Japan 2016 Day 5

I’m a little tired. I’ve been sleeping OK though I wake up from all the unfamiliar sounds (like the weirdo who left his radio on all night next door in Okayama and started pounding the walls in the morning and the trains by my current hotel room) but I’ve been sleeping to my alarm, unlike my sister and her friends.

Today was a long day out. I started out having breakfast with the group.

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For a little more than the price of a cup of coffee, you get all this. And then I was off to see my cousin to pick up some books for my mom. My cousin asked which books my mom wanted so I called her and she said she wanted them all! That meant a heavy addition to what I have to carry back from Japan!

I rejoined the group around lunchtime but they were in full shopping mode and we didn’t eat until after 2PM.

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Which was odd because there was a pancake shop we had to try with fluffy, custardy pancakes that were limited to 20 per day (or was it 20 three times a day?) and we had to get there at 3PM. Well, we did both.

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My sister asked me if I wanted an order to myself and I said, “Sure, why not?”

I know I’m getting picky because I tasted something off in the pancakes, like maybe some bad oil, and also I thought the soba and tempura could be a little better. Not that they weren’t really good, just that they weren’t excellent.

After that we continued shopping until 8PM or so about the time I thought I was going to fall over. It was fun, though. And I finally found my mom’s stomach medicine out by my cousin’s apartment.

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Japan 2016 Day 4

Oh boy, I’m too tired to describe much of what we did today. We travelled from Okayama to Osaka, dropped off our bags, and then tried to go tone of my sister’s favorite fabric stores in Osaka. More of a boutique than a full-on store. Unfortunately it was closed today but we did find a tiny pop-up shop with interesting things that my sister’s friends bought.

But most of the afternoon was spent in Shinsaibashi, dodging Chinese tourists. Unfortunately I was going into a bunch of places that the Chinese tourists congregate: Japanese drug stores. My mom wanted me to pick up some digestive pills for her and they’re getting rarer lately and I have to ask at a lot of stores before I find them. It was a long and tiring day. But we did get in some eating including very fluffy and caky pancakes for a snack.

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Oh, and what the hell. I can’t avoid Micah Camden even in Osaka.

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Japan 2016 Day 3

Today was our trip to Naoshima, one of the art islands in Japan. I was there with my sister and mom in 2011 back before it was very popular and now it has been on countless blogs and in print magazine articles making it a lot more crowded than before. Last time we went on a Monday and a lot of things were closed but this time it’s Sunday.

We went with a party of nine, including an English teacher from Baltimore and a professor from The College of William & Mary.

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I don’t have a lot of pictures because what museum lets you take pictures? We went to Chichu Art Museum, saw most of the Art House Project, and wandered around. I also had some of the local beer.

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It was a much nicer day than yesterday (it was raining a lot yesterday).

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Met a lot of new people, including a German tourist who has a British father and spoke excellent English with an interesting accent. He’s staying at an airbnb in northern Kyoto and makes day trips all around the country.

We made it back to Okayama and had dinner near the hotel at Moby, some sort of meat restaurant. Well, I thought that’s what it was because I had a hamburg steak.

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And that’s about it for the pictures I have for today. I wish I could’ve taken pictures of the installations or could tell you which Monet paintings we saw, but I can’t. I would recommend seeing it for yourself.

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Japan 2016 Day 2

Oh boy am I tired. Not that I’ve done all that much, but the jet lag is catching up to me and it sure doesn’t help with the sleep at night. And the shoulder pain I got from doing too much of something at the gym hasn’t completely gone away.

I’m here with my sister and two of her friends, and the daughter of one of the friends. It’s been pretty easy so far, except they took a much cheaper flight which was delayed three hours and I had to sit in Narita airport at 6PM (2AM PDT) and wait for them.

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Fortunately the movies I watched on my flight gave me ideas on what music I could blast through my headphones to keep me awake. I watched Star Trek: Fast and Furious, Central Intelligence, Zoolander 2, and Hail, Caesar! I have to admit I enjoyed them all.

We took took the train to Shin-Yokohama, mailed some packages, and by that time it was so late that we just ate food from Lawson, the Japanese convenience store. Today we travelled to Okayama, met our friend Yumi, and did a bunch of pseudo-shopping in Kurashiki. I can’t really say it was shopping when all I bought was a soft ice cream. Oh, and some coffee.

