Thursday, October 06, 2005

Easy-Online-Schedule - Demo launched!


First it was writing several books - Linux for Home Computing, and then issue 4 of the Australian Linux Journal - that pushed the release back from August to September.

Then it was Ruby on Rails - the decision was made to abandon PHP as the backend architecture and switch to the Rails application framework - and so September was spent actually building a Rails application for a third party to gauge how realistic our expectations were of being able to re-build the entire system in Rails in a short amount of time (quite realistic it now seems).

Today, after months of delays, the live demo of the online scheduling system I've devoted the last year and a half to developing is finally open to the public.

If you have a school and would like to manage your teaching schedule online, and maybe even offer online booking to your students, then please drop into and give it a try.

Now the real fun begins - rebuilding the entire system from the ground up to join the ranks of Web 2.0 applications in the AJAX revolution.

Thursday, June 30, 2005 - Easy schedule management for schools launched! - online schedule for schools

During the months of inactivity here I've been busily preparing my new website: has been launched and is currently serving to promote the online scheduling and booking web application for schools that I've been developing here in Japan for the last year or so.

Please drop in, take a tour of the system, and leave a comment on the discussion forum. Cheers. - Manage your school's classroom schedule online

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Suma Aquarium, January 2005

Sometime around the end of January we drove down to Suma to visit the aquarium with Tyler.

Upon entering the aquarium, visitors are greated by a massive fish tank housing many large stingrays, sea-turtles and a multitude of fish in all shapes and sizes. It was difficult to get even a half-decent decent photo while observing their no-flash policy, but this ray drifted by the glass wall slowly enough to allow it's photo to be taken.

Dolphin in motion
We watched the standard dolphin show which amused Tyler at least. Here's one riding it's tail backwards...

Dolphin splahs
...and making a big splash. Dolphins are big and displace a lot of water when they land

Yay, fish!
The fish petting zoo was a more exciting prospect, yay, fish! Off we go for a hands-on experience.

Misaki's starfish
Misaki befriends an orange starfish. I'm sure it didn't mind at all.

Tyler's starfish
It was quite sociable actually and got along with Tyler famously.

Scary sea-gerkin
The scary sea-gerkin didn't have a lot to say though.

Boring starfish
Tyler instead opted to pluck a slightly less interesting starfish from it's aquatic play pen. Try as hard as we did, we just couldn't convince him that sea creatures don't much appreciate being tossed back into the water.

Interesting shellfish
His imagination must have conjured all kinds of images of what treasures might have been hiding within this shell. If there was anyone home they weren't making any appearances today.

Cozy eels
We retreated back inside from the cold to take a tour of some of the smaller fish tanks. We'd missed the pirana feeding frenzy, but found this cozy eel community amusing. Except Tyler who found it quite unsettling.

Fancy, frilly fish
I found these fancy, frilly fish fascinating, and fortunately they were well enough lit to allow some good pics to be taken, so I now feel compelled to aflict you with my boring, frilly, fancy fish collection:

Fancy, frilly fish
I mean, they're quite bizarre...

Fancy, frilly fish
...and who's going to take you seriously with a face like that? Still, very cool.

Big fish
Finally, I came across this guy. He's huge, but his tank wasn't much bigger than he was, and he was just sitting there, suspended motionless, watching us go by. So I stopped and spent a few minutes trying to find any signs of sentience - a fish that big must have been around for a while. I might have registered some eye movement, but that was about it.

Yay, fish!

Monday, January 31, 2005

Daibutsu Nara

On the last day of our christmas/new-year's holidays we decided to drive out to Nara to visit the giant statue of Budda. The temple grounds are considered to be a national treasure and would easily live up to anyone's expectations of "traditional" Japan.

I've been out there quite a few times now, but the temple complex is huge and a day is not enough to explore everything so it warrants regular return trips. On this occasion we just wandered along sampling hot food from the various street stalls along the way to temple of the fat happy chappy...

Deer warning
"Beware deer leaping gracefully into the air"
The temple grounds are home to a large number of wild deer who are allowed to roam around freely, and pose for photographs with tourists in return for snacks or money. (They have their own union)

Deer profile
Profile of one of the younger deers. My nature photography has a long way to go, but this will serve as the rudimentary sensible animal shot. The larger deers had all had their antlers removed for obvious safety reasons and weren't quite as photogenic.

Feeding deers
Misaki and Tyler captured moments before the one closest to Tyler pawed the stick he was trying to feed it out his hand. He was very upset because he was genuinely trying to feed it but in his 3 year-old innocense had to learn the hard way that deers don't eat wood.
I was too busy trying to warn him to actually capture that moment, and then too busy laughing.

