June 7, 2006

Traditional First Meal

As with any true Evans Family move, the first meal in my new apartment was an ice cream dinner. The Great Ice Cream Debacle of 1986 (?) is still legendary in my mind. The whole family was moving cross-country, from Los Angelos to Princeton, New Jersey, and had to stay temporarily in the Princeton Scanticon Hotel. Of course, as 13 year old kids, this was just amazing. They had a swimming pool! We could go swimming every night! (Somehow though, our parents didn't seem as excited by that idea as us kids were.)

Just about the time we got there, it was Alana and my 12th birthday. To celebrate the occasion (and perhaps try to placate the kids a bit, who were very upset at being moved all the way across the country away from all our friends!) Dad got a huge ice cream cake. That was really great, but after a slice or two, even kids start to get sick of ice cream cakes. Also, since we were in a hotel, we had no refrigerator.

Dad was "forced" to eat the remainder of the ice cream cake before it melted. Sometimes being the responsible one is a tough job.

Ever since then ice cream has always been one of the first meals that I have in a new place, even if it is only just a small cup or ice cream sandwich. Ice cream cakes, sandwiches, more types of food should come in ice cream form.

This particular evening I had just finished a beef bowl at a nearby place, and couldn't resist the Baskin Robbins. I'm positive that that place will be a bad influence on me. It is open until 10pm every night, and I usually make it home before then... Anyway, the ice cream was delicious, and the apartment has been annointed.

Moving into that place has been interesting. I've been riding my bike down there two or three times a day since I got the key to drop off small stuff, and I've probably only got maybe 5 or 6 trips until I've moved everything that I can without a truck. The truck will come on Friday, and hopefully they can get everything else. I'm not sure that the bed will fit because the stair are torturous. I don't see how they will be able to get the bed up that windy staircase, but I took measurements and at least at all points the bed should fit. I'm just not sure if they will have space to turn the thing at the corners...

June 5, 2006

Happy Road Oyamadai


Happy Road Oyamadai. It is a super cute little town.

This Baskin Robbins, a mere seconds from my apartment, could spell trouble for me.

My living room, sans furniture. The bedroom is off to the left. Click on the picture for more apartment shots.
In June 2006, I made the move to an apartment of my own in Oyamadai (尾山台 - it means low mountain slope place) on the Oimachi line (特急大井町線). I'm really happy with the apartment, it large for a single person in Japan, and has recently been renovated. There are lots of windows, I get lots of sunlight (which I generally try to avoid) and have access to the roof. I might buy a chair and a BBQ. The bathroom is really nice, with a Shampoo Dresser. Do you know what a Shampoo Dresser is? I thought it was some sort of dresser for shampoo, a place to organize and put your shampoo. I couldn't understand why the real estate agent was so excited about that. It turns out that a Shampoo Dresser is a sink with a retractable handle faucet that you can wash your hair in. Ohhhhh. I won't use it, but apparently it is very convenient for ladies in a rush who want to wash their hair in the morning but not take a shower. The best thing about the apartment is that it is in a great area. Right next to the station (although, that's also the worst part because you get some train noise) in a really cute town. See the first picture, Oyamadai Happy Road. It's a really fashionable-looking town that is on the up-and-up. More beauty salons that you can shake a stick at, some nice restaurants, a nice library (I've got to check that out!) and really cool cafés with cake and coffee sets. Even worse, a Baskin Robbins about thirty seconds from my apartment. That could spell doom. The location is very convenient for the commute as well. It is 1500 meters from Jiyugaoka, which is what I take now to go to Shibuya then on to Jimbouchyou for work. So I've got probably a 15 minute walk, or 5 minute bike ride. I could take the Ooimachi train also, but I would rather get the exercise and save on commuting costs.

