Friday, November 27, 2009

Two year anniversary.

B5EDB3D1[1] Time sure does seem to pass by fast when all I do is go to work… You know like everybody else in this world. Life after college is pretty normal outside of living in Japan of course.
Yesterday was the two year anniversary of dating with Yuko. It still feels like I just got here. I ended up taking her out to a restaurant called Gyukaku (a Korean style bbq restaurant) where we feasted on overpriced, thinly sliced meats till our guts bulged out. It was an expensive dinner but it’s what she wanted and I gladly paid for all of it. Eating at a bbq restaurant isn’t all that romantic, but we’re so comfortable together that we don’t have to pretend to be more than we really are. I think that’s really cool. It also makes choosing dinner locations a lot easier!
I don’t think it will be that hard to top that dinner for Christmas, but I think I’ll try to have our next big dinner at a more normal location where we can relax a bit more and not worry about how much food we should eat.
Wow, two years. I wonder what things will be like around this time next year.

I got a Christmas tree.

DSC00004 Since I’ll be missing another Christmas back at home, I figured I’d put some money down on a tree to get me in a festive mood.
My room is really small so a full sized tree was never an option, but I think I did a good job considering the space I have to work with. I spent 99 yen on a miniature tree which stands just a little over 20 inches. I spent more on the decorations, about 100 yen for each kind of decoration, the silver star, lights, bells, and bulbs.
In total, I spent about 500 on the tree, which is pretty good as nobody will really see it besides my loyal readers, and Yuko. It looks really nice in the evening and gives a really nice seasonal feel to my room.
DSC00006 I doubt I’ll put any presents around it because I really don’t have any gifts to give to anybody around here besides Yuko. It looks really nice for a 99 yen artificial tree. :)
Oh and by the way, happy Thanksgiving. Today’s post was made on Thanksgiving (Pacific Standard Time.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Computer upgrade was a success.

water_laptop I’ve had this update in my drafts box for over a month now and just realized I never published it. Just for the sake of continuity, I’ll be dating it when it was actually typed out.
I’m usually pretty good with handling electronics but sometimes stuff just happens. Well, stuff happened to me one morning when I forgot I set down a nice full glass of water next to my laptop. I knocked the glass over and most of the water spilled away from the laptop but a few precise drops of water hit the touch pad and keyboard and made things a little wonky. So I quickly powered down and proceeded to break down the system to get out any water I couldn’t reach from the outside.
I managed to get all the water out, but I was too hasty in putting the system back together and damaged a little microchip that happened to control frequently used features of my system like the USB ports and Ethernet controller. After a few months of just living primarily on wireless internet, unreliable USB, a memory card reader that crashed my system routinely, and a handful of hardware related system crashes I decided I was going to swap out motherboards once and for all.
434722-1 The system came with a really weak Intel GMA945 integrated graphics processor that is in many low end systems today. I figured it would be better to get a motherboard model with better specs that I could easily swap out my CPU/Memory without having to get a new case. After a lot of double checking and searching on EBay I found a suitable replacement at just under 100 dollars. I chose the model that had a Geforce Go7400 mobile graphics setup in it. The new graphics processor would allow me to play a few older PC games and take a little stress off my CPU for decoding Video and DVDs. After about 2 weeks of waiting I received a replacement motherboard from Hong Kong and popped it in my aging system.
The accidental damage and following upgrade to my system breathed new life into my computer. I was considering getting a new system or building my own, but the new motherboards specs bumped up my system performance quite a bit to where I can hold off another year or so before I really need to upgrade. I’m lucky I have the experience and knowledge to service my own computers because sending my system to a specialist or to HP for repair would have probably forced me just to get another system and start from scratch. I am very pleased I could salvage my system and am really glad every thing was cheap and easy to find on eBay. :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

I needed more room.

DSC00010With my recent purchase of the Billy Blanks workout kit paired with Yuko’s nagging to plug in the kotatsu again has forced me once again to rearrange my tiny room.