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I suppose my sister did buy me a matcha beer.

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I also went and looked for those obscenely comfortable silk & denim jeans and I couldn’t find any my size, even when they checked all of their stores!

It’s raining now and I’ve armed myself with a 150yen umbrella. Wish me luck!

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I did NOT have a lobster roll.

Last time I went to my MIT class reunion was my first time back to a class reunion. It took me 25 years to get over the fact that they let me into MIT. I had an awful time as an undergrad but a fellow alumnus pointed out that as a high school graduate I wouldn’t’ve made any other choice.

My first reunion was the first big one, the 25th. I had such a good time that I decided to go to all reunions I could make it to. I did miss getting a lobster roll last time so this time I got TWO of them. I also lucked into a few things.

A lot of people know that I’ll talk to just about anyone. I recognized a classmate early (who is an instructor at BU) and she challenged another classmate and me to crash Tech Night at the Pops (the Boston Pops). I didn’t exactly crash it, but I did get tickets at the door. The Boston Pops is certainly worth seeing and I missed out not going when I had the chance in the past.


On the way back several members of the MIT Corporation got on the bus and I chatted with them about getting a ticket to commencement. Matt Damon was the speaker and I wanted to see him. The head of the corporation joked that I could have his ticket but I’d have to speak. I looked him up afterwards and if I had known anything about him or the other members on the bus I would’ve been frightened to talk to them. Here’s his official (scary picture). He looked much nicer in real life. Besides, he’s a fellow alumnus.


So the next morning about 9AM I was walking down the infinite corridor and I asked a random parent-looking-person when commencement started. They told me 10, and that there was a shorter line behind me, and asked if I was going. I said I didn’t have a ticket and they gave me one! In line I met a guy who was there to see his niece, I think, graduate and he turned out to be the high school locker-mate of my old classmate Paul DiMilla! And since I was just one person and not a group, they kept ushering me forward. I ended up at the fence between general admission and the special 25th/50th reunion section. A classmate convinced the guard to let me through and I ended up watching Matt Damon speak from a great seat right behind the class of 1966!

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That lead to a day of crashing departmental receptions to eat free food, and then the class dinner.

Saturday morning I talked myself into a group of classmates doing the scavenger hunt. The woman on the very right is a class officer who took five years to accept my Facebook friend request. One woman directly to my right (left in the picture) used to be a lawyer at Nike (Harvard Law School graduate) and lives 1.2 miles away from me! And I don’t know if we met since our undergrad days!


In there afternoon there was an attempt on my part to buy shorts that ended up with my accidentally stealing a sweatshirt, which meant I had to run back and pay for it. This made me late for the class games, which were fun but we didn’t win. Then there was the class trivia night and big party for the 100th anniversary of MIT moving from Boston to Cambridge.


The next morning I got up, packed up, and then snuck into the president’s house for the class of ’91 brunch. OK, so I was invited so it really wasn’t crashing the party. I even got the picture with the MIT president I missed five years ago when I bailed early to get to the Apple WWDC. OK, so it’s a different president, but I still got a picture with the president of MIT!

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I even snuck into the class of ’91 picture! (I missed my class photo.)

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Here are two more class of ’86 alumni who were also at the class photo.


I had a great time. Met my goal (the lobster roll) and my stretch goal (seeing Matt Damon) and even “snuck into” several other events. Everyone should go to their reunion!

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My name is Todd and I’ve started Crossfit again.

OK, so it’s not just Crossfit, because I think a lot of those guys just do whatever is on the main Crossfit blog. The owner of Pacific Crest Crossfit actually uses all his Crossfit training to add to the programming he does. No matter what it is, I’m still doing less than everyone else and it’s still kicking my ass.

I’ve also decided to counteract all the exercise with beer. There’s a couple of interesting places very close by, Ex Novo and Labrewatory. Labrewatory is unique as it is an experimental brewery where Portland Kettleworks sets up brewing equipment that they’ve made for their customers, and the customers come in and learn how to use it all. They have a Mexican Chocolate Stout, and an Almond Roca Stout. And even thought there’s more food at Ex Novo, Labrewatory has Tamale Boy tamales.