Last night, Tai, Aya, and I went to poke around the Oyamadai area. We had dinner at a really cute Itailian place. The food was really good, if a bit on the pricey side. We had a small pizza, three pasta dishes, and two decanters of wine. One pasta dish had a nice meat sauce, one a nice cream seafood (squid and clams) sauce, and the last one had a really spicy with jalepeños. Of course, I ate one before I noticed the small buggers, but it reminded me of Andy Crook and all the times in Dallas when he tricked me into eating the spicy buggers. A minute or two later and things were bearable, so it was a funny moment. Also, it brought out some sharp flavors in the wine (as I rapidly tried to put out the fire with a glass of white house wine...)

May 21, 2006

Picnic in Komazawa Park, Apartment Hunting, Writing Proposals

I've been very busy lately. Last week was a brutal week at work, as I was working on writing a funding proposal for a "Young Researcher" grant. It was supposed to be in Japanse, so I wrote a draft in English, then one of the secretaries here translated some of it, and I translated the rest. While my Japanese is ok for normal email and conversations, it is really not up to snuff for academic writing. It was a humbling experience. I'll try to read more Japanese language academic papers, and try to do more formal writing to improve in this area - although it isn't clear how important it is that I can write academic style Japanese, it is something that I would like to do. It is frustrating fishing around for the words to express something, and just coming up short. A humbling experience, but a good one all around, and the proposal did finally go in a few minutes before the deadline with many thanks to Professor Kando and Ms. Homma, who helped with the translation.

In the past few weeks I've also been looking for an apartment of my own in Tokyo. It has been a trying experience because I've been spending 12 hour days at work, and then on the weekends spend all day talking with realty agents and visiting apartments. I estimate that about half of the apartments that I was interested in ended up not being available to me because when the agent would call the owner and tell them that I am a foreigner, they would decline to rent to me. That isn't really too surprising to me, but it does make things difficult because it reduces my options. In the end, I found a place that I really like based on its location, size, usability, and to some extent, price. It is more expensive than I would like, but that's life in Tokyo. The major drawback: it is next to train tracks, so I will have a constant soundtrack of city sounds to keep me company. I don't really mind that too much though, since it somehow reminds me of my time in New York. A benefit that others might see as a drawback: it is a fourth-floor apartment with no elevator. I like the idea of unavoidable exercise.

Finally, after two pretty hard long weeks of work and apartment hunting, on Sunday for the first time in weeks the Sun was out and Shining, the weather was beautiful, and I got a call from friends inviting me out to a picnic in nearby Komazawa Park. I met up with Maririn, the twins Moe and Nako, the birthday couple Gene and Emily, and soon-to-be-leaving Japan Sharon. It was really nice just sitting outside for a few hours, enjoying food, friends, cards (大公民 again) and the weather. I didn't even get sunburned. How shocking. Enjoy the pictures from my surprisingly competant camera phone.

May 10, 2006

We Are Scientists completely blow away Tokyo

So last night We Are Scientists, one of my all time favorite bands who just happen to hail from New York, came to play the Shibuya Duo Music Exchange in Tokyo.

One of the things that I've really missed since moving to Tokyo two months ago, or more to the point, moving away from New York city a year ago, is the great music scene that was available cheaply in New York. I would usually go to two concerts a month, maybe more, because it is only a $5 cover, you have a great chance to hear some local bands that might be excellent, and if you know some top-notch acts are showing up (like We Are Scientists or Bishop Allen) you probably will hear some other great bands. I really enjoy the local music scene because you get to hear new stuff, the bands have great energy, and it is just a fun time all around.

Tokyo has an interesting scene as well, but the economic structure here is completely different from New York. First of all, cover charges are usually 4,000 yen and up. Tonight's show was 6,000 yen, which is about what I spend on food in a week and a half. Typically when bands play in Japan, if they are at a "live house" then the band has promised to sell X number of tickets at 5,000 each, and if they don't they have to pay the house out of their pocket. I don't know if they get a cut of drink sales or what, but the economic structure is completely different from NYC where the bands pull people into the club / bar, and cause people to drink, making money for everyone. More or less that is my understanding anyway.

