Finally, an internet connection.

I’ve spent most of the past two days in the back of a car and now I’m trying to stay awake. Yesterday we went from Maebashi to a Japanese hot spring with a stop at the prefectural government building and their spectacular view.


We also had a stop for soba for lunch somewhere in the mountains in between stops at lakes, viewpoints, and other mountaintop recreational areas.


We also made a stop to see our friend’s single apple tree (the one right behind my mom).


We got to the hot springs in the afternoon and I don’t have any pictures because I was too busy relaxing. We went with my mom’s friend Mieko and were met by her husband, Dr. Kobayashi who I haven’t seen in 18 years. He’s usually too busy to get away from his doctoring. I wish I had pictures of the baths because it’s so relaxing taking a bath and then soaking in a pool of hot water. Unfortunately, there were lots of people around and I’m not about to post a picture of a bunch of naked middle-aged Japanese men. This isn’t that kind of blog. The food was pretty good as well but I was still too busy relaxing to take a picture of the food.

I was in the back of Mieko’s car for a second day while we made our way to the Kawasaki residence in Toyama. We made some stops to see friends and also Yasuhiko Jinja.



In any case, I can’t believe how tired I am for just having sat in the back of a car for two days. I guess I’d better cut this short before I end up passing out.

However, here’s a picture of a girl’s shirt with some fine examples of Engrish which I thought was appropriate for Halloween.


Plus some cows in the back of a transport truck. They probably couldn’t fit on the Japanese version of Greyhound.

Thank goodness I’m a geek.

Pardon my incoherence, but it’s 11:30PM here in Japan, and I just got back from dinner. That means it’s 7:30AM at home and I’ve been up since 7:30AM yesterday with a few naps during the day. I didn’t sleep that well last night, either. I’m pretty beat. After the flight we got on a bus for 3+ hour bus ride to Maebashi and didn’t have dinner until 9:30PM.

We had monjiyayaki for dinner tonight tonight which is similar but not identical to okonomiyaki. I’m used to okonomiyaki because it’s a Kansai thing, but this monjiyayaki is completely new to me. I also had a couple of large-looking beers, but I always think they’re not that strong here though they are very tasty.


And thought you might not be able to tell the difference, here’s an okonomiyaki.


The new NWA (Northwest Airlines, not the rap group) is not an improvement over the old. The planes are smaller and there aren’t any screens in the seatbacks, only the big screens up in the ceiling above the aisles. The headphone jack in the seat arm is one of those funky airline jacks that has two plugs for stereo and plugging in a normal set of headphones just gets sound in one ear. I also think they don’t feed you as often, even though they did have Cup-a-Noodle on demand.

Fortunately, I’m a big geek and brought lots of toys. I did watch the three movies overhead with the help of an airplane headphone jack converter that I’ve been carrying around for years but never used until today. I had my Kindle for reading books and my iPhone for music. The three movies were one I never wanted to see: The Soloist, one I sort of wanted to see: Monsters vs. Aliens, and one I actually wanted to see but shouldn’t admit that: 17 Again. The flight wasn’t that bad. It took 11 hours but it was fairly empty. Got on at 12:30PM, got to Narita around 11:30PM, and then took a bus to Maebashi. Our dinner was in Maebashi, where we’re spending the night.

OK, I’m about done. The funniest Engrish I saw was for a “love hotel” named “First Wood” that was right next to the freeway. More later.

Ideal viewing angle.

So now my huge 23″ TV is in the other room and I just measured the distance from the TV to my chair. It’s somewhere around 23 feet away. The worst part is that the 23″ Samsung has really awful audio and it’s kind of hard to hear the tinny sound come out of it. Here’s a picture of what I see when I’m watching TV.


It’s really not so bad. I remember when I used to watch a 12″ TV I hauled out of the trash in Japan. I had to fix it, and I sat on this awful foam couch that I also hauled out of the trash. Fortunately, my manager gave me some wicker chairs and I didn’t have to use that couch much after that.

