I did a lot of coding today for some reason. I wrote indexing code for the little PHP KB I was playing with some months back:

And I wrote a simple text command parser for no reason whatsoever. Just in one of those moods I guess.

Oh and I went climbing again today. Climbed my favorite 4-kyu overhang and started working on a new 4-kyu. On the new one, I made it to the next to last hold on-sight but couldn’t pull off the last as it was a bit of a reach and I was having trouble finding a place for my feet. Oh and because I suck, that’s the other reason.


The wifey’s dad was wanting to get rid of his old car so we convinced him to give it to us instead. The only catch was that we had to take the bullet train to Gifu, pick it up, and drive it back to Tokyo. It wasn’t too bad — just about a 4-5 hr drive.

Anyhow, as the car is a bit older I’ve been doing some work on it. One chore on my list was to setup a ETC device. ETC stands for Electric Toll Collection and comes rather standard in cars in Japan these days. Most of the major highways are toll roads so it’s an utter pain to have to pay with cash. Also, you get cheaper fairs when you go electronic, and can even save up “mileage points” for further discounts if you register — not to mention the other points you get as it charges to your credit card.

So I called up a car shop to get an estimation and they told me around 35,000 Yen (350 USD) — which I just wasn’t having. At that rate it would take close to a decade to payback in cost savings.

So I did some research and decided to try to do it myself. Here are there general steps:

  1. Buy an ETC device
  2. Get it “setup” for your car
  3. Install it
  4. Get an ETC card to use with it

There are two types of ETC devices: one-piece units and ones with a separate antenna. The one-piece units completely sit on your dash, are cheaper, easier to install, but are obviously visible. The latter are a bit more expensive and harder to install, but you can hide the main unit. I went with the later.

I was seeing these things sell for up to 15,000 – 20,000 Yen at Autobacs which is utterly ridiculous to me. You can get them online much, much cheaper. I got an insanely good deal: I found a place online selling used units + setup for 4,000 Yen. This is what I went with ultimately. It’s a older unit apparently, but who cares — they all basically do the same thing.

“Setup” is essentially programming the unit for your car. This tells it what class of car to charge for among other things and you need to submit your registration to get it put in. There are some places online that will do this for about 2,000 Yen if you pay for the shipping (which means I got my unit for basically around 2,000 Yen!).

Now for installation — this is the fun part:

The unit didn’t come with instructions so I downloaded them online. It takes a ground, B+, and ACC so I decided to split the B+ and ACC off my stereo wire harness and hook the ground to the frame. Note most people doing this in Japan apparently go for the fuse box but I took a different route.

I bought a pack of U connectors and some double-sided tape. I was also rather unsure of the wire harness format so I ended up buying a cheap 1,000 Yen multimeter as well to test (even though the spec I found on the internet ended up being perfect).

So first the antenna: I put some clear double-sided tape on the rear of it and stuck it behind my rear view mirror, right next to the car seal already there. Then I took my fingers and pushed the wire under the roof all the way around the driver’s side, down near the fuse box, and then across to the center console. I was able to do it all without pulling anything off and without any tools but a screwdriver to help push the wire in. It worked better than I thought to be honest, you can’t see the wire at all.

Next the power:

I pulled off the center console, unscrewed and pulled out the stereo, and detached the wire harness from the back of it. Using my multimeter, I tested for the B+ and ACC wires by putting the ground probe against the frame and sticking the red probe against the different connectors. Both the B+ and ACC wires test for 12V — the difference being that B+ (meaning battery) will have a constant 12V even if the car is off and the keys are out, and the ACC (meaning accessory) will only have 12V when the keys are in, when the car is running, and NOT when the car is cranking. Note some ETC devices only need one or the other of these.

I pulled some tape back from off the harness wires and attached the appropriate ETC cables (referencing the downloaded instructions) using U connectors:

U connectors are awesome by the way: you just clip them around preexisting wire, stick a new wire in, and clap it down. This pushes a piece of metal through both wires connecting them together without having to cut or mess with the original — and it insulates the connection with the plastic of the connector. Really convenient for patching off preexisting cabling.

I did this for both the B+ and ACC wires but didn’t bother with the ground. I just striped off some insulation from the wire, loosened a screw on the frame, and attached it behind a washer.

And finally, the ETC unit itself:

I pushed all the wires through the center console so they were popping out in the floor of the drivers seat, and then put the console back together. My plan was to mount it to the center console but I had I thought when I was doing it: i.e. “fuck it.”

I just wedged the whole unit up under the plastic of the center console. Didn’t use tape or anything — it was stiff enough to hold and you could still see the indicator:

Then “peep!”

As for the ETC card, I currently have a JCB credit card and they offered a ETC card attached to the account for a small, one-time setup fee. I can’t remember off-hand but it was about 1,000 to 1,500 Yen. Then I went here and registered for the mileage service (that I am still waiting on).

And thus concludes my overly detailed account of the adventures in ETC. Now I just got to get the nerve to actually try it out. Note by the way how bad it would suck if I pulled into the ETC lane on the interstate and it decides not to work.