What is basically means is that I am not interested in taking a chance on bands that I don't know. It is a big decision to drop 5,000 yen, so I am going to be sure that if I do, I'm going to enjoy the show.

Man, did I enjoy the show last night. We Are Scientists completely rocked the house. They went on first, promptly at 7:00pm, another rarity in New York, but common here. If you have a schedule, you stick to it. The place was pretty full, and up in front the crowd was just nuts. People were jumping around for the entire 45 minute set. They closed with "The Great Escape" and it was a complete riot. People also really were pushing around and jumping during "Inaction" and many other songs. A lot of people knew the songs as well, there was just so much energy in the crowd and room. It was one of my favorite shows, up there with the last CBGBs show I saw with the Scientists and Bishop Allen.

The sound systems was really nice. I was able to chat with Keith, Chris, and Michael after the show, and it was really great talking with them again. It seems like every time I check their homepage they are touring in England or Europe, so I really wonder if they ever even make it back home to Brooklyn or not. It was really great to see them again, and got me thinking about all the shows I'd seen back in New York. It was nice to see some familiar faces after a few months in Tokyo.

Another funny thing about the show was that each ticket had a number on it. They let people into the club based on the number of their ticket. They actually called out numbers 1-10, 10-20, 20-30, ... and so on. I was number 417. Can you believe it? All the tickets were standing room only, so I can only imagine that the Japanese just love their concepts of structure and order even when it does not really bring any benefit to the situation. I kind of like that though.

Oh, just for fun, I've uploaded my absolute favorite We Are Scientists picture of all time. It was at a show a few years back at Princeton University. This was before the Scientists went on, and they were watching Bishop Allen play. That show was also a lot of fun. I remember Keith somehow managed to knock over a lamp and was just going nuts.

May 8, 2006

Tokyo Giants Baseball game

Yesterday I went to the Tokyo Dome to watch a Tokyo Giants game with a friend. It was a blast. My roomate gave me the tickets, which he got from work. He's a lawyer and his company represents the Giants, so sometimes he gets cool things like this. The seats we had were amazing, right behind home plate. It was a complete blast. I've linked to some pictures up on Flikr, so take a look. I especially thought it was great how they have girls to pour your canned beer into paper cups when you enter the stadium. I was surprised they let you even bring any in from outside. Of course, you aren't supposed to bring more than what you can get into the paper cups at the door...

Radio Open Source Podcast and President Bush's sneaky trips around the law

I've been listening to a few Podcasts ever since I got an iPod, and one of the ones that I really enjoy on the morning commute is Radio Open Source, a show that has a very wide range of interesting topics and a fairly balanced presentation of the issues. Of course, I say balanced, but the host, Christopher Lydon, is definitely a liberal kind of guy, and there are liberal leanings in the show, but I really like that they take the time to really talk about an issue over the course of the hour-long show. It is also nice that the show just about covers my door-to-door commute from home to work.

Today's show just amazed me. It was about the signing statements that President Bush quietly files after signing a bill into law. The signing statements, which I had never heard of before, are supposed to give an indication of how the President interprets the bill, but in Bush's case have been used to selectively ignore portions of bills that he does not like.

For the full story you should read the article by Charlie Savage explaining how Bush uses signing statements to side-step the due process of the law. It is well worth the read, and I just can not believe how far Bush has gone to sidestep the political process that makes America potentially so great. You can read more comments on the Radio Open Source page for this story.

Also, congratulations to me on what is probably my first blog post that qualifies for entry into the "blogosphere".

April 23, 2006

Cooking, writing, and revising

This weekend has been consumed entirely by writing and revising, with a short break in between to cook dinner. I'm trying to finish off a fellowship application by Sunday, but I also wanted to cook, something I haven't done for a long time. I decided I'd make my standard spaghetting meat sauce (mushrooms, multi-colored peppers, hamburger meat, and tomato sauce base) for spaghetti that would hopefully feed me a few times in the coming week. I also made garlic french bread (burned, as usual) and onion potatoes. These potatoes are really great, my mom has made them a few times. Basically you marinate some cut up potatoes in onion soup mix and oil, then bake them for about half an hour until they are soft. I couldn't find the onion soup mix that I usually would use, but did find some "onion consume" which worked, but the flavors were a bit weak. Still, they were pretty good.

