May 13, 2012
Computer failures all over the place
About a month back, Lisa's MacBook Air (2008 vintage) gave up the ghost. It just wouldn't boot anymore. I bought the machine back in 2008 so four years running, that isn't too bad. It is the second generation MacBook Air, and still has a 1.8" hard drive, no fancy SSDs here. It died though. I took it down to the Apple store recently and let them have a look at it.
I was hoping that it would be dead, and we would have to buy another nice MacBook Air for her. Then, through some magic of my own I would be able to bring the thing back to life somehow and I could use the old one. But Lisa is a practical woman, and so we just paid about $100 and had them throw in a new hard drive since that is what went wrong. At the same time, there was some sort of bulletin out on that machine, and we were eligible for a free replacement of the screen mount (with new screen!) since the hinges were known to be bad on that model. That is pretty sweet, getting a new screen for free. So we did that too.
I wasn't too worried about the hard drive since we have time machine backups on the Time Capsule (500gb, also bought in 2008.) It took a few days, but the machine was repaired, and I brought it home. It booted up fine, and things looked good, so I decided to try to start up the Time Capsule and restore the old data back onto the machine.
This is where things started to get tricky. First off, I dug around until I found the original install disks for the MacBook Air. I finally found those and got the machine up and running via the external DVD drive. I found the Time Machine restore option, it found my Time Capsule fine, and the restore started. I've done this once or twice before, so I expected about 16 hours or so to do the full restore over wireless network (there is no built in ethernet port on the MacBook Air, and the USB port was taken up with the install DVD - I don't have the ethernet dongle anyway.) After an hour or so, an error popped up saying that the Time Machine backup couldn't be read.
I checked the Time Capsule and it was flashing amber, indicating a problem. After firing up AirPort Utility, I saw a little message: "S.M.A.R.T. Status: Drive failing". Oh, that isn't good. I was prompted to plug in an external USB disk and copy data off the time capsule ASAP. Since I happen to have a 1 TB disk laying around, and the Time Capsule is only 500 GB, that shouldn't be much of a problem. I formatted the external drive as a Mac Filesystem and plugged it in … nothing happened.
I checked a bunch of things, made sure the disk would show up on my MacBook Pro (it does - that is where I formatted it) and tried again. No go. So I guess I can't plug it in to the Time Capsule and copy the data off. I should be able to still mount the Time Capsule as a disk and copy the sparsebundles for each machine I have backed up though. So I tried that. Unfortunately, the Time Capsule made a strange clicking sound, and I didn't think the disk was even spinning. So … What to do?
Well, I've been around the block a few times, so I threw the Time Capsule in the freezer, right under the frozen strawberries over night.
When I came home the next day, I was able to connect to the Time Capsule and copy both of the backup files off of the disk to the external USB drive now plugged in to my MacBook Pro. Once the MacBook Air backup file was on the external USB drive, I was able to use Disk Utility to repair it (it needed one round of repairs before things looked good) and then ready to try to install again.
After digging around in my bag of tricks for a while, I found a powered USB hub and plugged in the external DVD drive and the hard drive, then booted up.
But the MacBook Air didn't see the DVD drive. Oh yeah, that's right, Apple decided for some reason to only let the DVD drive work if it was plugged directly into the single USB port on the MacBook Air. Why? Why? I don't know. But that is what they did.
So now I have set up Remote Install on my MacBook Pro and have it sharing the install DVD over the network (and of course the MacBook Air can't see the Time Capsule network when I have WEP encryption on, so I have to remove encryption) and now it is trying to boot off of that. It looks like it is working but I bet it will take a long time before I can get up to the screen where I can choose to restore from the external USB drive with the Time Machine image. Man I hope that works.
(Many days later)
Installing over a networked-shared remove DVD worked. That is really amazing. How much technology do we need to have for that to actually be a reasonable sort of thing to do? It is amazing how far computers have come since I started out on my Dad's Apple //e back in the early 80s.
