Fat, lazy, and tired.

I am more tired than I ought to be. I think it’s probably all the time I spent the last two evenings trying to get my furnace back working. The morning after I thought I had everything working I found out that after the gas heat never turned on (it’s supposed to switch from the heat pump to the gas furnace when it gets cold outside). I changed the switchover temperature so the heat pump worked at colder temperatures.

I called the owner of the HVAC company and he told me that he’d have someone come by. The HVAC tech added one wire to make the gas furnace run at two levels. When I got home, the vents were pumping out cold air. I found I could get the gas heat on, but the heat pump would never switch to heat. I talked to the tech and the owner of the HVAC company and they the reversing valve was energized in cooling rather than heat.

So, I called Nest. I was on the phone with Nest for 3½ hours. Turns out they lost a call center and the first-line support was not that great. She tried to make me call back once (no way in hell I was going to wait on hold for another hour to get back to a human) and also told me to have the tech call instead (no way in hell the tech was going to wait on hold for an hour just to talk to someone). When she said to send her a picture and call back I asked to talk to her manager.

Fortunately, instead of the manager she sent me to second-tier support. The second-tier support seemed skeptical for a while but he got the troubleshooting bug and we tried a bunch of things. We found we could get the furnace running without any controller and rewiring the Nest revealed the big problem: the Nest itself was broken and couldn’t switch to heat! It also started thinking it was 15ºF warmer than it really was.

9PM was too late to get a replacement and it was the coldest night of the year so far. Fortunately, the gas heat still worked. Amazon’s return policy is spectacular and Home Depot sells them locally for the exact same price. Today, two days after the ordeal started, I have a working heater again.

I am pooped.

I am a big fat lazy pig.

I’be been away from the gym for over two weeks and I was about to go today but I thought I could install a Nest thermostat before I went. How hard could it be? The guy who sold me my furnace said he had one and it wasn’t much of a problem. There’s only three wires going from the furnace to the old Honeywell thermostat that seems to be going on the fritz just four or five years since it was installed.

FIVE HOURS LATER, the thermostat appears to be working fine. After hooking up the three wires, I got an error code from the Nest. I did what it told me to do and called Nest technical support. After about 45 minutes on hold, I took a chance and called the guy who installed my furnace. We both went to the same gear head high school and he told me how to wire my furnace, completely bypassing the control unit that’s bolted to the side of the furnace. Unfortunately that required running some new wiring, and finding multi-wire thermostat cable took a trip to Lowe’s and then a trip to Home Depot before I found it. While both were helpful, my favorite Home Depot even opened a Nest box to see if there were more instructions for me.

I think, finally, the Nest is wired right. It seems to know what kind of furnace I have. It seems to have turned the heat on. I can get to it over the internet.

However, I did miss going to the gym, and I still feel like a big fat lazy pig. Ah well, I suppose that’s not really a stretch.

Japan Day 16

I said I think I drank too much, and it doesn’t take much to be too much when you’re old and when you’re traveling eastward. It was a very long Thursday. If you looked at the clock in Portland, we got up at 1PM Wednesday and didn’t sleep until Thursday night. I stayed up on the plane watching bad movies (a Japanese crime movie where most of the protagonist criminals die, “A Good Day to Die Hard,” “Hansel and Gretel,” and “The Lone Ranger.”

But we started the day going to Tully’s for a change, to get the morning set there.

I wanted to get something to drink on the way back to the hotel and I found the Hot Ginger Ale they were advertising. It was pretty good.

We got on the Narita Express train for Narita Airport, and that takes about an hour.

We took my mom to our yearly lunch at Fujiya. There was an awful lot of spaghetti hiding on that plate.

My mom and sis cleaned their plates.

And then it was onto the plane where I watched all those movies and had to keep getting up to use the bathroom. Fortunately, I had an aisle seat. And then it was back to Portland where they have the Global Entry kiosks set up  That just meant I didn’t stand in line to go through immigrations but had to stand around a really long time to get my bags.

And back to Portland coffee. They even had refills!