Anyway, it was nice to take a few hours off from writing to cook and have dinner with Tai and Aya. I would like to cook more often, but I'll have to learn some new tricks if I do. I've already made curry a few times, and Gyuudon would be expensive here. I might try Oyakodon soon though.

April 16, 2006

Eric's Going away party

Eric leaves to return to America in a few days. As his friends, we were obligated to have a going away party. Ami was nice enough to allow us to use the Joyful Time bar, and afterwards we went to sing some Karaoke. I've got proof of the bar part at least.

April 2, 2006

Hamarikyuu Park and Monjya-yaki

F. and I went for a walk in Tokyo on Saturday. We first went to Hamarikyuu Park, and looked at some of the cherry blossoms. They are just about in full bloom now. NHK was there filming, which we later saw on TV that night. Hamarikyuu Park has a pine tree that is 300 years old. It's a pretty impressive tree.

After the park, we walked through Tsukiji, and went to a place that specialized in Monjya-yaki. Monjya-yaki is like Okonomiyaki, only it doesn't thicken up as much. It was quite good. We had an order of Cod fish eggs (mentaiko, 明太子) and a mix of shrimp, octopus and something else. It was very nice. I think architects and artists would like monjya-yaki (a Tokyo-area specialty I'm told) because first you have to build a restraining wall with space in the middle out of the solid ingredients, cook it a bit, and then pour in the soupy stuff, and cook it all together a bit. Once it has firmed up a bit, you mix the stuff up and cook it through, then eat it up. Good stuff.

On the way to dinner we also passed by the Tsukiji Hongwan temple, which is a very unusual temple architecturally. It looks more like it follows in Indian architectural tradition. It was closed though, so I didn't get to find out very much about it.

March 25, 2006

Celebrating one week at work (in Japan)

So this weekend I am celebrating one week at work in Japan. Things are going well so far, although the commute is a bit crowded sometimes. I've settled on getting up at 6:30 to catch a 7:10 train or so, getting in to work at 8:15. Going home varies, but usually it isn't as crowded as getting to work. I really do miss my "commute" at Columbia University: about a two minute walk door to door.

To celebrate, I went down to "Joyful Time", a bar in Gakugei Daigaku that my friend introduced me to. It is a nice little place, family run above their Chinese restaurant. A friend, Ami, runs the bar. It was good catching up, and I had one for E., doing research out in Osaka.

I'm going to Denny's for brunch today to meet another friend. I really like Denny's in Japan. I really like Denny's in America. They are the same company, but somehow different. I wish I hadn't given up coffee, because Denny's is one of the few places I know around here that has free refills. I'll see if they have decaf coffee, but decaf coffee in Japan is very rare.

March 21, 2006

Sightseeing in and around Tokyo

My friends Ron and Michelle stopped by Tokyo for four days to visit Eric and myself. They have been travelling around the world, Manilla and Hong Kong, while on Spring break. Ron is an excellent architect, so he had an entire itenerary of buildings lined up that he wanted to see. Since their time was brief (arrive Thursday evening, leave Monday morning) time was tight. I think we made the best of it though. Over the weekend we were able to visit: Roppongi Hills, and the museum in the Mori tower. Many shops around Omote-sando, my favorite was the Prada building. The Dior building was also crazy, with a strange mirrored interior reminiscent of 2001 A Space Odyssey, and the Todd's shoe store was strange too. We also went to Kamakura, and saw the large Buddha there. Kamakura was briefly (about 150 years from 1192 until 1333) the seat of the Government in Japan. There are some nice temples there, and we walked along the cold beach for a while. The other two interesting buildings we saw are the Tokyo Forum, a large convention center near Tokyo station, and the Yokohama International Passenger port terminal. It is crazy. We also stopped off at Chinatown in Yokohama, but it was a shame that Eric wasn't around to provide some background information. I just don't know much about the history of Chinese in Japan ( particularly when compared to some. ) Finally, we also took a stroll through the Imperial Grounds, which are quite close to where I work. Speaking of work, back to it. It turns out that today (March 21st) is a national holiday, the Spring Equinox. There aren't many people around at work, which makes everything seem a little creepy.