They're eating my jacket!
Misaki bought some crackers to feed the deers with Tyler, but delegated the task to me soon after discovering how un-shy they are when it comes to accepting snacks from strangers.
I thought I'd use my height to my advantage but they just one-up'ed me and started eating my jacket. It's plastic too!
The street stall attendant did a fine job of ignoring the spectacle, but in another shot taken of the same moment there's a guy in the background fully pissing himself laughing as he walks past, it's great.

People at the temple
Here we are doing the standard tourist pose in front of the temple housing the giant Budda. It really doesn't give any hint of the scale of the thing - it's at least 100-200 meters behind us.
Let's just take a look at it front on:

Daibutsu toudaiji
That's much more betterer - notice how the people on the walkway approaching it diminish into indiscernable specs in the entrance.
The Daibutsu Toudaiji is the largest wooden structure in the world as I recall, even though what stands today is a reconstruction of what was originally a much larger building again. It's just massive.

Budda's head
Once inside it takes quite a while for your eyes to adjust to the darkness before you can really take in the enormity of the giant Budda. Strangely enough there are signs up everywhere banning the use of camera tripods, but their attempts to foil our photographic efforts were in vein as we were armed with 420mm of optical zoom and intelligent optical image stabilisation which allowed us to snap off this pic hand-held with no flash. Yes, I'm quite chuffed about our camera but will resist raving about it too much.
His head itself is probably about the same height as a person.

This slightly scary looking guy is seated off to Budda's right, and despite being twice a person's height is dwarfed by his spiritual mentor.
There are a couple of really scary looking guys carved out of wood too, but they didn't turn out too well. Maybe next time.

Tyler emerges from a pole
There's a huge wooden pylon with a small slot cut in it's base which has some superstitious quality like bringing good luck to those who pass through it. As you can see, if you're not a toddler you'd have to be lucky to get through. Last time we visited I made it with the assistance of several people dragging me out the other side, but this time Misaki and I both declined and settled for watching Tyler doing laps through it until he had to be dragged away.
Funny, last time we had to drag him through, he's really growing up fast.
And my programmer's muscle has grown to the point where I wouldn't want to try. (read: beer belly)

Misaki hits the gong of gongyness. Behind her is part of a life-size reproduction of the lotus petals at the base of the statue of Budda. Each petal is about the size of a person. Check out the red wooden railing behind to get an idea of scale from the next and final image:

Big Budda
The Daibutsu.
It still doesn't really convey it's size, but here, captured with modern technology, is the Daibutsu of Nara.

It's really big.

So there you have it. Head out there if you get the chance, and as tempting as they may look, those crackers are for the deer, not people. It's happened, tourists have unwittingly consumed the sacred wafers, but I'm sure they're quite nutritious for people and deer alike, I know I've been tempted.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Mochi-tsuki, Dec 2004

Finally, after about a month I've gotten around to preparing some pics from last year's mochi-tsuki - a day of making Japanese sticky rice the traditional way. It's one of Misaki's family traditions, and for me a great day outside pounding rice with huge wooden mallets, warming ourselves over fires and finally chilling with some beers.

Rice Steamer
The is the base of the rice steamer boiling up some water.

Rice Steamer
The rice is placed in bamboo steamers, not unlike those used for Chinese yum-cha, and stacked above the boiling water. The most favoured position in the yard is directly behind the opening to the steamer's fire.

Stone Bowl
A huge stone bowl is used to grind and pound the rice into sticky goodness. Two large wooden mallets are used simultaneously with ninja-like precision by any two people able to heft them.

Stone Bowl
Having already been crushed and ground together, some rice is seen about to recive one of many blows from the wooden mallets as it is slowly coverted into mochi.

Showing fine form, one team expertly focuses their ki and conducts it efficiently into the steaming rice with their wooden implements of culinary weaponry.

Between each deft stroke of the mallets, one person, the only one who carries the knowledge, skillfully turns the rice to avoid it melding with the stone under their amazing wooden force.

The foreigners make a valiant effort in a guesture which is appreciated by the local veterens. While their form may be lacking, their enthusiastic spirit could not be faulted.

As the rice achieves a stickier consistancy it steams from the heat and friction and requires the practiced hand of an expert to keep it from being lost to the stone walls of the pounding bowl.

The masters give an impressive performace. This grueling ritual was repeated as many as twenty times over the course of the brisk yet sunny morning.