Japan Day 15

Well I just got back from dinner with my old co-worker Suzuki-san, so let me just say it’s time to post some pictures and edit them later.

Now its two days or so later and I’m actually at home. The intarweb connection at the hotel in Tokyo was so spotty that I couldn’t upload these pictures!

Our last full day in Tokyo, I found a large purchase I’ve wanted to make. But besides that, we met my sister’s friend for lunch and she was HILARIOUS. Most people I know in finance drink a bit more than I do and have bigger adventures. It’s the best when those people have fun stories to tell to go along with those adventures. We went to a matcha restaurant in Kinshicho where I had taco rice.

I honestly don’t remember what my mom had. Avocado maguro maybe?

Of course the matcha desserts were great. My mom was having shiruko with shiratama and I had the frozen matcha and ice cream drink. That giant parfait is what my sister had. You’d think it was warm, but it went from 72ºF to 50ºF in three days on our trip. It’s never been that cold on one of my Japan trips. I actually bought some fleece and a hoodie at Uniqlo but sent it to the airport ahead of us because I didn’t think it would be that cold. I ended up buying a Heattech sweater and a knit cap. That, of course, didn’t stop us from getting these cold desserts.

My sister and her friend went to do some shopping and I was planning to take my mom to Katsushika. But we weren’t as far out as I thought and we went for a quick stroll through Asakusa instead. The big lantern at the kaminarimon wasn’t there, but everything else was. 

We got on the subway to go back and I thought we should make one more sightseeing stop as long as we were out. I was thinking of going to Iidabashi where my mom took classes to be able to work in an orphanage, but I noticed that we could get off the subway, hit the Kanda shrine, and get on the JR Chuo line without much walking. Of course I forgot and took her on the route that had the “men’s stairs”.

Kanda shrine is just a little ways from Akihabara and is quite pretty.

Here’s a painting of an old Tokyo festival that my mom stopped to look at.

On the way from Kanda Shrine to Ochanomizu station is the old Confucian school where the samurai sent their children to study. We didn’t go in, but it was impressive to see nevertheless.

After that I went to buy a watch that was expensive enough that most people would think “you paid what for what now?” But I’ve been talking about it for years and guys usually only have two pieces of jewelry, a watch and a wedding band. No wedding band for me, so you know how it is. In any case, I’ve been looking all over for a Grand Seiko and finally found two OK ones that were discounted 15% at the certain stores, but the one I really wanted was only available at department stores and was full price. Then I went to a Seiko “Master Shop”  and saw something that I hadn’t seen anywhere else and I decided it was either that or nothing, leaning towards the nothing because of the price. But I finally decided to get this watch. I knew I could get the 5% sales tax back, but  if you also became a new point card holder you could get 15% off your purchases. So it went from very ridiculously expensive to just ridiculously expensive.

Then it was off to have dinner with my old co-worker, Suzuki-san. He’s been out of work for a year (he got 3 years pay for a voluntary separation package) and so he’s been living a life of leisure. And by that I mean he’s been doing almost nothing and needs to get out more. But I see him every year and that’s always fun. We went out to an Okinawan restaurant where I think we had fried crocodile. I also drank a bit too much, but it was fun.

Japan Day 14

I’m not sleeping a lot in Tokyo. It’s much louder here and my hotel room makes weird noises what with the ductless air conditioner (that’s off but making a racket) and the Plasmacluster humidifier going bloop-bloop all night. We went to Paul Basset for breakfast, like we usually do, and had some of the best coffee so far on the trip.

I finally was early enough to get the quiche!

We met my sister’s friend in Shibuya and she took us to this weird sushi store where you order on a touch-screen. 

There should be a video here of the sushi coming down the track but you may have to check back in several days when I have time to fix it.


Most of the rest of the day was spent wandering around Shinjuku. For dinner we met my sister’s high school classmate Chico and her mom. Dr. Hayasaki (and my dad) passed away several years ago, so unfortunately it couldn’t be a full reunion. The last time we met Mrs. Hayasaki was around the year 2000.