February 17, 2006

Ditching SpamAssassin, using GMail as a Spam Filter

So I run my own mailserver that serves http://FuguTabetai.com/, http://MangaTranslation.com/, http://SMUGeeks.com/, and http://JevansCeramics.com/. The problem is, even after adding some extra rules to SpamAssassin, it really hasn't done a great job catching the spam, and worse it takes up a lot of RAM and CPU time on my virtual private server. The VPS is from http://RimuHosting.com/, and is really great. Look them up if you are in the market.

Anyway, each email would take about 600 seconds to process. That is a long time, and worse it was really bogging down the other apps on the system, such as this blog, or the forum for MangaTranslation.com.

So what I've done is turn off SpamAssassin, and forwarded the email catch-all for each domain to my GMail account. That has been working very well. Since most of my spam goes to untargetted email addressess, or aliases that I send to the catch-all, GMail catches the spam, and I just have to check my GMail account once in a while to find stuff that got through. Also, I set up some filters on GMail to mark which domain the email came from.

I could take this a step farther, and have GMail forward email that makes it into the in-box back to one of my accounts here. If I did that though, I would need to add a rule to postfix to have it check the header, and deliver any GMail-forwarded mail locally. Right now that doesn't seem like much of a problem, so I'll skip that step.

Where in the world are the Evans kids?

My grandmother and mother have a problem. They don't know where us Evans kids are. We travel around a lot, and don't stay in one place for long. So I thought it would be a fun project to code up a PHP / MySQL web application that puts us on a Google Map. Of course, I want to make sure that if I'm going to go to all this trouble it will be a general system, so I did user sign-up and each user can have multiple maps.

I have not yet added access control, which is the biggest problem: once you are on the system, anyone can put you on their maps, and all of your maps are visible to everyone. Still, it works pretty well for what I want to do, and I don't think this is going to be a well-known thing so I'm not too worried about privacy concerns. I will try to put in some access control stuff though.

The code should be released under the GPLv2 once I get around to packaging it up. It is my first PHP coding project, so it is probably pretty ugly, but since I use Smarty (also my first time with that) and ADODB for database abstraction, I think it should be reasonable.

Check things out: Where in the world Are the Evans Kids?

February 14, 2006

Added simple comment spam protection

I've added simple comment spam protection to my bblog. Hopefully it will keep the spam bots from getting comments in that I need to moderate. I'll put installation instructions below.

read more (656 words)

November 24, 2005

2005 Dallas Turkey Trot

2005 Dallas Turkey Trot On Monday the 21st I arrived in Dallas from Tokyo. The flight went well, in particular since I requested a seat with a power plug, I was able to use my computer for about four hours, and the flight seemed to go quickly.

On Tuesday, I drove down to Austin to pick up Alana, and Wednesday we loaded up her can and drove back to Dallas. On the way we picked up our registration packets for the 2005 Dallas Turkey Trot fun run. Alana, Dad, and I were going to run the 5k fun run on Thursday morning.

We got up at about 7am on Thursday so we could catch the 7:15am DART train from Parker road. We figured that would be easier than driving downtown since there was supposed to be a lot of people showing up for this race. We missed our train by about two minutes and had to wait about half an hour for the next train. Lots of runners were showing up in the mean time. We were able to get a seat on the train, and boy were we lucky. But the time we had gone three stops, the train was packed with runners, and by the time we hit Mockingbird station there was no room for people to get on. (Or so they thought, a normal Toyoko line late night train would be at least twice as packed.)

