at the cost of good design (forcing the clock app to night mode). They haven't thought of this. 

And I had a look at 3rd-party alarm clocks, this feature also isn't very common. But it looks like even for apps that have it, they're a poor replacement for the iOS clock, because they can't override the silent switch, and maybe even Do Not Disturb. Also running in the background severely restricts their notifications. 
https://oleb.net/blog/2014/02/alarm-clock-apps-ios/ 
If I have to leave sounds on, what do I even need an alarm for? 

BlogTouch (Blogspot/Blogger app)

It's 2017, there's MORE social media available on mobile than on web browsers, but blogspot has been abandoned by google or something. I'm testing BlogTouch, a 3rd-party app that lets you post to blogspot blogs. It shouldn't be so hard!
  • Needs better previews 

09 May, 2017

Belts

Klik Belt
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01B24TYO0
lol what? "Horrible design. Huge disappointment." https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R1IBQEIF7Q2S2R/
You have to remove the buckle to put on and take off the belt. What terrible design is this? It also loosens by itself. What? Seriously? This is a worse belt than a piece of string.

Carbon Tactics' Cinchy
Originally a Kickstarter project https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/520589318/cinchy-20-carbon-fiber-belt-system
Now regularly shows up on Massdrop https://www.massdrop.com/buy/carbon-tactics-cinchy-cti
Very simple design, basically just a solid monolithic buckle. Unfortunately it seems the strap is too stiff and uncomfortable: https://www.massdrop.com/buy/carbon-tactics-cinchy-cti/talk/588858

Grip6
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B018I1NP9U
Like the Cinchy, just a strap with a solid-state buckle. No one's mentioned this, but it also looks difficult to tighten. You know how all other belts have the excess belt on the outside so you can easily tug on it to tighten your belt? Yeah this belt has it on the inside, between you and the rest of the belt. It looks nice and seamless on the outside, but hope you have a strong pinch.

Update 24 Jun 17
New belt on Kickstarter by Carbon Tactics:
I'm backing this one since it seems to solve the problems of the Cinchy and Grip6. The buckle hooks onto a loop at the end of the belt, and you only need to move the buckle when adjusting the belt size. It saves your position. 

10 March, 2017

Suspended/Canceled Kickstarter Projects

The NexD1 - The first Multimaterial & Electronics 3D Printer 
A 3D printer with impossible specs. Exposed for passing off bought 3D-printed samples as their own.


The OV Smartwatch

01- 05 : Multi-Functional EDC Design Collection
Selling eBay ripoffs of previous successful Kickstarter projects

Panther Alpha - Small, 4K/2GB/32GB, All-in-One Supercomputer
Another one of those impossibly small pocket PC scams. See Tango.

ArcSling Motion Converter - Turn Movement into Electricity
See Ampy

Portable Console for PC games - PGS
Another one of those handheld console scams with impossible specs. Smach Z is another one that got funded - watch it, it's going to end up like this.

IBee Smart Modular Bracelet - The first of its kind

MOTI | Your Smart Companion for Better Habits

The Infinity Pen
Reselling something similar to the Beta metal inkless pen at a markup

"ULed" - Your powerful LED flashlight 

PillarHub

Boltivate Wireless Smart Lock

05 January, 2017

Things In 2017, Part 1

Wow, another year. This year I'm going to split this into several posts. It's a mess trying to keep a single post for a whole year.

January
A spate of drivers driving against traffic on Singapore roads, beginning with a man driving a Mercedes in the wrong direction on the AYE, at 120 km/h, leading to 1 death on 20 Dec 2016.
SAF's Terrexes returned from Hong Kong

February
Kim Jong Nam, Kim Jong Un's exiled half brother, was murdered? assassinated? at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia on 14 February 2017. Situation between Malaysia and North Korea deteriorates to the point that they both expel each other's ambassadors from their countries, and prevent each other's citizens from leaving.

March
South Korean president Park Geun-hye removed from office
Brazil found to be exporting rotten meat in scandal
Some countries ban electronic devices with big batteries on flights, due to terrorists possibly hiding bombs in them
Man drives car into people then attacks people with knives in London

April
Bombing on St Petersburg Metro
US launches missiles at Syria
Singapore - City Harvest leaders who were found guilty have their sentences reduced on appeal 
Churches in Egypt bombed 
United Airlines forcibly evicts a seated, normal paying passenger from UA3411 for its crew because flight was overbooked. Outrage ensues (I was going to put his picture but I won't out of respect)
Tensions rise between North Korea and the US, after some missile launches and military drills
11-year-old Johor boy, Mohamad Thaqif Amin, beaten in school, gets infection, has legs amputated, dies