Even more interesting, Labrewatory has Japanese customers and I’ve met several of them. Last Friday was Rise and Win Brewing (even had dinner with those guys) and tonight I met Porltand Blogger Red Gillen (who blogs in Japanese) and a kid named Max. Max has an interesting back story and is a Japanese calligrapher and he wrote my name on his business card!

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Max is going to be at Commons Brewery on 5/13/2016 from 6PM to 8PM. 

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What a crummy week.

This has not been the best of times. It’s not the worst of times, either. That’s likely in the future. Things at work are not ideal and I can’t say much more because I’m trying not to say that much about work any more.

I also tried to endure my usual allergy shot and it caused me to break out into hives and required FOUR Benadryl to avoid staying an itchy blotchy mess. Or is it a blotchy itchy mess? It almost became a non-breathing itchy blotchy mess and that would’ve made me an ex-itchy blotchy mess.

And today I went to my new Crossfit gym and even though I kept it “light” I think I’m going to have issues with my shoulder now as well as my lingering issues with my right foot.

Yesterday wasn’t so bad though. I went to watch my friend’s kid’s senior presentations and she’s doing quite well as far as I can tell. I have to admit she’s a bit of a nutbag, but I’m pretty sure her biological dad is my friend and he’s a serious nutbag. It’s not like I like normal people. After watching the two presentations (she had to go and get a double-major in Math and Chemistry) I went to a local MIT Alumni association happy hour.

I was at the pub for the happy hour a bit early and I kind of could tell that nobody there was an MIT grad. I asked my sister if that was odd that I thought that I could tell the difference between an MIT grad an a “normie” and she said, “Well you are one of them.” I actually picked several of my fellow alumni of the crowd without having met them before.

I think I’ve finally come to terms with my time at MIT: it was my choices that led me to the tortures of undergraduate life there and not really the fault of MIT. Because of that I think I can actually talk about the place as somewhere that nerds NEED to go rather than a place that should be avoided at all costs. A true geek needs to go to find out how they measure up, as well as drink from the firehose. I’m finally OK that I just ended up a guy who can live with a single, older, middle-class existence in the hipster paradise of Portland, Oregon. There are excellent beers available as well as tasty tamales. I can have computers to play with and some sort of compromised ham radio antenna for my other geeky hobby. I’m OK.

Now if could just stay peacefully employed and keep from trying to keep up with the kids at a Crossfit gym, I’d be even better off. Wish me luck!

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Oh how my priorities change.

I finally found a new gym. I had a bunch of things I wanted in a new gym: not too easy, not too hard. Too easy seemed to be all over, and Crossfit definitely seemed too hard. I was thinking maybe taking up BJJ, or doing yoga, but really wanted a pullup bar and a rope to climb, two things that are easier to find at a Crossfit gym. So when an old friend told me to join him at a Crossfit gym he’d been sneaking off to I finally relented. And they have a not-quite-that-long rope to climb!

So far it hasn’t been too bad but I haven’t been going for a full week yet. They have several “levels” of workouts and I’m old and lazy enough to stick to the easiest level. Even I ran 2½ miles tonight which is two miles more than I’ve run at one time in for years. Now I’m just hoping I don’t hurt myself.

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Not really successfully finding a new gym.

When the gym closed I set up a Facebook page for gym “alumni” so we could talk about where to go while our gym is on hiatus. We’re hoping it’s just a hiatus anyway. But not that many people are posting about where they’ve been and how it was. I wonder if they’re just doing what I’m doing, which is next to nothing, still kind of depressed that the old reliable gym is gone. I made it to Five Rings Jiu Jitsu once with my gi and my workout gear, thinking I’d decide which to do when I got there. Nathan, THMFIC at Recreate, was telling me I should start BJJ. Last Saturday morning they were having a gym exchange so I could only do the fitness class. It wasn’t what I expected – lots of stretching before warming up and just the workout. But the workout was pretty good.

Anyway, I’ve only been to one place, for one workout, and even though I spent $140 on a gi for BJJ I still haven’t gone to a class. I guess I went a couple of times back at Portland Judo but that was a year-and-a-half ago.

I guess I’ve had excuses: a stomachache last week that almost made me go home from work, a headache (from allergies I hope) this week that almost made me go home from work, and today, not wanting to get beat up on my birthday.