Here’s a series of pictures of what a fancy dinner at the Isetan department store looks like.



I switched to tea and for some reason I got bottled tea instead of the normal tea everyone else had.


Salmon and roe with eggs.

Crab on rice.


Yeah, they wouldn’t just give us ONE dessert. 

Finally, some tea with salt to get the sweet taste from overpowering your taste buds.

And there you go!

Japan Day 13

I think it’s getting close to time to go home. I’m bowing while I’m talking on the phone and when my sister asked me a question I started answering her in Japanese. Yeesh. Or it’s that I stayed up too late watching some Japanese TV show. A lot of them start at 9PM and end at 11:20PM. I’m not sure why, but I wish I had a DVR here. I’m so used to getting up to go to the bathroom whenever I feel like it that this TV live thing is holding me down.

I got up and we had the free breakfast down at the Toyoko Inn lobby which wasn’t that great but it sure wasn’t that bad, either.

We had tickets for the 2PM Shinkansen to Tokyo, so we had time for some more sightseeing. Mondays are a day for a lot of museums to be closed and the only things that were guaranteed to be open were the castle and the Orchid Garden. My mom is a fan of orchids, so my sister suggested the orchid garden. It was a lot smaller than we’d expected. The inside greenhouse was about the size of a basketball court, but the outside greenhouses were tiny.

I broke my rule of not taking plant pictures and I took a picture of these weird plants. They put faces on them because they look like animals.

We weren’t that far from the Osu Kannon Temple so we decided to walk there

The shopping streets on the way were filled with discount shops but as we got closer to the temple the stores got more interesting. “Omurice in a cup” is a lot better than the discount blank DVDs or cheap cosmetics. It didn’t take long to get to the temple, and while impressive it doesn’t take a long time to check it all out.

Right next to the temple is a shop with Japanese dumplings and I think they were better last year. Last year I had to stand in a long line and they were a lot fresher. This year we were there early in the day and there wasn’t anyone else there.

We took a taxi back to the station and I was having a good time talking to the driver and he forgot to start the meter! He told me about the two castles of the area and also that his brother is in San Francisco.

At the station we had another of Nagoya’s famous foods, their chicken! Oyako don all around and I also had some tebasaki chicken wings.

We wandered around the station for a bit longer and got on the train to Tokyo.

We’re in Tokyo now and I have a bunch of errands I may have to run. My sister’s friend has something that she wants from a leather works store. A buddy wants an old jazz CD from a special store. And I’m losing the battle of trying to keep from buying a nice watch. We’ll see what happens.

Japan Day 12

We left Matsuzaka this morning at a civilized 10:09AM which might’ve been a bit late. We did seem to wait for the train for a while just wandering around the two or three stores in the train station. Here’s a picture of a fat dude with a little metal bull.

We got to Nagoya about 11:30 and dropped off our baggage at the Toyoko Inn. I wanted to take my mom and sister to the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology (or the place with the looms and the cars) but we got there just about lunchtime. There’s really nowhere to eat around the museum but there are two places to eat in the museum. One’s a cafeteria and there other is quite a bit more fancy. Last year when I was here I didn’t choose either but today we picked the the fancy option.

Somehow I picked the more-expensive thing that had more items (fish AND meat) but there seemed to be less of everything.

I even got a dessert assortment.

After we made it through the museum we went to the Noritake Gardens and the museum there. The things they had as their examples of fancy were garish to me, and the things they had in the, “This is Noritake too,” exhibit were a lot more interesting to me. My sister did notice that I really liked the china patterns with blue in them.

That was pretty much the whole day. We went out to dinner to a place suggested by the woman at the front counter of the hotel. It was a food court-like restaurant that had miso tonkatsu as well as unagi that the area is famous for. Once again my mom and my sister got a filet cut while I got a roast, though today it was pork instead of beef.

I got a half-and-half of miso and regular tonkatsu sauce. Now I remember what I thought last year; I’ll get miso tonkatsu when I come to Nagoya but I think I like the regular tonkatsu sauce better.

Now I’m back in my room watching Japanese TV.