Speed Cube

So, I broke down and bought my first speed cube. It’s a relatively new model — the Sulong from YJ. I ordered it from China and they must have had some one swim it over because it took a fucking decade to arrive. It was a bit dusty out of the box but in good shape — and dirt cheap.

My first impressions? It turns insanely good and corner cutting is absolutely effortless. I read online that it never pops but that turns out to be utter bullshit; it took me about 10 min for my first one.

All in all though I’m really enjoying it so far. As I have been using a regular cube up until now it’s rather difficult to get used to though. I’m trying to relearn the algorithms with my fingers rather than my hands. You kind of have to though because you have no control if you don’t. But of course if I get it down it should be much faster!

Stressed And Overwhelmed

I’ve been a bit overwhelmed these days, mainly with work and taxes, but when I get overwhelmed and stressed my brain becomes completely stupid and kicks up my perfectionist tendencies even more — which of course just makes everything all the worse.

I was trying to do a write-up of sorts and just kept revising the same paragraph like a hundred times. And it started driving me crazy because I was spending hours on it even though I knew in my head — even as I was doing it — that I was past the point of it making it worth the effort. But once I get in a loop like that it’s just hard to break free — I don’t know why. Just one of many affiliations I haven’t found a good way to get over yet.

Actually that’s not true. There is one method that I have found that helps: I highlight all the text in red and go through it sentence at a time turning it black, and refuse to let myself go back and read the sentences I’ve blackened. It’s a bit of a brain trick but it does help sometimes. It’s what helped this time anyway.

So, I was playing around with my cube again tonight and picked up a new shortcut. Every now and again I run into the case on the 2nd layer where I get a corner reversed:

This kind of sucks because I have to push an irrelevant corner in, and then go back and put the proper one in. In my current way of doing things, that’s eight moves for the replace, and eight more for the correct. There is a better shortcut for this that lets you do it in nine total as opposed to sixteen. As this scenario always occurs for the last corner of the second layer for me, I took the shortcut and reversed it so that I can flip the cube upside-down, fix it in nine, and then keep holding the cube as is to solve the last layer. It’s pretty cool — but I’m pretty positive I will forget it a hundred times before it finally sticks in my head.

Speaking of cube solving, I got it down to just over 2 min now:

And on a completely unrelated note, I’m reading “Time and Again” by Jack Finney and rather liking it!


Productive Day

Went to the gym for 2 hrs. Played Chess with Ren. Started teaching the princess how to do the first layer cross on a Rubik’s cube. Picked up the dry cleaning. Put in a good half day of work for the upcoming exchange merger. Put the kids in the shower. Reviewed the third layer corner placement strategy for my Rubik’s cube. Helped Ren with his piano practice. Finished coding my Japan Interest Tax Calculator. Reversed calculated taxes and pre-tax interest amounts for my US taxes. Wrote this blog. Drank lots of beer. The end?

Rubik’s Cube

I bought an imitation Rubik’s Cube at the 100 yen store the other day on a bit of a whim and for some reason got all addicted to it. I managed to solve it once and then today when taking the kids to Yamada Denki to play some games, I ended up buying myself a proper one. It cost about 1500 yen which is actually pretty high, but it is nice. The cheap one was feeling like it would fall apart already and it was an utter pain to spin.

Anyhow, I was messing around with my new cube while the kids were playing and ended up solving it a couple more times. The first time it took me about an hour, the next about ten minuets. Last time I did it I was down to about three and a half.

Note by the way the fastest guys in the world can do it in under six seconds!

Ski in GALA Yuzawa

Took the kids out skiing for the first time this past weekend:

It’s been close to ten years since the last time I went snowboarding and even longer for the wifey, so needless to say, neither of us were feeling the confidence to teach a four and six year. We ended up getting them a beginners lesson, and the wifey and took that time to do some rehabilitation of our own together.

We both ended up recalling it pretty quickly and really had a good time. I have only been snowboarding a handful of times in my life anyway so i’m nowhere close to being that good, but it kind of surprised me how well my body remembered it. The ski resort was rather nice as well — very convenient. The snow was good given the season, it was decently close to Tokyo, and you walk right out of the station directly into the rental hall and locker area. You really can’t beat that. Trying to carry two kids worth of stuff absolutely sucked of course, but we managed somehow.

2014030904The kids did really well by the way. Even Ren was able to get up and glide well but Anna was even getting her stopping down by the end. And they absolutely loved it, which was most important. We’ll definitely have to go back for another round.


I have somewhat of an addiction for collecting points on various internet sites. It’s become a bit of a ritual for me to spend about 5-10 min clicking in the morning while I have my coffee. I probably only make a few yen a day off it but it’s fun for some reason — I don’t know. I think it’s just a simple mindless task that helps wake me up and get my hands moving.

Anyway, a lot of these sites reset themselves every hour but lucky I’m not so addicted to sit there and try to click them all day. But just for fun, I wrote a script in AutoIt to launch one of these sites, login, click five times, and then close it out. The script just loops and runs every hour. And it works rather good!

It’s a bit fragile I think because it depends on timings but I think there is definitely some useful stuff you can do with it if you add in proper validation. I’m considering trying to put it to use at work but figure I will play around with the language a bit more. I have been rather impressed though — it’s pretty powerful. You can even write GUI’s in it.