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I used to have all my stuff at a weird angle which really made my room seem a lot smaller than it really is. DSC00009I’d always bump into the loft ladder trying to access my closet behind the couch, or ram my shin into my kotatsu in the middle of the night trying to find my way to the kitchen area. I finally had enough of the cramped, although functional layout of my old room and moved all my stuff in a couple of hours on Monday night.
 DSC00014My room is now is laid out length wise like it used to be last year, except this time the TV is where my couch was. When I moved in, I really wanted my setup to be this way but I was too lazy to route wires and I didn’t have all the cool stuff I do now to make it as functional as it is now.
DSC00011 There’s no power outlet on the wall where my TV is now, so I had to improvise with a long power strip cable which is in plain view but not in the way of any foot traffic. I also routed my stereo speaker wires, cable TV, and Ethernet cables next to the large window that is covered in curtains. Even when the window’s open, the wires are neatly managed in one of those wire spindle things.
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DSC00019After rearranging my room I felt it was a good idea to do a little seasonal decoration again. It’s almost Christmas season so I got some tinsel and a few figurines to lay about my room. I’ll probably get some lights too. So far I’ve only spent 600 on decorations so far. I might even get a small artificial Christmas tree with built in fiber optic lights to complete the decorations.
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Now with a much wider room, I am able to do just about every exercise in Billy Blanks Amped without the worry of injuring myself or destroying property. I’m happy as is Yuko. Heck, if I had enough friends around, I think I might be able to properly host a small gathering here now. Too bad nobody visits.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I’m not fat, I just have an allergic reaction to life that makes me look bloated.

DSC00002After living in Japan for two straight years, I’ve really let myself go. Having a girlfriend that accepts me for the uncivilized caveman I am, and being off the market for so long really made it easy for me to ignore my reflection in the mirror. After some relentless prodding from Yuko, and my own guilt, I decided to do something about it. I bought a workout DVD set.

I ordered the Billy Blanks Taebo Amped DVD workout kit for 900 yen brand new off of rakuten.com. The reason it was so cheap is that it was the English version without Japanese subtitles or a dub. I guess that makes sense since most people would probably want to have a workout without having to workout everything in thier heads as far as vocal directions go.

I’m into the third day of trying to work out with the first disc of 4. I am not sure if I could be doing better if my room were adequately sized to accommodate my height for full, unrestricted movement. My body is sore, and I am sweating tons which means it should be working. Hopefully, I will not loose my focus and continue with my workout routine. Even Yuko joins in which makes it even harder for me to not put my foot or arm through a window or my fish tank.

I love my loft bed area but I really am starting to resent it now that I do workouts in my room below it. I’ve knocked my fist across it a couple of times already, forgetting it was there.

Billy Blanks Taebo Amped paired with Yuko’s diet focused recipes should help me get some positive results.

I look forward to seeing some improvement in my weight and health in about a month from now.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Spending spree!

madcat Well not much of a spending spree really, I just spent a lot of money all at one time. I’m typically a frugal person but I’ve been planning on picking up a new cell phone and coffee table for almost half a year now. Things finally lined up for me and I was able to get both within a couple days of each other.
DSC00004 On Wednesday, better known as my payday as it fell on the last day of the month, I picked up a new kotatsu. I never liked the black plastic one I’ve had since I moved here. It never matched any of the furniture in my apartment and just looked cheap compared to every thing else I own (which are mostly cheap too but they don’t look it.) I plunked down about 8,000 yen for the table which was a pretty fair price as it was 1,000 to 2,000 yen more expensive for similar ones at other large stores in the area and on the internet. Now my white wood finished furniture collection is complete. It really complements my brown carpet and white wallpapered walls well.
DSC00002 On Friday of last week I picked up a couple cute Halloween knicknacks to decorate my room in the Halloween spirit. I found them at my local 100 yen shop and couldn’t resist. The Jack-O-lantern decorations paired with my cinnamon candle really make me feel like it’s fall already. I might pick up some more Halloween stuff since it’s just so cheap. I love Halloween. They look nice under my TV.
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DSC00003 I’ve been wanting an aroma pot and a humidifier for a long time now and I finally had a chance to get both at once for a reasonable price. I ordered an aroma diffuser/humidifier machine from Rakuten Japan online for only 2,900 yen. It has like 8 colored lights I can choose from and lasts a whole day without a refill. I love having my room smell nice too. No more need for candles. Aroma therapy for the win!