At any rate, I was able to get to the "Restore" option from the remote install DVD, and it was able to see the Time Machine file on the attached USB disk. I was able to recover Lisa's data, so now we are back to a working MacBook Air for her, and my MacBook Pro for me. And an ex-linux now Windows machine (ugh - I want to go to linux but the flash performance is so terrible that I was forced to install Windows) for videos.
The Time Capsule (maybe it is first or second generation?) gets very hot. It ran fine for about four years straight, so I have nothing bad to say about it at all. I'll go to the Apple store and get a new one at some point, but we're a bit tight on cash right now (and more taxes are due shortly - the car tax, local property type tax, and some other sort of tax are on the way) so I'll just use the external disk as a weekly manual backup for now.I should also note that we rented "Charlie and Chocolate Factory" (well, the new one with Johnny Depp since Lisa hasn't seen either of them) and "Kung Fu Panda" the other day. For some reason the DVD player we have is broken too! So we needed to watch the DVDs on my MacBook, which worked, but requires some cable swapping. Lisa's TV (maybe 6 years old now?) only has one HDMI port, but it has a bunch of strange ports that I've never seen before (D4 they are called. I think.) So we are just full of electronic mysteries today.
May 7, 2012
Golden Week 2012
Alan at his first Sushi Shop
Today's special: milk
I want dinner too!
Delicious stuffed mushrooms
Lisa's friends come to visit
Lisa's friends come to visit
Alan plans to be ambidexterous
April 29, 2012
Alan's first play date, trip to Tokyo Disneyland, and visit with the family in Chiba
Alan and Taishi
Lisa and Alan go to Tokyo Disneyland
and meet Mickey Mouse
and Winnie the Pooh
and Responsible Rabbit
April 9, 2012
Cherry blossoms and Saitama Shrines over the weekend
A whole bunch of Cherry Blossoms
Papa and Alan
Mama and Alan
Lisa, David, and Alan at Hikawa Shrine
Hikawa Shrine Gate
Hikawa Shrine and friends
March 4, 2012
A visit to the limited-time Koyama Sweets shopKoyama Western Sweets shop in Kessennuma for 120 years. His older brother is the 5th Oyama to run the Koyama sweets shop. Last year in the March 11th Earthquake and Tsunami, their town and shop was completely wiped out. Since then Akihiro has been involved in various charity and other efforts to bring attention to the Kessennuma area. On Saturday and Sunday his older brother opened up, for two days only, the Koyama shop in the Takanawa Prince Hotel in Shinagawa. Since we were out and about for the day, and Shinagawa isn't all that far, we took a trip out there. We all bought a bunch of stuff - prominent among things the "Kizuna" (bonds / community) Sponge Cake. The box for the cake has messages from all their supporters, a delicious honey flavor, and appreciative feelings for all who have supported them (and other recovery efforts in Japan.) Alana's friends Wendy and Lizette also bought a few goods from the store and between the three of them we will be spreading the word about the Koyama Western Sweets shop throughout Austin and San Diego. Probably not much further than that, but I'll tell you what: the stuff is delicious, they deliver from their website (linked above) throughout Japan, and you can't go wrong trying to support recovery efforts in Eastern Japan by eating cake. Aside from France, when has eating cake every gone wrong?
Professional Family photos
Dave, Alana, and Gary with their Marathon Medals
Dave, Alana, and Gary with their Marathon Medals
Pooh Bear Alana Yoshiyuki
Pooh Bear Alan Yoshiyuki
Alan Yoshiyuki in his great-grandfather's baby kimono
Alana and Scout
David, Alana, Alan, and Scout
Scout and Balloons
Gary, Alana, and Scout
David, Alana, Lisa, Alan, Gary, and Scout
Lisa, David, Alana, Gary, Alan, and Scout
March 2, 2012
A trip to Hakone with the family
Alan in his cute Yukata
Alana, Dave, and Scout at dinner
The Hakone Group at the Onsen
We took a cable car up the mountain
The top of sulfur mountain
Black Eggs and Mt. Fuji
Ropeway ride down to the lake
Pirate ships on Ashinoko (Lake Ashi)
February 29, 2012
Evans family marathon runners
Evans runner support team
At the end of the race!
