Is This Thing Still On?

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If you’re just finding this, I recommend starting the read in chronological order, skipping the bit about the kid’s show (from this link the “Older Posts” links means newer and vice versa, I’m sure there’s a way to fix it, but I’m lazy okay?). I’ve added notes to some of my embarrassing outbursts but I’m sure there’s more than enough unjustifiable shame that I’ll come across as a monster now and then. Remember, I’m just another entitled and privileged asshole.


Okay, yeah, I’ve utterly bungled the whole travel picture thing. It’s been nearly four years and I’ve still not processed half the pictures. Even still I have a trip to Vancouver BC in May, New Orleans coming up in late June, and then a return to Japan just before New Years. Continue reading

Mic Check

It’s now five days before I leave, I finally have the basics of a webpage up. Hopefully I’ll get a gallery dealie going too so that people will be able to see the pictures I take and then sit on for a month before I remember to edit and upload that night or the next morning.

Part of this will also be a test to see if I can re-learn some interweb super-highway construction… I haven’t run a website since about, oh, around 1999.

I’m sure the appearance of this page will change drastically, if only by playing with the themes of the software in an ignorant and lazy manner.

Ideally the travel will involve as little air travel as possible, and because it saved $500, I’m flying from Seattle to LAX before Tokyo, even though that is way more air travel than a direct flight. What can I say? Supply and demand.

Speaking of flights,Flight to LAX is at 10:40 UTC-7, and the flight to Narita is at 15:45 UTC-7. I’ll be landing at the local time of 19:15 UTC+9 [7:15PM 25/04/2012] or (02:15 UTC-7 [2:15 AM 04/25/2012 Pacific Daylight] for most people reading). I should arrive at the first place I’m staying, the Sakura-Hostel, hopefully about an hour (read: two hours) later.

For those who didn’t do the math, I’ll leave for the first airport at about 7:30 AM Pacific, and arrive at my hostel at about 3:30-4:00 AM Pacific. For those that still haven’t done the math, that’s about 20-21 hours door to door. At least I’m not flying to Australia?

Also, yes for the time being I’m going to use international day/month/year, 24 hour clocks, and UTC or UTC+-. Why? It will be easier for me to keep things straight in my head, maybe I’ll be nice and toss in translations like I did above.

Or I might totally change how it all works. WHO KNOWS!? I sure don’t.

Crap, I still need a new backpack.

Also I don’t have a picture thingy installed yet so enjoy these pictures on my dropbox. Can you say lazy? I know I just did.

Touching the Moon

About 18 hours until I leave for the airport, so just a quick update.

Saturday was interesting. Saw Metropolis with a live orchestra, checked out some of the Seattle Center’s 50th Anniversary celebrations, and I touched a fragment of the moon taken during the Apollo 17 mission.

Lazy Dropbox Gallery. This will likely update during the day as I take breaks in last minute packing.

Now, if you’re happen to be wondering about the image name “Highly Reflective Surface’s Linear Boundary,” that is a not entirely oblique reference to “Mirror’s Edge“. Though tragically short, it is a favorite of mine. If that trailer seemed vaguely familiar, it’s quite possible you were actually introduced to Mirror’s Edge via last summer’s Spider-Man teaser. Hilarious.

Here’s a fun Jeopardy style brain teaser:

A late 2000s first-person video game put the player into the shoes of a female protagonist in a stark and semi-stylized world with an emphasis on environmental puzzles instead of combat. The literary themes include safety, surveillance, corruption, resistance, and tenacity. After completing the game, a song entitled “Still Alive” plays.

Click forward for the answer. Continue reading

Still on Schedule

Ah. There’s the panic. It started later than I had expected, having scheduled it to begin yesterday, however it is setting in now.

On the bright side, the winds are changing and my flight to Tokyo is now expected to arrive about 30 minutes earlier.

I forgot to buy hiking shoes.

And Away We Go

Just because.
Hope I’m not forgetting anything important!

09:35 UTC-7: Arrived at my gate at Seatac. Had to ride the train and everything.

I still like how Seatac’s Security Theater is failry reasonable. Made it through TSA in about 10 minutes. Line included. No groping, no “perfectly safe for anyone” insanely dangerous focused X-ray scan. Nope, just a metal detector and the normal stupid item seperation and shoes thing.

Not looking forward to the hour long line for the one open lane and then maybe unwanted touching. Oh, LAX. I save $500, but you still make me pay.

I think for my next update, I’ll try it from my Kindle. It should work. Not well, but I’d be updating a webpage from a book.

