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The death of a computer, and other stories

I glared at the buildings, thoroughly disgruntled by a nagging déjà vu that had been bothering me for a while. "It doesn't resemble the University of Stellenbosch. It looks European, but I haven't been to Europe for yonks. It looks … what? … where did I see this?"

I muttered irritably, shifted my bag full of files to another hand and wished the person I was waiting for would hurry up. It was hot, I was in a grumpy "I hate meetings" mood and the crows were noisier than a kindergarten full of drunken salarymen.

"Shut up!" I snapped at a particularly obnoxious crow. "Away, thou cullionly motley-minded varlot! Begone, thou guts-griping boar-pig dissembling flap-mouthed strumpet!"

If that bird had had a tongue, he would've stuck it out at me; instead he cawed closer and perched on a sign. (Don't argue with me already! I know birds have tongues, but there's this thing called poetic licence, OK?) "You can't sit on that sign, you fobbing clapper-clawed flap-dragon! That sign is a warning against criminals like you, and you, you TERRORIST, you just sit there and you … wait a minute, hang on, that lamp behind you … I GOT IT! It’s a bridge!"

So there you have it. Thanks to a crow disrespecting a warning sign, my attention was focused on one particular element and I could finally identify what it was at the University of Tokyo that had gnawed at my fuzzy memory: the iron lamps.

This is what I saw at the university:

These are lamps I'd photographed on the Sumida's iron bridges earlier this year:


Don’t you agree that they're very similar? I think they date from roughly the same era, the early 1900s, which could very well explain their kinship. Here's a bonus photo of Tōdai lamps against autumn's splendour. Three more months, and the show will be repeated.

High heels

Since I'm into analogies, here’s another one. I've finally figured out what too many young women look like when they're trying to walk in high heels: they look like a flamingo with constipation and bunions.

You're not a flamingo, sweetie pie, you're a human. You stride. You slap that heel down with confidence, followed by the ball of your foot, and for pity's sake tuck in your bum.

The cute factor

Everything in Japan is cute. I bought headache pills and the pharmacy put it in this paper bag. The bag itself is enough to make you forget about headaches.

Happiness is …

… a present from Malaysia: the perfect bracelet for a jungle woman, and a balm that's better than Tiger Balm! Thank you, Lina!

Frustration is ...

... trying to understand a pamphlet written in Japanese and Arabic. Oy gevalt und vey iz mir, have mercy on a poor barbarian, can't you just explain it in English? This is a brochure I got at the Tokyo Camii Mosque. Ever tried to understand Arabic script with the help of Japanese script? Don't. Therein lies madness.

The joys of commuting

Who's the woman on the left – a famous actress trying to be incognito? It was 35 degrees Celsius, and she was wearing a jacket, boots (boots!), a cap pulled over her face, massive sunglasses and a mask. Also a bag bigger than the suitcase I take with me on my South African holiday. Perhaps she hadn't done her make-up yet?

As far as the woman on the right is concerned, Dru and Massimo, a role model for you?

A great shampoo

Loyal Long-suffering readers may remember my quest for a shampoo that's not too rich or heavy for super-fine Western hair. (Japanese hair is thick, strong and gorgeous. Caucasian hair is soft and fluffy and frizzy in high humidity.) I found it! Curél shampoo and conditioner (link). Highly recommended, and not expensive at all. I use their skincare products for a sensitive skin as well.


I'm in mourning. My computer died, and that's a trauma that's not easy to overcome.

It wasn't unexpected. Meerkat – that's what I called him – was four years old, which is a good lifespan for a laptop that's done some hard labour. He started freezing, once a week, once a day. I copied all my files onto an external hard disk, but kept hoping that Meerkat would recover.

It was not to be: Meerkat has gone to the great cloud above, where he can recover from his info junkie mistress.

Fortunately I have another computer, a compact model that was bought four years ago but hardly ever used. He's almost brand-new. His name is Marx. He's red.

See my screen? Massimo took that photo.

I decided that instead of contributing to Akihabara's coffers, I'd recall Marx to active duty, but it took a while to get him battle-ready. As soon as I connected him to the internet, Windows went nuts: four years of updates had to be downloaded; service packs had to be upgraded; browsers, anti-virus software and just about every programme from Acrobat to Picasa had to be updated.

Marx went into shock and refused to copy/paste. I fumed. He sulked. Windows rubbed its hands gleefully and provided another update. Marx wiped off sweat, reloaded his gun and agreed to copy/paste again.

Now Marx is humming along perfectly, and Meerkat has joined Kabouter (Elf), my first computer in Japan, in a box in a cupboard.

Marx occupies a much smaller space on my desk, but ah well, more room for dictionaries.

Thanks, Meerkat. You done good.

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