Tomorrow it’s off to Tokyo!

Japan Day 11

Another travel day! We got an early start to meet my sister’s friend in Ise, where we went to see the Ise Grand Shrine. I had the sneaking suspicion that it could be a complete shitshow, at least in the travel department, but it turned out we arrived only a couple of minutes late!

First off, I had a horrible night’s sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night with my nose plugged full of boogers. My stomach felt bad too. I’m hoping it’s not old age food allergies because I don’t want to cut anything out of my diet (especially not hamburgers filled with cheese) but I also had weird dreams. I’ve been off my game a little this trip. In fact, during my shower I was thinking about a bug I’d filed with another company that was rejected the day we left. I have some thoughts about that, but why am I thinking about it on my holiday?

We left without too much trouble and got in a taxi for Kintetsu Namba station. I don’t think I’ve been there before. On the way, we did see this car with a basenji sticker. My sister had a basenji and they’re weird dogs. I think this one’s name was Anchovy.

I thought Kintetsu would be like JR, but at Namba it was far underground like the Tokyo subway. It seemed like it was even below the Midosuji subway line. When we finally got to the ticket window, we had five minutes to get to the train I thought we were going to catch. The line took closer to 10-15 minutes. But instead of taking an express train to somewhere in the EBFE and switching to another express train, we just took a local train four stops and got on the second express train. Weird how that works.

On the way we saw some odd statues. I’m not sure that the Venus de Milo is supposed to be 40 feet tall and towering over the Statue of Liberty on the left. There’s also a gold goddess of mercy in the background.

We made it to Isuzugawa station that’s about 30 minutes walking to the traditional old shopping arcade next to the Grand Ise Shrine. My sister and I didn’t want to make my mom walk, so I was counting on taking a taxi. We found coin lockers to stash our baggage and went outside to find ALMOST NOTHING. I thought we were in the middle of nowhere (which we really were) but fortunately, a taxi came within about ten minutes. As we got closer and closer to the shrine, it became quite clear that there was one thing people came to see. And there were lots of people.

Here’s a picture of the Isuzu river from the Uji bridge at the entrance to the shrine.

Another picture from the bridge. That’s my mom in the purple coat with the hat she left at the soba restaurant the other day.

It’s quite a walk in the grounds through majestic trees. Huge old cedars, but I don’t take as many tree pictures as my dad used to. However, here’s an offering of sake from lots of different makers to the Grand Shrine.

We finally made it to the main shrine but you can’t take pictures once you get inside. People were lining up to get to the coveted middle spot to ask the gods for their favor. I figure if the gods are listening to me then I’m in big trouble, so I just went to the side. I’m not religious but I figure there’s no harm in being respectfully superstitious. That’s my sister and my mom.

No more pictures from the Shrine grounds. Here’s a picture from the bridge on the way out, though. 

Here’s a view down the shopping street. Can you see all the Asians? You can see my sister in the middle with her friend Yumi, and towards the right is my mom and Yumi’s friend (whose name escapes me right now) and very soon after this I LOST TRACK OF THEM. Fortunately, I saw my mom soon afterwards and she doesn’t move that fast any more.

In one of the stores we saw Ise beer.

Lunch was a great and way too much food. That’s mine, negi toro. Chopped fatty tuna with green onions and egg on rice. 

My mom and Yumi had seafood soup and maguro on sushi rice. My sister didn’t have the soup but had fried shrimp. Yumi’s friend also had the soup and maguro.

After stumbling out we went wandering around the shopping arcade before we could eat some more. Yes, there’s a dessert that we couldn’t pass up but we were incredibly full. Here’s a kid in his finery for shichi-go-san, which means he gets to visit the shrine when he’s five. Girls do at three and seven.

The main square in the shopping & food area.

Here’s Yumi taking a picture of zenzai (and her friend looking confused about my taking their picture). Zenzai is red bean soup. I ate it all.

