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.
May 21, 2006
Picnic in Komazawa Park, Apartment Hunting, Writing Proposals
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 TokyoSo 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 gameYesterday 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 lawI'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 revisingThis 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 partyEric 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 14, 2006
Nescafe Low SugarToday's daily Japanese coffee is Nescafé's Bitou Coffee, or low sugar coffee. It was hot, and pretty good. Sweet for something that is low sugar. From today on I will only post daily coffee updates to the Daily Japanese Canned Coffee section. I know I don't post much - mostly I'm just working and commuting, so nothing terribly interesting happens - but I don't like how these coffee pictures are overrunning my blog. I have so far tried every coffee in one of the vending machines at work. I've got two more to go, and then I need to start on the local convenience stores.
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 28, 2006
細木和子 (Hosoki Kazuko) Japanese fortune-teller, and Japanese dramas
So I got home at about 8pm today, ate dinner and started flipping through channels on the TV. I came across a special for Hosoki Kazuko's birthday, who is a well-known fortune teller. She has people on a show and then gives them (typically brutal) advice, from what I could tell.
I really couldn't believe some of the advice that she was giving. This particular special had 100 female high school graduates on the program. They would survey the audience about a topic, get the results, and then Hosoki Kazuko would give a little lecture. Anyway, she seems to be extremely conservative. That isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I certainly think that from an American perspective, people would think she is setting women's rights back about 40 years. For example, one of the questions was "Do you regret losing your virginity?" These girls are all about 17 or 18 I think, and the poll answer was something like 22 yes to 78 no. Hosoki ripped into them for being too young and being deceived by men because they are too trusting. Certainly that might be a problem, but I would think that for most people there they were dating people their own age, and how else does one learn about the world anyway?
That really isn't too shocking, but she also had some other really bad advice I thought. One girl said that she was really looking forward to starting to work and taking a job. One of the reasons she gave is that it is a way to get independence, and if for some reason she had to get a divorce, how else would she support her family without a career? That doesn't sound like a bad thing to be thinking about to me, but Hosoki completely lambasted her for that. She gave some expression amounting to basically: "Women should have a child, love, protect, (maybe one or verb ending in ru). Men should go out, work, fight, struggle, (etc.). Together these two build a family. That is the role for humans. (Women and men.)"
Another woman said she wanted to become the Prime Minister in the future. She was told that it is a very honorable and good thing to become a mother and house-wife. There were some other things like that, but I was just really struck by her opinions. Now, I don't have anything against women who want to be housewives. But I also think it is great for women to want to have a career, and men should try to house husbands as well sometimes.
I was ready to go to bed, but while flipping around I ran into 都立商売 (School of Water Business), a Japanese drama based on a manga that I know nothing about. Water business though, is generally red-light district night-life stuff. This drama is a comedy about a girl who transfers into a high school where people learn to be hostesses, bartenders at gay bars, escorts, stuff like that.
I believe it is just a single 1:45 minute drama thing, and it is unbearably bad, but like a train wreck I can't stop watching it. The main actress, playing the role of Yamashita Sanae, is amazingly interesting: a half Japanese (I'm assuming half, I only know that her dad is British) woman named "Becky" (short for Rebecca) that has been living in Japan. Her Japanese is just perfect, unlike some of the foreign actors you see on tv (and she doesn't grate on my like David Spectre does.) Some interesting information on her on the Japanese wikipedia. Looks like she went to Asia University's Business Administration school in Japan, and has been in some shows in the past few years going only by the nick-name "Becky". I'm really impressed by her, and even though I really should go to bed now, I've somehow gotten drawn into this otherwise very average drama that is horribly over-acted.
Here are some pictures from the official site. I don't know how long they will last, but give them a try.
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 TokyoMy 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.
March 15, 2006
Landed in JapanI arrived in Japan yesterday. Filled out the forms for my foreigner registration card today, and got a new cell phone. I start work tomorrow, and am utterly exhausted right now (9:30pm local time.) Looks like if I can get a good night's sleep tonight, jetlag might not be a problem.
February 17, 2006
Ditching SpamAssassin, using GMail as a Spam FilterSo 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 protectionI'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.
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February 5, 2006
Installing mt-daapd to server iTunes music from Fedora Core 4 linux boxSo I have a collection of music that I like to play using Amarok on my Fedora Core 4 linux laptop, and since I recently picked up a 15" PowerBook, I thought it would be fun to install a daap server.