The last kind of big purchase I made was getting a new cell phone. I’ve had the same one for just over 2 years since I came to Japan. DSC00005 So I was due to get a better one with more features, and more features I got! I changed cell phone providers from AU to DoCoMo, kind of like switching from Verizon to AT&T in the US. I ended up getting lucky and only paying 3,000 yen (non-subsidized) for my new smart phone. It has a touch screen, full featured web browser, music/video player, HD-TV tuner, and a QUERTY keyboard. The reason it was so cheap is that it was gold-pink with a black face. I really don’t care much as it functions just as well as the other colors. Plus, I’ll be covering it with custom stickers anyway, so I’ll rarely see it’s secondary color scheme outside of when I use the keyboard.
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I feel up to date having a smart phone, now that I can use it on a Bluetooth/wifi network, and screw around with stuff on the touch screen. It may not be an iPhone or a G1 but it’s just as good and it plays flash video (YouTube video.) So hooray for my really cheap phone!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Tokyo Game Show 2009

DSC00002 If you know me well enough, you’ll know I’m really into playing and collecting video games. So what better place to nerd out than one of the bigger game expos in the world than the Tokyo Game Show.
I’ve been wanting to attend TGS ever since the first time I lived in Japan. I finally got to go because Yuko actually agreed to come along. Going there alone would have been boring for me even if my girlfriend isn’t all that into games. But the cool thing about Yuko wanting to come along is that she actually was interested. Maybe I’m wearing her out with my games, I don’t know.
 DSC00039Most of the major game publishers and system manufacturers outside of Nintendo were at TGS in full force. The place is fairly large and most of the events had people packed in like sardines. I only managed to play test one game called Bayonetta at the SEGA booth. But that was enough to satisfy me.
DSC00054 It was neat to see how the Japanese hold expos, since I'm a seasoned veteran of E3 and Anime Expo. Lot’s of cosplayers, booth hotties, and plenty of free goods if you were willing to stand in line for it. Maybe if I were single and about 6 years younger I’d be going nuts there but I think having Yuko around for over 2 years has tamed me quite a bit. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s definitely helped me curb my big spending habit on new games. I appreciate my hobby a bit more now.
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Driving there was pretty fun too. I got to experience the scary, narrow, and notoriously crowded Tokyo Highway system (Shutoko.) It’s cool being able to drive on the same highway as one of my favorite racing video games, Tokyo Extreme Racer (Shutoko Battle.) 
After the game show we hit a nearby IKEA and Costco for some cheap food and interior goods. I ended up buying another large block of Colby jack cheese, beef jerky, mashed potato mix, and another slice of yummy pizza. At IKEA I picked up a big cinnamon scented candle to get me into the fall seasonal mood.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Costco in Japan.