We said goodbye to Yumi and Yuriko(?) and went on our way to Matsuzaka. It was the closest place my sister could find a hotel. Tomorrow we’re off to Nagoya for a day. Actually it turns out that we could’ve made this a day trip from Osaka and gotten back by 5pm, making logistics much simpler, but this is more of an adventure.

When I hear, “Matsuzaka,” I usually think of the famous Japanese beef and not the pitcher who the Red Sox brought from Japan for tens of millions of dollars. We went to steakhouse “Noel” for dinner and it was spendy but I was not disappointed. The beef was tasty and crunchy and melted in my mouth all at the same time. I got the “roast” while my mom and sister got the “filet”. I thought the added fat of the “roast” would make it more flavorful, but I had a taste of the “filet” and there’s really no wrong way to go on this.

“Noel” only had three or four tables and probably only seated eleven people on the main floor. They had upper party rooms as well, but I didn’t see those. We snuck in early and were lucky to get a seat because the tables were all reserved. They said we could get in if we could finish in less than an hour and I think we were in and out within half that time.

So there you have it. I’m just taking it easy this evening since we’re in the middle of nowhere and I’m hoping to have good dreams of that steak.

Japan Day 10

It was a beautiful day in Japan today, about 72ºF. I was expecting this to be a shopping day, but when we left the hotel after doing some laundry my mom asked me, “What are you showing me today?” I thought of a few things but a quick trip to Ikeda City and the Ando Momofuku Instant Ramen museum sounded like fun.

Our first stop, though, was to the coffee roaster I went to last year. It’s in another old-school shopping street.

We could smell the beans roasting as soon as we got into the arcade. Unfortunately I don’t think he’s doing a lot of business and the coffee shop upstairs is no longer fully open. You buy coffee downstairs, and he brings it up to you in paper cups. It’s still the fresh roasted and ground coffee as before, but there’s no real service or ambiance. On the plus side, a cup of coffee that used to be ¥600-800 is now only ¥200!

Our second stop was also close to the station and it’s the shrine to the goddess of weaving. If you looked at my pictures last year, you know that if I was left on my own I’d be visiting and taking pictures of every shrine I could find. This is one I visited last year as well. I figured the goddess of weaving would be something my sister could get behind. She’s not the touristy type, really, she likes shopping a lot more.

Here’s more proof that I got her to a shrine. I think those are stained glass windows on either side of the entrance and quite beautiful as well.

The next stop was the Ando Momofuku Instant Ramen Museum. We took a very quick trip through because it was full of kids! I guess this is the season for field trips. Most of the museum is pretty simple. There’s a re-creation of Ando Momofuku’s shack where he experimented on instant ramen, and then there’s a repetitive but interesting story of how he developed the packs of instant ramen and also Cup Noodle! Then there’s a theatre and you can make your own flavor of Cup Noodle, add it to the pre-made noodles, decorate the cup, and take it home.

If you sign up way in advance, you can even take a class where you make instant noodles from the basic ingredients.

I mean seriously, this dude invented CUP NOODLE! 

We found some lunch at a soba restaurant that we recognized a little too late was the same chain as the place we had dinner last night. It was so nice that we went to Ikeda Castle to wander around.

We got back to Umeda in the early afternoon and I went to last night’s soba restaurant to look for the hat my mom lost (they had it!) and then went to Kinokuniya so my mom could buy more books. Very near Kinokuniya is one of our favorite spots to get Japanese snacks. I’m sure I have tons of pictures of this because we’ve been coming here for years. 

My mom got something different this time. 

By this time it was about 4 and my sister and I went on a shopping trip to get whatever the hell it is she gets when she goes shopping. OK, this time it was fabric, and no the store was not called “asse”. 

There’s a picture of my sister taking a picture of ATELIER to nani IRO, a fabric store.

She spent a bunch of money on fabric, just like she said she wouldn’t.

Dinner was another trip wandering and we decided to go get hamburg steaks. Mine was filled with cheese!

My sister got loco mock and this is just proof that I still take a lot of crappy pictures.

My mom got hamburger and porcini mushrooms cooked in foil. 

It doesn’t seem Japanese, but it is. And it was really tasty, too.