May
Singaporean Mr Jimi Cheong, on holiday with his family in Tokyo, has cardiac arrest while in Tokyo, needs $120,000 for medical fees and $120,000 for medical evacuation, which is raised by his family through crowdfunding. Unfortunately he died soon after arrival in Singapore.
"Ransomware" attacks, mostly in hospitals in England. This is actually pretty smart and profitable - they encrypt your computer, holding your data hostage, and charge you to decrypt it.
Bombing at Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, killing 23
Indian Actor Shrey Bhargava complains about Ah Boys To Men 4 audition after being asked to portray an Indian caricature. There is support on both sides - freedom of caricature, caricature isn't real, vs. racism, humour at the expense of others etc.
Clash between militants and security forces in Marawi, southern Philippines

June
Lone gunman attacks Resorts World Manila casino
Huge fire in Grenfell Tower apartment, London, killing at least 80. Said to be due to cladding on the outside to approve appearance, just applied last year.
Lots of delays on Singapore's train system during peak hours, because they're testing the signalling system, which has to be done during rush hour.

Vehicular Attacks
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle-ramming_attack
  • March, London
  • April, Sweden - 4 dead
  • May, Times Square - lone military veteran drives car into crowd at Times Square, killing 1.
  • June, London. Vehicle and knife attacks. This is the 3rd attack in the UK this year.
  • August, Barcelona 

05 December, 2016

Blocking Advertising Servers

Most of our online services are paid for by advertising, so I don't want to block all ads. However, there are unscrupulous and even malicious ads out there that have to be blocked. Previously, we saw how to block ads on computers. Here are more options:

Block ad domains on your router
Advantages: works on all the devices on your network
Disadvantages: your router must support it. Might be a limit to the number of sites you can block. Doesn't work when you're mobile.

Block domains on OpenDNS
Signing up for a free OpenDNS account lets you blacklist certain domains/sites/addresses. You can set your router to use OpenDNS, or set it on individual devices.
Disadvantages: only works at home / doesn't work when you're mobile. I think there's also a limit to the number of sites you can block.

I just discovered an iOS app that can block addresses, anywhere on the device (so in all browsers, games etc.) called AdBlock by FutureMind. It's pretty clever, it sets up a dummy VPN that doesn't work, and redirects requests for blocked sites to that VPN. Sort of like redirecting to 127.0.0.1 in the hosts file.
Advantage: only method to block sites when mobile that I've seen so far
Disadvantage: I think this prevents you from using other VPN.

29 November, 2016

iOS Bugs

iOS continues its descent. If you're going to say:
  • I've never heard of this, therefore it's not a problem
  • I don't use this official app that's built into iOS, therefore it's not a problem
  • You're using it wrong
Then you can save yourself some time and stop reading further.

iOS 9
You know, in the official iOS Calendar, in month view, there should be a dot under days with events. Should be.
iOS Calendar Dots disappearing
Calendar issue with the new iphone 6 plus

iOS 10
There are lots of ridiculous inconsistencies, both within iOS 10 itself and compared to iOS 9. Like Done/Cancel swapping positions, Up/Down in Mail becoming Left/Right and swapping functions, it's like they're not even following their UI style guide.

iPhone iOS 10 keyboard issues
After typing a punctuation mark or number and pressing space, the keyboard used to return to abc. Except for ', which would revert the keyboard to abc immediately without pressing space, but that inconsistency is as old as iOS. Now, sometimes it randomly doesn't return to abc and remains in the punctuation keyboard, causing you to type gibberish. How did Apple break something they didn't even touch?

Yes let's make something make noise when it didn't before
iOS 10 makes interface scrolling sounds even though interface sounds are turned off in Settings?
Turn off calculator keyboard sound iOS 10

Yes let's force the dark clock on everyone

25 November, 2016

Hello Hokkaido Fair

Hello Hokkaido, 18 - 27 Nov 2016, at Resorts World Sentosa
Posts by a couple of more famous blogs:
http://danielfooddiary.com/2016/11/13/hellohokkaido/
http://www.ladyironchef.com/2016/11/rws-hokkaido-festival/
There are only like 2 days left so I hope this post comes in useful for someone deciding whether to go or what to eat there.

It's a small fair with food and handicrafts at the basement shops section of RWS. You know, outside the McDonalds, entrance to casino etc.

There are chairs and tables to sit and eat here! Yeah! And a sake bar.

As I said, it's pretty small. The blog posts by others pretty much cover all there is there. The good news is, the food is pretty authentic and hard to get in Singapore. I'm didn't go all the way there to eat something I can find in any shopping centre. It seems to be genuinely imported from Hokkaido. One complaint is you have to pay using their card.
You have to place a $5 refundable deposit - ok
Minimum value for new cards is $20 - er, ok
Top up in $1 increments - er..
No refunds for unused value - what? So I have to queue at least twice, plan how much to spend and possibly waste unused credits?

What food is there?
The Iberico pork cheek ($14) was nice. Wagyu beef (can't remember the price, either $13 or $18) was like good beef, but not wagyu good. Crab cream croquette ($5) was ok. They had several types of crabs but they were expensive (don't know if they are good or value for money, but I didn't want to eat $30 of crab). If I had known this, I would have tried the ramen instead of the beef.