I just downloaded a bunch of books into my Kindle for the trip to Japan. I haven’t used my Kindle in months and the display said something about the battery being completely dead, which it can say because e-ink doesn’t take any power to maintain the text on the screen. I’m just hoping I haven’t read any of these already:

Mind’s Eye: an Inspector Hakan Nesser
Nine Dragons Michael Connelly
The Confession Olen Steinhauer
The Pillars of the Earth Ken Follett
The Bridge of Sighs Olen Steinhauer
Down River John Hart

Coincidentally, I tried to read Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo on my trip to Japan last year. It took a LONG time to finish that book and it was worth it, but it took some work.

Safety first, except when inconvenient.

I was moving some furniture today because I figured I could start using some of the space I gained back after the carpet was put into the “other” bedroom. The closet door and shelves need to be put back in and the attic access doors need to be installed and I probably need to get some matching paint and touch up some of the messes myself.

So I know better than to move furniture without my shoes on, but I usually don’t wear shoes upstairs. Because of that, I smashed the crap out out of my toe on a hand truck. I put shoes on afterwards and that’s when I figured out that my toe was bleeding, as it did for the rest of the day. I can’t remember when I took the shoes back off, but I did end up dropping a remote control and a ramune bottle on the same foot later in the day. Ramune bottle thick, heavy green glass, by the way. If you think I should have more sense, it’s likely you don’t know me very well.

In any case, I moved my computer and some files up to the bedroom, and ended up spending a whole lot more time shredding my dad’s old financial papers from the 90’s. Really exciting work, let me tell you. I kept some of it, which my sister and I may or may not ever look at (stuff like his backache diary) but the various tax records are now in little confetti-like piece. My shredder sure fills up the recycle bin quickly.


Hooray. And end to a long week, and I didn’t even have to go in to work today. We had our “group offsite” which meant we went to a science museum that was full of screaming middle school kids. I’m hoping I didn’t get swine ‘flu, because my trip to Japan is supposed to start on next Wednesday. It doesn’t help that my boss had the ‘flu and is coughing all the time.

In any case, I spent most of the afternoon and evening watching Fringe and thinking of what I really should do this weekend. Mostly dumb stuff like getting door stops and curtains and trying to get a door to latch. Nothing big but you know how weekends go. We’ll see if I get anything done, though.

The man button.

We had burger club tonight but we were missing two of the founding members. Sean has dad duties and Jeff’s parents were in town. But we finally got Imran to come out with us and Matty’s friend Kurt as well. Rounding out the group were Erin, Matty, and me. We went to Bridgeport where they had a pretty good pub burger, not in the upper tier but tasty nevertheless. A little unevenly salted, but otherwise pretty good. The place wasn’t packed and there were a lot of wait staff, but our server was also the bartender and we had pretty abysmal service. Plus, we were squeezed in between two tables of douchebagsfrat boys, or so it seemed. It was a pretty weird scene.

Yesterday I was talking to Jorgen at the gym about the weight he was using during the workout. I did OK with 30lb dumbbells, but he was using 35lb. He told me, “I pushed the man button.” I suppose I pushed the damnfool button the night before when I was doing a little heavier weight and wasn’t able to do it two nights in a row, so I don’t suppose I should complain about what I was doing. In any case I felt like falling over several times tonight as well, so I suppose that’s OK. That’s what I’m there for, to work out.

Much better.

I had a much better day today and even did OK at the gym. The bad part is that I’ve been busy enough at work all week that I had to eat at the cafeteria for the past two days. My stomach has been grumbling all day and I was worried this afternoon about it. Now I’m staying up late to see if it will resolve itself before I go to bed. Yeesh. I know I shouldn’t be talking about work so I probably should stop talking about the cafeteria, too.

Who am I kidding, I stayed up way too late on Tuesday night to finish watching my Monday night TV shows off of my DVR. Tomorrow I’ll watch Tuesday night, which is probably just NCISx2. The only other excitement I had today was vacuuming the new carpet in the other upstairs bedroom. Now I just have to figure out how you get curtains that fit a particular window size. I suppose that’s just another job for google.