Japan Day 9, I think.

I finally got my mom to go to the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living. It’s on the 8th floor of a municipal building and the first thing you do is take a 2-story escalator to see an upper view of an old Meiji Era section of the town. Then you go down into the town and wander about. After that there are dioramas on the 8th floor. Unfortunately, today was also the day for several grade schools to make their trip to the museum and it ended up being a loud mess.

Afterwards we went walking down the longest shopping arcade in Japan at Tenjinbashi, but it’s all very old-school, so we bailed and headed towards Shinsaibashi.

We had lunch and did NOT get the giant parfait.

My mom and my sister headed towards Daimaru, and I went on a trek to the National Bunraku Theatre to get my mom her favorite calendar.

When I finally got to Daimaru, I checked out the “watch fair”. Turns out they didn’t have any of the Grand Seikos in the area of the fanciest watches because, well, the most expensive Grand Seiko I saw was only EIGHTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS. Sheesh.

My sister and I did have a very nice cup of coffee while waiting for my mom to get a massage.

Eventually we all had massages at Daimaru and afterwards my feet hurt like crazy. I had “reflexology” done (feet and calves) and the tiny woman was incredibly strong.

I had to check out the Apple Store in Shinsaibashi. I’ve been by it a bunch of times but never went in. It’s just like an American Apple Store, except more expensive and not nearly as crowded.

We finally got back to the hotel and they switched my room when I complained about my incredibly creaky bed. Apparently a lot of the mattresses are creaky, but I got a new room on another floor that seems a lot cleaner and smells a lot better. I think I win this one.

Oh, and here’s a picture from last night. I’m not sure if you can see it, but this is when I was waiting at the wrong part of the platform for my train (it was further down towards the right). The guy’s jacket says, “bitch,” and i shows a guy shooting a woman in the head. No idea what the hell that means.

Japan Day 8

Right now I’m sitting in my hotel room in Osaka, doing what I’d do at home. Playing with my computer. It’s the middle of the afternoon, but it’s kind of nice being in a hotel room and no someone else’s house. Not that I don’t just sit at our friends’ house in Toyama playing on the computer (which I did). I even found a bug in the Vim configure.in while I was there.

This was our travel day to Osaka, and I think my mom is taking it easy with my sister in their room which is right next door. I’m sure I’m overdoing the free intarweb access here because I just downloaded a 2+GB compiler onto my Mac. Not that I needed it right away, but like I said, we’re taking it easy right now. My mom isn’t that young any more and we don’t want to torture her too much.

We left Toyama station, where they’re going to have the new Hokuriku Shinkansen come through and that’s the construction in the background. On the complete opposite end of Japanese train lines is the one-car diesel car which I think heads up to Mt. Tateyama.

Ugh, I have lens flare!

I told my sister to get some of the coffee out of the vending machine but she didn’t like it at all. I thought it was fine. We made jokes about the name of the coffee. By the way, we stopped at Tsuruga today, which is the the terminus of the ??? (the Obama line). 

Here’s our train!

I like not having to belt up like on a plane, and it’s a whole lot quieter as well. My only complaint is that it’s harder to use the men’s bathroom, as the train rocks a bit. Other than that, I’d much rather take the train.

I had to have one random shot out the window.

One not so random, of a giant Kannon-san (goddess of mercy).

And of course a picture of the Suntory distillery as we sped by. 

I’m still sitting in the hotel now, but I have to leave to meet my old co-worker tonight.

Japan Day 7

We’re still in Toyama, and really this isn’t about me or my sister but my mom hanging around with her friends. We went to a sushi restaurant for lunch, for example, and my sister couldn’t find much to eat. She did have a green tea soft ice cream for dessert.

The shopping center has restaurants and a grocery store and used to have a Beard Papa. The B&R is still there as well as the Mr. Donut.

Tomorrow we’re on the road for Osaka. I’m meeting an old friend from work at 8PM. I’ve been going to bed pretty early this trip (I usually stay up) so 8 sounds late. It isn’t, of course. I’m old but not that old.