13:13 UTC-7:
Just landed at LAX, more clouds than I would have liked over much of the flight. WordPress Dash fails to load on the Kindle, too much of something. Will need to see if there’s a simple editor plugin for WordPress, it’s just too tempting of a plan.

Arrival/Good Morning Seattle

Well, I’ve arrived, commented a few times using a book instead of a computer, and it looks like the wifi may just be giving me a tiny break.

The people at the front were nice and understing

Got things semi-organized and stowable, made the bed, found the kitchen, etc.

It’s now midnight in Japan and with the weird almost sleep I had on the monsterous A380 my body isn’t really sure what time it is but could sleep right now given the chance.

So the A380? From the inside it looks like each wing is actually 3 wings welded together with two engines the size of small Cessnas (though far more massive) as the bridging point mostly due to sitting up and there being a child screaming the majority of the flight. Yay.

Well, I either need to wander a little looking at things and not being lost, or sleep.

01:32: Just got back from doing some night photography, which is interesting as my big lens has vibration reduction which is amazing, but it also starts much more zoomed, so I have be further back to capture it… which decreases available light.

Got a few I liked and learned a bit. Getting better at swapping lenses, though I do wish I purchased a second UV filter so I wouldn’t have to swap that over.

07:33 UTC+9: Woke up about 30 minutes ago. Realized about 10 minutes ago that I wasn’t just temporarily awake. The wireless appears quite stable now which is good. Oddly my phone will not get new email. It can open old email, but I have to actually go to gmail.com to get anything (had to confirm that it is me, oh, security). Doesn’t even check the sean [at dealiemajig] elucidovia.com address.

Working from the laptop right now, which was to make sure it could connect. Frustratingly, I’ve not yet found a grounded outlet I can use, which may be an issue if I want to keep my laptop running. Still have about 4.5 hours of run time, but…

Thunderbird gets email just fine. Whatever. Google now autoswitches to .co.jp. Hmm. Probably would work if I stayed signed into a google account. Of course the entire interface is in Japanese, so that makes changing settings easy. Found it.

Time to get ready I suppose. Yay daylight pictures! I can set the shutter to something faster than 5-40!

Lost in Sumida

That was the goal today. Which I can say, was at a moment, a little too successful. I have since learned that ereadermap is nice, but it seems to be missing the implementation of places, which is you know, kind of important. On the bright side, Google Maps is much faster on the Kindle compared to the last time I used it, and it was quite helpful in getting me to regain my barrings.

Today I explored the next door temple in the daylight, and then headed over to the Tokyo Sky Tree. Sadly, it doesn’t actually open until the 22nd of May, so maybe I’ll catch it on my out.

After that, I really just wandered around, thinking I was roughly aware of where I was not getting too lost.

So it turns out that when most every street curves or angles a bit… you lose track pretty quickly.

I’ve mapped approximately where and how I walked around today. I’m sure if I could use my phone as more than a smaller computer, I could have probably picked up some sort of pedometer app or even a GPS path mapping dealie. Alas, you must suffer with my not 100% accurate map.

Between getting more lost than intended, QR codes, and having it for emergencies, I was starting to wonder just how much international data and the like costs for my phone, in case I didn’t want to bother jumping through the hoops to get a local phone and maybe data plan, swap in the SIM, etc. $15 per MB. Seriously. I figured it would be expensive, but that’s insane.

Is he going to actually tell us anything about his adventure or just show us a map and complain about how living in the future is expensive?

Being that I am lazy, and linguistically (oh good, I spelled that correctly) challenged, I do appreciate the about of Romanji used… though it seems Sumida uses it much more on their maps than Taito does. Once I crossed the bridge, local maps were a bit more challenging to ensure I was still on the right path. Also, Sumida has scales on theirs. I really liked that. Oh well. This is the easy part. Well, I guess Vietnamese only uses a modern roman alphabet, so… but still, Japan is… probably easier.

It’s really crazy. The scale, the density, the very old right next to the very new, the fact that I’m on many pedestrian signs and crosswalk lights. Seriously I’ve spent a good time walking around downtown Seattle, using some alleyways and the like. Here, most streets are well designed alleyways, arterial streets are about the only things that aren’t, and also tend to be the most grid like. QR Codes are on nearly everything. Power lines are everywhere in the alleys crisscrossing between buildings. Visually it is so very busy, why anyone would set anything not live action in Tokyo, I don’t know. It seems like the people making the backgrounds or modeling the levels would probably die from exhaustion.