The full support team
- Alana Evans: 5:34:22
- David Evans: 5:34:24
- Gary Evans: 5:41:09
February 3, 2012
Setsubun - throw beans around for good luck!Setsubun, a day that marks the traditional start of Spring. Well, I hope it does because it is super cold out here, and getting up and running every morning has been a challenge. What Setsubun really means is that you buy a bunch of beans of some kind, and throw them outside your house, chanting "Demons go out, good luck come on in!" Or something to the effect. I took a look around our house, and oh no! We had a demon infestation! We corrected that with the traditional bean throwing, and even little Alan Yoshiyuki helped out (although he does look suspiciously similar to one of the crying demons I caught on digital film just a little bit earlier.) Anyway, happy Setsubun to you all, and I hope that all the demons in your house flee your violently flung beans and make room to let in all the good luck for 2012!
December 19, 2011
Announcing the birth of Alan Yoshiyuki Tanaka-Evans
Alan Yoshiyuki Tanaka Evans
Mom and Alan together for the first time
Dad, Alan, and Mom
Alan with eyes wide open
On Friday, December 16th, at 12:08pm, our son Alan Yoshiyuki Tanaka Evans was born. In Japanese his name is 田中エバンス・アラン吉恭. I'll say more about the name later.
On Thursday the 15th, Lisa started to feel like the contractions were starting, and after some calls to the hospital, we caught a taxi and arrived there in the early afternoon. We went to the labor delivery room and spent some time with the nurses getting things timed and instrumented. We started to discuss what we wanted in our birth plan. The primary divergence from the standard Japanese birth plan - which is usually a natural birth with no epidurals - is that we wanted an epidural. Our hospital, Aiiku Hospital, is very accommodating and has an anesthesiologist (or multiple?) on staff. So we can get an epidural. Unfortunately, they don't really promote epidurals and prefer natural birth. So if you want an epidural, you can only do it from 9am-5pm Monday through Friday. Since kids aren't really known for being prompt and on time, we were very worried that we wouldn't be able to have the epidural.
Speaking with the doctors, Lisa's contractions were pre-contractions, so they wanted us to see how things went Thursday night. If things went well, Lisa would go into labor early Friday, and we would hit the epidural window. Since they wanted Lisa to stay overnight, and visiting hours (even for family members!) is only from 1pm to 8pm, they made me go home. Around 9am Friday morning, I got a call from Lisa to come into the hospital. She had been in labor since 1am. By 10am, the doctors said that if we wanted to have an epidural, Lisa would need to have stronger contractions, so they administered a labor inducing agent via her drip-feed. That worked well, so around 11am or so the anesthesiologist came by and started on Lisa's epidural. She was really in pain from the contractions and started to feel a lot better in ten minutes when the drugs started to take effect.
Things were going well, Lisa and I were talking with the nurse that was in the room. The baby heart rate monitor suddenly dropped from about 150bpm to 70, and kept going down. In an instant some alarms started to sound, and then suddenly there were ten or twelve people in the room, including the main delivery doctor. Things happened quickly; Lisa got an oxygen mask and the doctor told me that they needed to perform an emergency c-section. They rushed her out, and had me sit in the waiting room. An eternity later, a nurse came by and told me that a healthy boy was born. I was ecstatic, for a few minutes until I wondered at the peculiar wording that left out any mention of how Lisa was doing. Then I got worried again until I was able to hunt up a nurse that told me that my wife was indeed fine. The doctor later explained to me that they did not have any idea what happened, but they were concerned that with the drop in the baby's heart rate, they needed to get him out of there quickly to avoid any potential for damage to his brain. Everything turned out ok, and also, I could go see my son!
I spent about half an hour with my son, and then he was taken away to get weighed and whatever else the nurses needed to do. I went back to do some more waiting, and then was able to go see Lisa. I had a few minutes to talk with her, and then the nurse came in to check on her bandages. Again, in an instant the place was full of doctors and nurses, and I was rushed out. I caught a few snatches of conversation about how she was having massive bleeding. I had another hour or so waiting outside the room, but the doctors got everything stabilized and I was allowed back in, along with our son. Lisa was exhausted but looked extremely happy.