Don’t expect me to get much done at the gym this week.

There are certain motivational methods that just don’t work on me. And then when fight or flight kicks in, I often bail. That’s the flight option after all.

So if today is any indication, I’m going to be fairly distracted at the gym and not feel like myself until afterwards. We did an old workout that was fairly challenging and I spent a fair amount of time standing around wondering if I should just go home. For a week. And not come outside the whole time. It beat the other alternatives I was thinking of, and it would give me more time to work on the house.

Ah, well, I’m sure I’ll get over it one way or another.

Watching Fringe all day long.

So Jay the Contractor made new doors for one out of four attic access doors, and even that one is a little broken. The painters had painted it shut and getting it off cracked part of the frame. The door wouldn’t stay on the wall and Jay suggested magnetic latches, which I bought last week but never did install until today. The door stays on, but it also is kind of warped.

I found out yesterday that the painters also seemed to get some schmutz on my HDTV screen. My buddy Greg suggested I try getting it off with some alcohol. Denatured alcohol has methanol in it and I’m not exactly sure if methanol is good for plastics, so instead I bought some Everclear. Fortunately it worked to get the schmutz off.

Really, that’s about all I did today. I did get honked at and yelled at by a guy for talking on my cell phone while driving. I was on a city street, keeping up with traffic, and as far as I know it won’t be illegal to talk on the cell phone while driving until January 1st 2010 in Oregon. My bluetooth headset was acting up so I couldn’t use it. The yelling dude was weaving in and out of traffic and even ran a red light, which I figure is a little bit more illegal than talking on the phone. Whatever.

What you get for buying local.

I finally found the fine print that told me why my iPhone backup software wasn’t backing up my text messages, etc, it was because I had an encrypted backup. Whatever. Like I always say, if the government wants my password, it wouldn’t be hard to beat it out of me. I’m not that attached to it.

I went to Schoolhouse Electric today to pick up another matching lighting fixture for my bedroom. At Home Depot I’ve been buying $10 fixtures but the one at Schoolhouse, which is made locally, cost $115. But it’s also a lot cooler looking.

Other than that it was a very rainy day at times so I just stayed in and watched TV. I did notice that the attic hatch is warped and it looks like there’s schmutz on my HDTV screen and I think it might be paint. I don’t have any luck with painters, do I?

Some things beer is not good for.

I took some time off in the middle of the day to attend Andy Letourneau’s funeral, and I ran into a lot of people from Boy Scouts. Guys I haven’t seen for nearly 30 years and they’re probably all in their 40’s now. My old scoutmaster, an old camp director, and lots of guys who would have been my peers in Boy Scouts. It’s sad that this is the only reason I have for getting back together with these old friends. The funeral was well attended, as I expected, because Andy was a great guy.

Afterwards I went to Laurelwood with the Scouters and had mac and cheese (and a beer) for lunch. Beer is a bad idea before a workout, and was definitely slowing me down today. I went to the gym tonight because I missed Thursday night. The workout of the day wasn’t that long, and had two runs, but the beer I had at lunch was kind of percolating in my stomach and the second run was more of a trot. Liz and I were reminiscing and laughing about how we used to run until you couldn’t see us from the gym and then walk for a while. We were also saying the new people lately seem to be running a lot harder than we were able to when we started. In any case, my second run kind of felt like and extended effort to keep from seeing my lunch again, so I’ve proved to myself that beer is not a performance enhancing drug. At least not for Crossfit.

I ate too much but Hopworks makes it worth it.

I wrote a review of the burger, steak sandwich, and the beer. There’s really nothing I can say but I like it there. I wish it was a little less crowded, but they probably deserve to be because of their food and their beer. I’m not a complete fan of the beer, but it is good.

Other than that it was all about work today, so nothing to report. All my kvetching about work is done in person nowadays. I did have the opportunity to cancel my workout and be on a phone meeting instead, and of course I accepted. Having a job is a good thing.