Try to imagine taking everything in Seattle (including Fremont, Ballard, etc) except for the industrial stuff, and cramming it all into Downtown. I think that might be comparable.

Behavioral differences are interesting, if there is any directional tendency, people kind of walk to their left, but that’s not very firm, since they drive on the left. Cars wait for you when they’re turning, I mean, pretty much always even when it is inconvenient for them. Bikes are everywhere, and I’m not sure I’ve seen one bike lock today. There are bike lanes all over the place, mostly as part of the sidewalk. However many people on bikes seem to ignore the sidewalk’s bike lanes, and just go anywhere on the sidewalk, also some will just ride as though they have the right way at all times. …So I guess that part is the same.

Wait, did he say something about being in the crosswalk lights?

The crosswalk thing, so I have pictures that I’ll add, but for now, take my word for it. The older crosswalk pictograms were the clearest so I didn’t notice until I was in an out of the way bit of Sumida, but the graphic on the crosswalk sign is clearly a man in a suit, wearing a short brimmed hat. Like me. There are some others, like the no-crossing signs used for long stretches of road where you… cannot cross, shocking, I know.

My feet haven’t felt like this since my last PAX. I quickly realized I forgot my insoles, which I think are in my Chucks, somewhere in storage. Oops. I’m sure US Size 11-12 insoles are really easy to find here.

I did actually find a shoe store fairly close to my hostel, though I fear for a sizing issue. Worst case, I hike in old sneakers and really trash them.

It’s been totally overcast since I left Federal Way, which at the time, wasn’t. I actually haven’t seen the sky since Tuesday morning on the way to the airport. I mean, I guess kind of while flying, but even then, lots of clouds. Nonetheless it has remained around 15-20 (about 60-68F) with a humidity of about 70%. It did rain for a little bit, but never enough to keep me comfortable. I need to figure out a better outfit for long walk days. Maybe one that doesn’t have a suit jacket but still looks okay? Probably not.

So I left the hostel at about 08:00, and by 11:30 my water bottle was empty. After the first 10km, (around 15:30) I had enough. I broke down and made my first purchase. I went into a grocery store to get a first look at a data point for cost of foodbits, and I grabbed a 2L bottle of green tea, which I have now consumed about 1.25L of, the rest is in my water bottle. This was 4 times more than anything in a vending machine (500mL vs 2000), and only 100 yen more than the cheapest I saw, so yeah.

Apples are expensive, they’re about 150 yen each. For those that don’t know, the easiest way to convert to USD, is just add a decimal after the first two digits, so $1.50 for a ballpark estimate. It’s actually $1.85, but if you pad the initial estimate by about 20%, you have a really easy close approximation. If you want to be exact, right now it’s 81 yen to the dollar, or $1.23 USD to 100 yen.

Speaking of vending machines, they are everywhere prices per block are pretty consistent, but once you go a block or two they might be 50-100 yen different, with the average being 150 yen for most drinks. Seriously, every block. Oh, and Starbucks? There’s one at the Sky Tree. Can’t escape them.

Okay, food and pictures. I should probably have more than tea and water today. Just a thought. However, on the topic of pictures, between the few I took on the flight, my night shoot, and about half of today, I took about 570 pictures and chewed through the 80% of the battery that was left. Good thing I have a spare. Turns out, the vibration reduction and active focus in my new lens uses a bit more power than the kit lens. Who would have guessed?

Food.

Right, first before I forget. I missed a step in the directions I had to find the hostel last night, and then just continued walking about what seemed right on one of the arterial roads. Eventually I gave up, crossed the street, and jumped into a taxi. The driver wasn’t familiar with the hostel (or much English, but hey, “lost” and numbers seemed to work), he tried reading the map a bit, but it didn’t have all the streets off their path named. He gave up and used the address in the GPS. It turns out the GPS would have him make a U-turn, and drop me off to walk the rest of the way, as prior to crossing the street to get the cab, was literally as close as a car would get me. We both laughed, I thanked him, and walked the last two blocks.

Then the doors were locked. They were sliding glass doors that said “Push.” I was confused. I tried sliding them with the handle. No go. I knocked on the glass. Eventually someone noticed I was too tired to figure it out and came to open the doors. Turns out the handle I thought was for sliding, is actually a very tall button that you lightly push to trigger the door which is just emulating the visual appearance of a more traditional sliding door.

Weren’t you getting food?

Silence!