Alan Yoshiyuki Tanaka Evans was born on Friday, 2011 December 16th at 12:08pm. He weighs in at 2884 grams, and 48.5 cm. Since Friday, mom and son have been recovering together in the hospital. She will stay there for about a week (a bit longer than normal due to the c-section, but not much.) Visiting hours are from 1pm to 8pm, so I go to the hospital and visit for a few hours. I can't wait for them to come home (just in time for Christmas as it turns out) and start my own sleepless nights.
What about the name Alan Yoshiyuki Tanaka Evans?
I have always thought it was somewhat sexist that the wife should change her last name to the husband's last name, and I think the name Tanaka is really cool, has a long tradition in Japan, so we just never changed our names when we got married. We are married though. So when our son is born, we had to think a bit about the name. I like the sound of Tanaka Evans, which is what we will use as his last name on his US Passport. We'll probably have to hyphenate it, so Tanaka-Evans. For his first name, I want a connection to my family, and the name Alan works really well there - my father is Gary Alan Evans, my sister is Alana, we have a few other Alans in the family, and one of his godfathers' middle name is Alan (although I might not have the spelling right there.) On Lisa's side of the family, men often have names starting with the Chinese character 吉 (Yoshi, "good fortune".) There are many people in their family with names starting with that character, so it is very hard to choose a name that is unique to the family. Lisa had a few candidates, which we narrowed down to two, Yoshitomo ("good fortune" and "intelligence") or Yoshiyuki ("good fortune" and "courteous".) Since one of the reasons we chose Alan is in the hopes that he turns out as smart as my father Lisa didn't want to have two "smart" meanings in the name, so Yoshiyuki it is. So far, he has cried enough that I'm not sure he understands the meaning of his name, but we'll work on it.
For reference, the Japanese writing of the name is 田中エバンス・アラン吉恭.
November 26, 2011
Rainbow Bridge Loop
November 24, 2011
Maternity PhotosHappy Birth Photo in Shibuya. R. thought it would be a good idea to have some professional maternity photos done. Since this isn't something that happens every day, I definitely agree. The photo studio staff is all female, which I suspect works well for them. They were very nice and walked us through the photo session with some options for things we could do. They weren't super interested in taking pictures of me, and I can't say that I disagree with them. I was in the first few shots, and then they focused on R. That was cool by me. I think the pictures turned out very well, here is a small sample. I can't believe how large R. has gotten! We've got about three weeks to go I think.
November 13, 2011
Happy 37th Birthday Run
I wanted to jog across Rainbow bridge into Odaiba, but it was closed to pedestrian traffic.
Since I couldn't run across rainbow bridge, I headed for another landmark.
October 26, 2011
Fat, Sick, and nearly Dead
I watched "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" on Amazon Instant Video tonight. Another great documentary! I'm excited because a few days ago I ordered a Vitamix (1363 Spy [or possibly it was CIA] model) blender which can make great juices. Since I'm currently training for my first marathon, and my father has really enjoyed his vitamix blender, I started to want one at home. With little Alan on the way, I think we can also make fresh baby food when he gets around to eating that kind of thing.
I also checked out a few other things on Amazon Instant Video, and suspect that I'll be watching a bit of Doctor Who before sleeping. They have a whole bunch of the old series and the new series on there. Amazing.
October 25, 2011
Amazon Instant Video
September 24, 2011
A Wedding in New York, and a Baby Shower in DallasA Wedding in New York, and a Baby Shower in Dallas
Lisa and Starry Night
Lisa and Warhol's Marylin
Dave and Thomas Sweet Ice Cream
The Bent Spoon
Lisa and Dave at the flower gardens
Last week Lisa and I went to New York for the wedding of our friends Lena Park and Ben Grenier. This will be Lisa's second time in New York, and a welcome return for me. Because of the wedding, I also had a great chance to see a bunch of friends from grad school. We did this vacation pretty quickly, arriving Thursday evening, and flying from New York to Dallas on Monday, then back to Tokyo from Dallas on Thursday. That gave us basically three days in New York. We basically had a bunch of errands to run (shopping) but on Friday we were able to spend some time at the MOMA. You can see a picture with Lisa by Starry Night and Warhol's Marylin Monroe as proof. It is really amazing how many world class famous paintings are in that building (and how many more in storage?) We also swung by M1-5 in the evening for a get-together with Lena and Ben and lots of friends.