I decided on mt-daapd (over daapd, but I can't really say why.) There are Fedora Core 4 packages available, but I also wanted to include AAC along with MP3 streaming ability, and that requires mpeg4ip. I couldn't find a packaged version of mpeg4ip around, but I was able to download the tarball and install it without too much trouble. The one catch is that it required ffmpeg-devel, which was not in fedora-extras, but it was in the freshrpms repository, so once I installed that I was golden.
Installing mt-daapd was simple, just a question of downloading the RPMs and installing them. I edited the mt-daapd.conf and mt-daapd.playlist files, added and entry in mDNRResponder.conf to advertise the server via HOWL, and started everything up. Fired up iTunes on the PowerBook, and the music was there. Nice.
February 4, 2006
Adding rules to SpamAssassin and keeping them up-to-date automaticallySo I've been getting a lot of spam lately, and decided to add more rules to SpamAssassin. I found two nice solutions for automatically (via cron or the like) download new rulesets. I've decided to go with Maxime Ritter's rule-get perl script, which is like apt-get in many ways. It stuck the script in /usr/local/sbin in case I lose it. :)
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January 14, 2006
15" Aluminum PowerBook hard freezesSo I've had a 1.67 Ghz PowerPC 15" Aluminum PowerBook for about two months now, and am really enjoying it. I'll have some stuff to stay later about porting Java applications to Mac OSX and some problems I've had with that, but for the most part things have been working very well.
When I ordered my machine, I upgraded the RAM to 2 Gigabytes. That is really nice. The problem is that my machine will randomly (really randomly) hard freeze: the mouse won't move, and sound that was playing will loop for the length of the sound buffer, no movement at all on the screen, etc. The only thing that you can do is hold down the power button for about five second to force the machine to shut off. That is a real bummer. Worse, it seems to happen more when I'm doing work: programming large apps on Eclipse. I suspect that it has something to do with the memory, but I wasn't able to find any errors with the RAM running memtest and I tried many combinations of RAM sticks in different RAM slots. I was able to freeze things in any combination of RAM sticks (1 gig + stock 512mb, 2 gig, and even 1 gig alone) but I couldn't freeze it with just the 512mb stick. So something about the 1gig sticks is bad.
I took the machine down to the Apple store at the Willow Bend mall in Plano, but they were unable to find any problems. It looks like I might have to send the machine back to Apple to get this checked out. I'll have to think about when the best time to do that would be though.
49 hours in busses, planes, airports and taxisSo I left Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday morning, catching a bus to get back to Singapore. The bus ride, on Aeroline, took five hours to get to Singapore. We watched "The Princess Diaries." I can't believe that I watched "The Princess Diaries", but I did. Also, did you know that you have to go through customs and immigration when you pass from Malaysia to Singapore on a bus? Of course, that makes sense, but it just seems strange to go through immigration from a bus.
When I arrived in Singapore, I had to catch a cab to the airport, and then I had about six hours to wait until my flight to Korea. The airport at Singapore is very nice, they have free internet access (wired only though - wireless is pay) and lounges that come with power and ethernet. The plane ride to Korea was about 8 hours or so, from 10pm at night and we arrived at about 5:30am at Inchon airport in Korea.
I had a fourteen hour layover in Korea, and that was just terrible. I was able to access the internet using my Maxis broadband monthly service that I signed up for while I was there, but it wasn't economical because you have to pay a roaming charge. I tried to find places to sleep, and did find the nice commuter lounge, but it was pretty full. Even if it wasn't, I don't sleep well on a small half-sofa. If you are lucky though, you can push two of the sofas together and make yourself a pretty nice bed.
The flight from Korea to New York was about 12 or 14 hours. I forget. I was sitting next to a pretty big guy and he took up the armrest - through no fault of his own, he was just large - and I was already tired so it just wasn't very comfortable. At least I got to watch some Law and Order episodes before my laptop battery ran out.
About two hours before the flight ended, I walked forward to the bathroom (instead of back to the ones I had been using) and noticed that my friend Jung-yun was on the flight! She was flying back to New York after visiting her friends. How crazy is that!?
After getting our luggage, Jung-yun and I split a cab back to Manhattan, I arrived at my friend's place, and stopped the timer for the trip. Total time in airplanes, airports, taxis, and busses: 49 hours and 49 minutes.
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