DSC00002 Sorry for the month long lapse between posts here. I keep forgetting to write about stuff I do here. I even have about half a gigabyte of unsorted pictures I need to decide on putting up here.
I finally got my own Costco at the Costco in Iruma, Japan which is on the outskirts of Tokyo. It takes about 2 hours to get there by highway but could be much faster if Japan had a decent speed limit. I’ve been wanting my own membership card for over a year ever since I found out there were a few Costcos in my general area.
DSC00025The membership card is 4000 yen ($40) and like all other Costco cards, can be used at any Costco in the world. The interior and exterior of Japanese Costcos are identical to their American counterparts minus the huge parking lot surrounding it. Japan has a little problem with space so the parking garage is above the warehouse. Pretty cool I think!
SN3A0003I can get pretty much anything I would want from a US Costco including the trademark Costco restaurant area with Pizza and Hotdogs, tire garage, dirt cheap Visio TVs, Kirkland brand foods and goods, and all other kinds of bulk goods.
SN3A0005 Surprisingly enough, Costco in Japan carries every thing there at pretty close the price you would find stuff in the US. Which is the reason why I love picking up beef jerky and sandwich wrap platters there. The best thing about having access to a Costco now is that I don’t  have to ask friends/family to send me stuff from home. Stuff like roll on deodorant (Japan prefers spray which doesn’t work for real men like me), beef jerky, candies, and other odds and ends that would normally not be found in Japanese stores.
 DSC00020 Whenever I visit Costco I always grab a huge slice of supreme pizza and a coke. The food tastes the same and the toppings are loaded on just as generously as they would be in the US. The only big difference between US Costcos and Japanese ones is that Japanese Costcos are a little cleaner and better lit. The aisles are just as wide and goods are stacked on pallets reaching the ceiling. Ahh Costco, I think I love you.
Just recently, I also visited another Costco in Chiba, Japan near Tokyo. It’s much better and less crowded than the Iruma Costco. Plus there are many more large stores nearby like IKEA. Iruma Costco is nice but it’s really crowded due to it being adjacent to a large outlet store that just opened a year ago. I will probably go to the one in Chiba from now on.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Summer 2009 Road trip!

mei's house ghibli Yuko and my summer vacations fall roughly around the same time so we decided to drive south for a weekend last week. So on Friday the 14th I got behind the wheel of my girlfriend’s car once again to drive 100s of kilometers south of Yamanashi.
DSC00010 Our first stop on our long drive was Aichi-ken’s 2005 Expo memorial park (Morikoro Park). The thing that Morikoro park is best known for besides it’s beauty and size is it has a to scale house from the movie “My Neighbor Totoro.” The same very house that Satsuki and May live in. It was cool seeing a Japanese house as it would have looked like about 50 years ago. Pretty quaint and utilitarian, with well pumps for water and a furnace under the bathtub to warm the water.
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DSC00057 The next stop on Friday’s leg of the drive was Nagoya Castle. Our timing was pretty good because we got to see a festival getting set up while we were there. The castle is pretty much like most every other rebuilt Japanese castle. Looks cool on the exterior but the interior has been completely modernized and repurposed as a museum. If you are into history and stuff it’s worth the 500 yen entry fee but seeing it from a distance is just as good too. Just one more tourist trap to cross off my ever shrinking list.
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DSC00069 The final stop for Friday’s drive and about 400km later we reached Osaka. We had some dinner at a kushiyaki restaurant near Osaka tower (which is tiny and I’ve seen it about 4 times now) and then we walked about for an hour taking some night shots of the Nanba shopping area.
On Saturday we spent the whole day in Osaka’s metropolitan area. Driving around there is really scary as the drivers are twice as aggressive drivers and taxi drivers are right out nuts.
DSC00075 We checked out Osaka Castle in 102 degree weather with about 45 percent humidity that day. It just hurt to stand outside. Thank goodness the castle was air-conditioned inside. Osaka castle looks a lot like Nagoya castle but they have their differences I guess. The interior also was repurposed as a museum. The best thing about it was that we got to dress up as Samurai for about 300 yen including pictures(which I can show to anybody who asks directly as Yuko prefers not to be shown on the blog.)
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DSC00094 The rest of Saturday was spent shopping in Nanba with Yuko. She loves shopping so I got to see a ton of girly shops. I didn’t buy anything for myself really because I don’t care about knickknacks much. I get most of my enjoyment out of traveling and driving cross-country.
Every time I visit Osaka, it always feels a little different. That’s probably because it is. There is always construction going on there so buildings and businesses come and go. The best thing about the changes is that it always seems a little cleaner every time I visit.
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Not many foreigners get to drive around the country. You can see a lot of Japan by train but you can see the real Japan by car. The only thing that stinks about driving cross-country is that I am tired at the end of the day. Oh well.
So that was our weekend last week. We drove back after lunch on Sunday and made it home around 6. Non-stop driving all the way home. I don’t know how I do it. I guess I’m built for torture.