On Saturday we took a trip down to Princeton, primarily to visit our friends Ron and Michelle and their super cute boy Evan, but also to swing by some of the local favorites. For me, that primarily means Halo Pub, a great ice cream place. Strangely, Princeton has more ice cream parlors than bars. Michelle is convinced that the Bent Spoon is the best ice cream in Princeton, and of course you can't forget Thomas Sweet if you are talking about Princeton Ice Cream. So we decided to go for the rare Princeton Trifecta: ice cream at all three places. For dinner, we swung by perennial favorite Hoagie Haven.
We started at Thomas Sweet, where Lisa sampled their sugar free frozen yogurt. I had brownies blended into strawberry ice cream. Little Evan loves ice cream, which he calls "ice see". He also loves trucks, and even since spending a day with Evan, every time I see a truck now, I shout "truck!" We walked over to The Bent Spoon, and had some interesting ice cream there. Lisa tried the Avacado and Mango, I had a scoop of chocolate (excellent) and blood orange sherbet. They were all very good, I loved the chocolate, thought the avacado was a bit strange, and liked the blood orange sherbet but would have preferred a traditional strawberry or other type of berry. The last stop was Halo Pub, where I had more traditional strawberries on chocolate. Even though I was pretty full of ice cream, Evan didn't seem to be slowing down (Ice See!) and we did need some sort of dinner, so we went over to Hoagie Haven. Lots of our Princeton friends just love Hoagie Haven, and I like it as well, although I don't go out of my way for it. Lisa enjoyed the steak hoagie (we split a half) as well, but probably doesn't see the attraction that some of my friends have for the place.
After spending a great day with friends in Princeton (see the shot of the two of us in the flower gardens) we took the train back to New York, which was a great contrast with the trains in Tokyo. Slow, not necessarily on schedule, and perhaps not as clean as you would expect coming from Japan. She also noticed a few rats in the subway and commented on those. Another big issue with New York is that there are lots of stairs if you take the subway. Lots of stairs.
The day of the wedding, we had lunch at the Russian Tea Room. That was my first time there, and while people say it has really become a tourist trap, I thought the food was good, and I like the atmosphere. Who cares if it is a tourist location now? I ordered the trio of sliders, and was disappointed. Lisa had the Beef Stroganov and was not. We split the borscht. The tea was very nice too - I am going to drink more tea now. We have great teas out here in Japan, I can't deal with the caffeine in coffee and soda, but tea seems to be ok. After dinner, we headed uptown to Columbia, and then over to the wedding.
The wedding was at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, a beautiful church on 71st. The ceremony was shorter than I expected, and beautiful. It seemed like a fairly traditional Catholic wedding to me, but I'm not super well versed on traditional weddings, so I won't try to analyze the wedding aside from saying that it was a great ceremony and seemed to do the job.
The reception was at Del Posto downtown. The dinner was delicious, with great speeches by friends of the lovely couple, and the bride's twin sister.
After the wedding, we flew the next day to Dallas to visit with my family for a few days. My great sisters set up a baby shower for Lisa since they are not common in Japan. We had a great turnout of friends and family at the party. One of the highlights of the trip was getting to spend time with Alana's son Scout, who has grown very big!
Our Aunt Laura made some delicious cupcakes for the party, and the Butlers were gracious enough to bring sandwiches and other dinner foods. Don't misunderstand; we don't have Butlers, but Jerome and Sydney Butler did come to the party and brought the food. Alana and Jana also bought a bunch of white baby onesies and fabric markers, and the guests drew great designs for our little boy. We've got a whole bunch of fashionable clothes for our baby now.
Our mom, who has Parkinson's disease, really perks up when little Scout in the room. It was great spending time with mom and Scout, and we also were able to get a few pictures of the whole Evans family together. I don't think we've had the full family together for a few years, so that was also very nice.