We made it to the run, and there were 24,000 people there. It was packed. When we started our race it took about 6 minutes to get up to the starting line from where we were lined up. We all stuck together and took the run slowly, it was lots of fun. It ran right through downtown Dallas, and went by lots of historical points in Dallas. I made a Personal Best slow time at 51:50.

Afterwards, we had thanksgiving dinner which was nice. Our stove broke, so mom had to run out and buy a broiler for $30, and we cooked the turkey in that. It turned out fairly well, and probably we'll use the broiler for a while since it is very expensive to get a new stove.

November 13, 2005

Birthday Blood Typing

So I turned 31 today, in Japan. This is the second birthday I've had in Japan actually. Last time I was here for a conference in 2002 I believe, and it was not memorable. I believe that I bought myself a cup-cake at a convenience store or something.

This time, I had a memorable birthday. I met F. at Shinjuku for lunch, at "La Boheme Cafe", which was quite nice. After that we walked to the governmental building, which is constantly being destroyed by monsters in movies. We did some window shopping, and then came across a blood drive. I've been meaning to give blood for a while, since I don't know my blood type and would like to have it typed. Also, I like the idea of helping out people in need.

One reason I'm interested in knowing my blood type is because in Japan, people believe that one's personality is indicated by blood their blood type. I've been asked what my blood type is many times, and I never know. People are shocked. Anyway, I donated blood, and it turns out I'm type A. Sounds good to me. Now I know, and knowing is half the battle.

It's a birthday I won't soon forget!

October 17, 2005

Ikebana show

Ikebana pictures Fumie and I went to a large Ikebana show at the Takashimaya in Nihonbashi on Sunday.
 

October 12, 2005

Trip to Hiroshima, do I have to change this website to FuguTabeta.com??

On Tuesday evening I took a train from Tsu to Nagoya, and from Nagoya to Hiroshima on a Hikari Shinkansen. The picture is actually of a Kodama Rail Star train from Hiroshima because the shot I got of my Nozomi 700 Series Shinkansen from Hiroshima to Tokyo didn't turn out well.

On arriving at Hiroshima, I met with Professor Hidetsugu Nanba (難波 英嗣 先生) for a very, very nice dinner. We ate at a place called きっ川, proprieter 吉川 修平 (Kikkawa Shyuuhei). It was a fresh seafood restaurant, small, and with a very nice personable atmosphere. Every dish is described and explained by Mr. Kikkawa before you eat it. I really enjoyed the dinner, it was just excellent. We also had a nice local Sake with the dinner, 雨後の月 (Ugono Tsuki).

The first course was a nice Sashimi, and then there was a baked fish and a stewed fish? There was a great tempura course, and as Mr. Kikkawa explained, the anago (conger eel) was caught earlier that morning by Mr. Tiger, a famous Anago fisherman in Hiroshima that has been catching them for 40 years. It is said that he catches the most delicious Anago. It certainly was delicious.

The next course was a soup with many interesting things, mostly mushrooms and oysters, but there was also Fugu. Yes, Fugu. The namesake of this site, which I've been running since about 2000, but of course I've wanted to try Fugu for much longer than that. Maybe I first heard of it in 1996, in my first long trip to Japan. So, I had the Fugu, and it was delicious. Now, do I have to buy the domain FuguTabeta.com?? (FuguTabetai means "I want to eat Fugu", FuguTabeta would mean "I ate Fugu".)

So if you are ever in Hiroshima, I highly recommend Kikkawa. The phone number there is (082) 241-0002, but you had better know Japanese if you call there. It is a small place, so reservations are recommended.

 

September 3, 2005

Job hunting in Japan, blog software

I arrived in Japan August 24th, 2005 to start my job hunting activities. I also installed bBlog on FuguTabetai.com, and I think it is quite nice software. I should be able to post a bunch more because this automates a lot of what I was doing by hand.

May 20, 2005

Successful Thesis Defense

On Friday, I successfully defended my PhD thesis at Columbia University. Oh yeah.

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