23:20 UTC+9

Got food. Not sure what it was called, the place nor the food. Not in Romanji. I’m also pretty sure they were getting ready to close but didn’t tell me to leave (nor did they have times listed)… so that was nice of them. It was a second floor restaurant with sunken tables that each had a hibachi griddle. As I have no idea what is going on, they were kind and helped me cook the dish the way it was supposed to be cooked.

The dish was some sort of lettuce, green onions, bean curd, maybe soy nuts in some sort of milk or milk like substance with something else in it, but I don’t know what. To cook it you oil down the surface and dish the solids out of the bowl. Then you jab them with the two large metal spatula type things until they start to brown, then mix it up a bit, and let the unbrowned parts cook a bit. Once that’s good you spread the contents into a circle and you pour the liquid into the center slowly stirring the fluids. Once a thin sheet of burned fluid forms it should be time to mix it all up. Start by eating the tasty sheet of burned whatever, which is exposed as you dish up the rest of the food, and then carefully enjoy, because it’s still really hot.

It appears I may be returning there with a roommate on Saturday. He seemed pretty curious, and thankfully also can read a little.

Anyway, I was going to charge the laptop bit, however it appears I’m going to fall asleep in a moment

 

So see you all in a few hours!

07:30 UTC+9

Cleaned up some of the text above and am now working on pictures.

Japan: First Night and Day in Photos

I hope this isn’t heart breaking, but I’m not going to be taking the extreme care I have with previous shoots, there are nearly 600 pictures to go through, and I do kind of want to do things today other than sort pictures.

If I find the time later, I’ll correct for photon artifacts (random bright red/green/blue/white pixels) and make it so some aren’t crooked. For the moment, I just want to get them up. Many will be good as is, some will be just okay but work for framing the scene or give an idea of the local while being boring or flat.

First Night in Japan (Asakusa)

Near and in the Sensoji Temple

Taito-Asakusa’s Waterfront (Heading towards Sumida)

Sumida (and one dog in Taito as I was almost back)

Changing Plans

I always said I was winging this thing, and the more I look at it, the more it seems Taiwan will take the place of Vietnam in this leg of the adventure. For starters, its actually between South Korea and Vietnam, so that’s kind of important.

I can take the jet ferry (seriously) to South Korea, but I’d have to go China to continue with the ferry all the way to Taiwan. As such it looks like I’ll be flying more. I guess Vietnam can wait until after PAX when I can actually take the time to get all of that trip planned to reduce tension with the government. So very paranoid.

Come on people, I’m just trying to travel around the world without any real plans, time frames, or political agenda… well beyond the idea that I think for the most part people want to be helpful, even if communication is difficult. I’m not sure that’s dangerous ideology. But then again… who knows?

Now to go find an ATM that takes foreign cards, maybe grab a Suica pass, see if I can’t schedule a visit to the Ghibli Museum, and wonder around in the other direction, seeing more of Taito-ku, you know, the city I’m actually staying in.

The Tax On America

EDIT: Hahahahaha. Okay, so I later discovered that while common practice, prices don’t actually have to include taxes, and pretty much the only time they aren’t listed is on lists/menus written in Japanese… but even then not always. Hilarious misunderstanding.

 

Or, the tax on not being Japanese.

For starters let’s go to a different topic though.

Okay, let’s say you know you need cash for something you’re doing, yet opening your wallet only produces a few dollars and a cartoon fly or three.

Cartoon fly?

Bare with me. So what do you do? Go to your credit union and get 50 $2 bills, right?

Okay, maybe that’s just what I’ve always wanted to do. Alright, you go to an ATM that is friendly and doesn’t charge extra. Put in your card, punch in the PIN, toss in the amount and… wait. What? Did that say minimum increment is $100? Wait, the smallest bill is a $100?!

That was the ATM I visited last night. I almost drew out 70,000 yen before I blinked and was thinking that was one zero too many. On the bright side, anyone will break 10,000 bills.

Now about that tax. Last night I was a little less adventurous and decided to get sushi. Conveniently they had an English menu, though kind it seemed kind of silly, as even the Japanese was all pictures and prices (pretty common as most have images or models of their dishes with the prices listed out front).

Turns out the big difference (other than that I could read the hand/cut roll section), was the price of items. For nearly everything (except the hand/cut rolls) there was a 4% increase in price. So yes, won’t be returning there.

Don’t get me wrong, the food was quite tasty (the eel was so creamy and the tea was either matcha or half way there), but I’d rather a place that doesn’t change their prices based on the customer, no matter how good the food is or how polite the staff is.