Tyler and Ace
Tyler and Ace were sitting in awe of the spectacle which they observed safely from outside the range of steaming water and hot molten rice debris being flung from the pounding pit.

Once the mochi making festivities have drawn to an end, the rice steamers are replaced by a grating and the oyster feast commences. This too is part of the anual event, but I have yet to determine if this custom is unique to our family or common to all Japanese observers of the ancient sticky rice custom.

Once we've eaten our fill of shelled delicacies and the sun has retreated below the horizon, with our stomachs warm and content we break open the beer and sit in quiet appreciation of the glowing flames and the warm tiredness in our joints and muscles from a job well done.

The finished product - Mochi.
Enough for an army no less. While there is an abense of images here depicting mochi being either formed into cakes, or being eaten which is an art in itself, this year's mochi-tsuki I'm sure not will not dissapoint. Indeed, I for one am looking forward to it already.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Christmas holidays, December 2004

Wow, what a huge holiday! Dave and family drove all the way down from Yokousuka to stay with us for a week or so and it was absolutely fantastic! I'm surprised my kidneys are still functioning after the week long drinking binge, but we all survived, and I have photos to prove it!
(At about 630Kb worth of thumbnails I can see my 10Mb/day of free bandwidth being chewed up pretty quickly, so if that happens you'll likely just be looking at empty boxes or something)

Amy on the small slide
It's become an anual tradition to visit a local park in Sanda with some cool playing equipment. Here Amy takes the small roller-slide thing.

Ace in the small slide
...Ace doing the small roller slide...

Tyler on the small slide
...and Tyler doing the small roller slide thing. This is all just a warm up for the super-happy-fun-slide further up the hill.

Amy on the super-happy-fun-slide
Amy on the super-happy-fun-slide which starts at a good few meters above the ground and ends a good 10-20 meters down the hill.

Ace on the super-happy-fun-slide
...high speed Ace action...

Tyler on the super-happy-fun-slide
...and Tyler. The fun wasn't for kids only though...

Look out kids!
Uncle Dave in hot pursuit at the top of the slide.

Here comes uncle Dave
"weeeeee!!!!!" he he he

Futuristic tower
No it's not a set from the next Star Trek movie, it the futuristic tower across the road from the park. A good example of modern Japanese architecture - taken straight out of the pages of a Manga comic. To do this day I have no idea what function it serves, other than my suspicion of it being a mind control device similar to those employed by the Tripods...

Merry christmas people
One day, Ashton, Nana and Masako came over for some Mexican food Misaki put on (inspired by our friends Sean and Akiko). The only pic I took with Ashton and Nana in it didn't turn out because I'd sat the camera on a stool which reflected the flash back at it and under-exposed the background.
Who else thinks that Tyler and Ace could easily pass as brothers?

Smooshed faces section:

Window faces
Misaki snapped this shot of hilariousness from outside one night, and it now serves to introduce the smooshed faces section.

Dave and Amy smooshed
...uncle Dave gets in on the smooshed faces action with Amy...

Dave and Tyler smooshed
You don't have to teach kids how to do this, it's built in. Just give them some transparent material and it's only a matter of time.

Ace and Tyler
A nice shot of Ace and Tyler, partners in crime in the making.

Snow section:

We'd been enjoying quite pleasant weather, unseasonably warm for december actually, and then suddenly one day it just decided to dump down with snow. Here's an artsy shot out our back window.

More snow...
This time showing the winter wonderland in the background more clearly. It took several days for all the snow to become dirty slush and finally dissipate. It snowed a bit again last night, but that's all we've had so far.

Tyler the snow man
Tyler and Misaki ventured outside to investigate. Tyler was captured in this shot in his hilarious inherited funky snow suit - "noooo.... don't look at meee!!!"

Tyler in more snow
It was only a few weeks ago that Tyler posed in the same place as this picture in his Hichigosan suit on a pleasantly warm and sunny day.

Artsy snow
And to conclude the snow section I give you Misaki's artsy photo of a snow covered grating in front of our appartment. Snow might bore a lot of people but for a guy who grew up in the southern hemisphere it's still a novelty to have a white christmas.

Beattie clan
The Beattie clan, together in Japan for the last time. The next time we'll all meet will be back in Sydney as Dave and Michiko are relocating soon.
We had a great time guys, thanks heaps for coming down to Osaka and we're looking forward to catching up again soon in Aus!

Coming soon:

  • Mochi-tsuki - sticky rice making

  • Daibutsu, Nara - the great statue of Budda