OK, so birthday. I figured this is my only chance to score some free stuff but all I did was go to another building at work to get a free beer and pretzel (from the “our company isn’t as awful as you think” committee). I really just went to work and hoped it wouldn’t be too awful. It wasn’t. Happy birthday to me.

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Wandering around at 9AM on a Saturday morning.

I was a little hung over this morning, mostly tired with a weird feeling in my stomach. Weird like having to poo a lot weird. I decided it was a nice morning and THERE WAS NO MORE GYM TO GO TO so I should just walk there anyway and look inside. That was a weird feeling. The parking lot was completely empty, and so was the inside of the gym.

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I figured as long as I made it that far, I should go visit some of the other gyms in the neighborhood. I went to Planet Granite, which I found when I was trying to find the Immigration Office. My mom has to get her green card renewed next year or so, and she was worried about not being able to find the new office. I wandered around inside and, luckily, was able to use their bathroom. I ran into someone I who was in my pre-med classes at Portland State – she’s a dentist now. But the class looked boring when I looked over. Lots of squats and lunges.

I next went to a new crossfit box and it was full of young people and one told me they do the WOD off the crossfit blog every day. Sounded like death and I’m too old to be keeping up with all the 20-year-olds.

Finally, it wasn’t much of a detour to go to one of the bazillion yoga studios in the neighborhood. My New Year’s resolution was to start doing yoga, so I may do that. Yet another year I put something reasonable as my aspirations and actually follow through on it.

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I was wrong about the last workout at Recreate Fitness.

I may not have attended the most classes at Recreate Fitness but I may have spent the most hours there of anyone who wasn’t an official employee. Today I went in just before noon to dismantle things and at least make sure they could haul out as much as possible. I can’t remember what I did, but I didn’t finish until almost 7PM and I’m dog tired.

I probably spent a couple of hours going up and down ladders. TRX anchors, speakers, rope climbing ropes, all came down. I carried a mini-fridge down the stairs and being a dummy I checked the contents AFTER I got it down. The stereo was boxed up. I got everything I thought was mine out of there (ladders, tools, etc) and that barely gave me enough time to go to a ham radio club meeting. After leaving the meeting early I got a text message from a co-worker who serendipitously let me know that I had a 9PM customer meeting. That left me just enough time to have a nutritious dinner from Jack-in-the-Box. What a day.

I forgot to add that I felt like I split my pants while doing all the climbing and lifting. I forgot about that and went out to get coffee. No screams from children or the homeless people camping on the route to the coffee shop. When I finally went to the bathroom I found out why. No rip in the pants. A HUGE RIP in my boxers. Well, if I didn’t put it on my blog no one would’ve known. And since no one reads my blog NO ONE KNOWS. Hahaha.

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This isn’t the first time I quit Recreate Fitness, but this is the first time that Recreate Fitness quit me. The lease on the second space is up and real estate in Portland is nuts so they’re on hiatus. I’m afraid that the hiatus may be longer than expected but why worry about things I can’t control?

I took a break a couple of years back when I had a midlife crisis. Well, mostly bummed and midlife because, well, that’s supposed to be 40 +/- 20 years according to the intarwebs. (Seriously, 20-60?) Anyway, I’m on the immature side so 50-ish doesn’t seem to far off from midlife. Back to the non-math part of this, back a couple years I had an inkling that THMFIC wasn’t really feeling it any more and he was going to eventually close the gym. At the same time I went on a couple of dates with someone from OkCupid, she disappeared, and I realized that in 20 years I’d only gone out with two or three people from online dating sites and that meant this was probably the last time I was going on a date, EVER. So I tried to delete my Facebook account, put my name in to join a prestigious athletic club with a five-year waitlist, and started taking Judo instead of going to Recreate.

That was a bit of a mistake on my part. Everyone gets injured at Judo, and if you’re older (and you’re bad at Judo like I was) it takes longer to heal. I would’ve kept going, but there were reasons. And I found out that the only way to find out when things were happening at the dojo was to have a Facebook account. The injuries won out and I went back to Recreate.

There were some good things that came from my hiatus. I spent more time at work and that was good (and bad). More work means you get better reviews but it also means they expect you to do even more work. Constant improvements is the way of corporate America.

So here I am, old and on my way to becoming feeble. No more gym, a place where I used to spend a lot of my time. I’m thinking of taking up the banjo. Won’t anyone stop me?

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