Enjoy yourself!

18 August, 2016

Hemineglect

Hemineglect is a wierd mental disorder, where, after brain damage in specific locations, people ignore things on one side.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemispatial_neglect
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/trouble-in-mind/201202/the-bizarre-disorder-hemineglect
The most interesting example is when asked to copy a simple picture, they omit one side, usually the left, as in this famous picture:
"Trouble In Mind" 2012, p.77, OUP, New York
The most interesting thing, to me, is how they justify this. When asked why she did not draw the fence in the picture above:
"I suppose I could if you really want me to, but it is sure to blow down in the next wind!"
One then wonders: patients are aware of the omissions. It seems more than a blank or ignoring their left side, it's like they are actively avoiding things. Are they subconsciously thinking fence = bad? What if you asked them to draw a picture left-right symmetric about the middle? What if you put a mirror on their left, reflecting the image on the right? (these 2 scenarios should generate the same image).

But I'm more interested in the rationalisation bit, which I don't think is related to hemineglect. In fact I think this is how the brain normally works, just that it works so well that we don't notice it. It seems related to cognitive dissonance, a relation nobody has made before, from a cursory search I just did. Consider how easily memories are altered and implanted. With doctored pictures and testimony from others, people can be convinced - can convince themselves - that things that didn't happen, happened. It's also how we justify our beliefs. It could be how we feel we are "one" and in control of the multiple thought processes in our heads. It might even have something to do with consciousness.

31 May, 2016

Tokyo Travel Tips part 2

SHOPPING AND FOOD
  • BRING YOUR PASSPORT! Japan is very generous with tax-free shopping. You can get an immediate 8% (ok it's really 1/1.08) discount at most shops after spending ¥5000. They'll staple the receipt to your passport. IN THEORY you have to show the goods at the airport and can't use them in Japan. In practice, at the airport after the security check and before immigration (so after checking in your luggage), they just took the receipts from our passports and didn't even check the receipts.
  • You'll notice many shops span many floors. At first this sounds huge. For instance, Itoya, a stationery store in Ginza, spans something like 9 + 6 floors over 2 buildings. But the area of each floor is tiny. Yeah they have lots of tiny, not interconnected buildings. For instance, Bic Camera in Shibuya is separated into 2 narrow "buildings" A and B that are side by side but you can't cross between them above the 3rd floor. They're something like 7 floors high. One building, occupied by one shop, split into 2 narrow, tall... stacks?

  • There usually isn't any toilet on the first floor. Ok most places around the world are like that. Toilets might only start on the 4th floor. But the odd thing is they usually only have toilets for one sex on each floor. So 4th floor might be female, then 5th floor is male. Oh and all their toilet paper is 1-ply. The only 2-ply I saw was on the plane. Yet they have bidets and heated toilet seats. Some even play privacy music.
  • They say it's rude to rub your chopsticks to get rid of splinters in Japan. Too bad, because most of the chopsticks I used weren't that good, they had lots of splinters.
  • I thought Japan was pretty environmentally friendly, but they must use as much plastic bags as Singapore. Some shops will wrap your goods in a smaller plastic bag before putting them in another one, which is cute and polite and great for gifts, but wasteful.
  • Many shops are already in Singapore: Uniqlo, Muji, Ootoya, Watami, Ippudo etc. which takes out a bit of shine from traveling. For Muji, I couldn't find any differences in their stationery and cosmetics/toiletries. Maybe they sell more clothes / household / bigger items in Japan. The good news is if you miss Tokyo or want to buy more stuff later, you can get your fix in Singapore.

TRANSPORT
Ok I'll say it: their train system is a mess. It's reliable and accessible, but also indecipherable. At first you'll think, "Wow, each train line has an alphabet and colour, how organised!" Haha nope, that's only for the Toei and Tokyo Metro network. There's also the JR lines. Speaking of Toei and Tokyo Metro, if you use their app to search for directions, they'll only use their network, even if other networks have shorter and direct routes.
This is probably wrong, but I feel JR does more long-distance stuff, probably because they run the Narita Express from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station. Then again, they also run the Yamanote Line, "one of Tokyo's busiest and most important lines".

I still haven't figured it out. My only advice I can give is get mobile Internet access and be prepared to use maps. Oh and the major stations have people who can speak simple English so you can ask for help.
Oh and if you're planning routes, Google Maps seems to be better since it calculates using all the rail networks.
If you have to transfer, lines in the same station may be far apart, so be prepared if you're carrying something.
Stations have multiple exits. I haven't found guides that tell you which exit to use, but if you know the direction (compass or road name), you can read the maps in the stations.


For example, this is Akihabara Station, according to Google Maps. But this is only the JR part, if you want to take the Hibiya line by Tokyo Metro, the entrance is difficult to find and not on the map.
  • The good news is there are toilets in all the train stations I visited, and they were surprisingly clean. Some of them are right on the platform!