We had a short trip, but it was packed with friends and family. As always time just seems to fly, and now here we are back in Tokyo. I'm hopeful that once we have our little boy we'll be able to see family back in the States again, but it might be a while before we feel up to the task of a 10+ hour flight with a little baby. Alana and Scout seem to have managed really well though, so maybe we will be able to do it also. At any rate, it was a very nice vacation! Many thanks to all the friends and family for taking the time to see us, and congratulations to Lena and Ben!
July 24, 2011
Announcing Project: Micro Cooper
Project: Micro Cooper
Tokyo Sky Tree
Dave and R. at Suitengu
Pregnancy Protection Wrap
Safe Childbirth Charm
R. and I have recently started on a new project, which we will call Codename: Micro Cooper. The story starts about four months back, when R. complained of feeling sick in the morning and tired. A quick trip to the hospital, and we found the reason: an as-of-yet unmet new member of the family. We don't yet know much about this little person in the making, but for now we will address the person as (micro) Cooper.
We've been going to a hospital in Hiroo called Aiiku Hospital. Hiroo is a kind of stylish neighborhood and Aiiku Hospital is a well-respected hospital that is popular with expats. It is convenient for me because it is a quick 5 to 10 minute bike ride from work, and maybe fifteen minutes from home on the bike. It is about a thirty minute train ride with one transfer, or a quick 10 minutes in a taxi. So we are set on that front.
Yesterday, we decided that we needed to get some additional backing on the safety front, and we visited Suitengu Shrine, a Shrine renowned for the worship of the deity of Safe Childbirth. Walking around the area there are lots of Maternity shops and lots of pregnant women. We planned to make a day of it, so before going to the shrine, we went to have a very nice Unagi (freshwater eel) lunch.
In July Japanese people traditionally have a Summer Unagi meal, which is supposed to be a meal to help you get over the oppressive heat and boosts your stamina. So we headed over to Asakusa's Unagi Maekawa for lunch. The cute little restaurant is right on the Sumida river, in a small three story building with Tatami-mat seating. You can actually see Tokyo Sky Tree from the Tatami room in which we ate on the second floor. The other thing about this restaurant is that it has been serving up Unagi over rice for a long time. A very long time: about 200 years. So they have had a long time to perfect their art. I really enjoyed the meal, and highly recommend the place. It is a bit pricey though (I think we paid about $80 for the two of us for lunch.)
After lunch, we took the train to Suitengu Shrine. It is a pretty small place actually, which surprised me. We washed our hands, and headed to the Shine sales shop. If you aren't familiar with Japanese shrines, they usually specialize in one sort of thing (with a specific deity to back it up) and then sell a variety of charms to help you attain your goals. There are traffic safety charms, charms for doing well on tests, and so on. This particular shrine specializes in safe childbirth. We asked for an order of "Have the priests pray for our safe childbirth", but it turns out that we were too late for that (they were all sold out - or more properly booked up) so we just got the safe childbirth womb wrap.
The safe childbirth belt includes a nice cloth wrap (with some blessings on it) as well as a charm that you wrap up with the cloth. That should really help. R. tried it on, but we're still a bit early on in the process so she thinks it can wait a while yet.
We still have about four months to go before Project: Micro Cooper is unveiled, but there are lots of big changes coming up in our lives. We're going to have to see how we can fit more stuff in our little apartment, and start looking at baby carriages and child seats. We've also been checking out new cars, with a chance we'll trade in our Mini Cooper for a Mini Cooper Clubman or possibly a Mini Cooper Crossover. We've got to send in our Mini Cooper for the bi-annual inspection this month, and then it will be licensed for two more years. Once that is up though, it will be 8 years old, a veritable octogenarian in Japan.
So friends and family, we've got big changes coming up, and definitely welcome any advice and pointers. The release date for Project: Micro Cooper is currently 2011-12-15, so check back around Christmas time to see what new super cute features we've got coming!
