Japan 2016 Day 8

Well, this is late. We packed all our crap, got on a train, and made it to Kyoto today. Of course since I’m here with who I’m here with, what did we do in a historic city full of world heritage sites? Shopping of course. And as soon as we got here it started to rain.

Somehow we ended up in a vegetarian restaurant for lunch. Even before I realized this I told my sister, “It looks like a bunch of stuff that’s good for me.”

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But it’s not like I didn’t eat it all.

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Then it was off to Nishiki market (no pictures from me) where it was incredibly crowded. Then we took a walk towards Kiyomizudera but I think they spent an hour in two shops (I stood out in the rain for most of that time) and it got dark before we reached it. We called it early and went back to our hotels to do laundry.

My sister and her friends are in a hostel or guest house or whatever that thing is. I’m in a proper hotel with a giant bath on the 13th floor. They only have three of my least favorite combo washer/dryers here and it took three hours for a load to finish. There was only one empty so I crammed it all in and it’s not exactly the cleanest stuff. Just cleaner than when it went in. It’s not like the giant Samsung washer I bought my mom.

Dinner was from Lawson and had a tiny bit of meat in it. Pizza bread, corn/mayo bread, quattro cheese Pringles, and a Calpis Orange. And two craft-ish beers (both companies being bought by the beer giants in Japan).

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Japan 2016 Day 7

It was a beautiful day but we took it easy because we’ve been out quite consistently all week. We started off at Tully’s in the lobby of the MBS building. I never did see anyone famous walking through the lobby, but I bet they have their own entrance that normal people can’t see.

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Then it was a leisurely walk to the fabric store with a stop at a fantastic bakery with good ice coffee as well.

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While they all shopped at the fabric store, I just sat on a park bench. Other than the guy next to me smoking, it was a great day to be out in the park.

We wandered through an even nicer park a couple of blocks from the fabric store when we saw this rock star.

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After that it was a walk back to Umeda and a quick pass through some stores and lunch at an okonomiyaki restaurant. I’ve confirmed that I’m not a huge fan of modanyaki (okonomiyaki with noodles).

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Like I said, we were taking it easy today and went back to the hotel to relax. Lunch was late so dinner was ice cream!

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I also got a sandwich on the way back to the hotel which I inhaled before I could get a picture of it. Katsu sando.

Japan 2016 Day 6

Woo, tired. I had to needed the coffee at Starbucks to get going in the morning. The coffee with the morning set is tiny. (Yesterday’s picture again for you of a morning set.)

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Went shopping. Boy did we go shopping. But at least we spent a lot of time at Loft, and they have things I can buy. I bought a new pair of eyeglass frames to take back to the US for new glasses.

Overate at Mos Burger. This is a picture of my second order. The first was a Mos Burger, chicken leg, and a coke.

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After that we did some girly shopping ending with an afternoon snack at Toki. This is a picture that I probably post every year because i get the very same thing.

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After that I went off on my own adventure. It was pouring, but I took a taxi from the hotel to Kuroneko Yamato to mail my mom’s books to Narita airport so I don’t have to lug them around. Then I went to visit my friend who I used to work with back in my Japan days.

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He took me to an all-you-can-eat Chinese restaurant and oddly instead of having a buffet you just kept ordering dishes off the menu. Afterwards we tried to make it to Minoh Beer but their last order is at 8:30PM. Phooey.

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 had been collecting used books from her friends for my mom and asked which books I thought my mom wanted. I called my mom back in Portland using Google Voice for “free” and said she wanted them all! That means 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 rancid 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.

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 to one of my sister’s favorite fabric stores in Osaka. More of a boutique than a full-on store and 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. Unlucky for me, 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 so I have to ask at a lot of stores before I find them. It was a long and tiring day and I never did find the pills. 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.

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!

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. 

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!

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.

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.

Some people don't believe my luck.

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