June 25, 2011
Premium Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Eggs Yummadict. From 37 Steakhouse
It says Premium
Hung out with these guys too
Last weekend R. and I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stanger Tides. This is an unusual occurrence because since I moved to Japan and got married, I generally see only about four movies a year. So going to see a real movie in a real movie theater is a pretty big deal for us. I'm not really sure why that is, but it probably comes down to two things:
- Movie tickets cost a lot here in Japan
- R. and I usually don't have the same days off, so we don't have a lot of time together
Pirates looked like it would be fun, so I checked out the times, and we could make it last Sunday. We headed down to the Roppongi hills in time for Brunch, and stopped off at 37 Steakhouse. They had an excellent Eggs Benedict. I hadn't had a real American style brunch in a long time, and I really enjoyed it. We are going to have to do this more often. R. enjoyed a nice lunch steak, but I think I was the winner with the eggs and delicious bacon.
We also stopped by the Roppongi Mini Cooper dealership and checked out the new Crossover model. It is much bigger than the Mini Cooper we have now. But I don't really think we need a car in Tokyo, and certainly not a new one.
We were a bit early to our show, but that was ok because we had Premium Seats. I've never had Premium Seats before. I wasn't even sure what that entailed actually. It turns out that means that the chairs in the theater are a bit better. They have a really nice reclining function, and a small table for drinks and stuff. There is also a special bar and each ticket entitles you to one drink. A beer or wine or juice or something. So we sat down and had nice drinks and conversation in a little bar while waiting for the movie to start. The theater itself was pretty nice, and the seats were great. The place was also packed. You also could take a little blanket if you were cold. The theater was a bit on the hot side for me, but R. took two blankets, and most of the women there were taking a blanket also.
How was the movie itself? Pretty good! Not great, but a really fun adventure with Johnny Depp doing a great job being funny as Jack Sparrow. I think the movie was a bit weak on some of the motivation points (I am not sure why the love interest did a lot of what she did) and there were many points of contrivance to make things work for Jack and/or the plot. But who cares? It was a fun romp.
Also, as a bonus, the day before I hung out with Eric, R., Ami, and her boyfriend. We had a great Chinese dinner. Actually, I need to try to make it out to Ami's family's restaurant more often. I'll put it on the list of things to do. Like finish writing blog entries.
Hey, mark one off the list!
June 11, 2011
A Vacation in Singapore and Indonesia
Welcome to Nirwana Gardens
Mangrove tour charcoal mound
A bar in the ocean
We took a vacation and went to Singapore and the Bintan Island in Indonesia. We flew into Singapore from Japan on Tuesday evening, arriving a little before midnight, and went to a cheap hotel in Singapore. We woke up pretty early in order to get to the ferry terminal by 7am for a 9am ferry to Bintan. Not much sleep, but that's ok, we plan to catch up at the resort.
The ferry ride was about an hour and was very smooth. I was worried about getting seasick, but no problem. We arrived at the ferry terminal, and made it through immigration (with a bit of a stop over for me, but I eventually made it.) At the immigration office, the officer said that I had a nice beard, and then asked if I was Muslim. I'm not, but I thought that was a compliment.
We found a bus that took us to the resort, and as we arrived there was a group of people playing music and dancing to welcome us in. We got a nice cool watermelon juice and checked in. The grounds of the resort are very nice, they have a bunch of birds of paradise, a beach, a couple of restaurants, and a very nice pool. For most of the time that we were there, we spent our time at the pool relaxing and reading books. I love my kindle for outdoor reading.
On the first evening we also went out for a tour of the mangroves. We had a guide take us up the river in a little boat, and also there was an older Japanese couple with us. They couldn't speak English, so I ended up doing a bit of interpretation for them. Sometimes in the mangroves there are monkeys and other animals, but all we saw were a bunch of lizards. Also there is an old earthen oven that was used to burn some special sort of tree that turns into charcoal, which used to be a major export of the island a long time ago.
We tried a few of the restaurants affiliated with the report while we were there. We stayed two nights, so not really all that long, but it was a very relaxing stay. I think we spent all of Thursday in the pool and ocean. When we were in the ocean I felt a sharp pain on my right foot, and hurried out of the ocean. R. didn't believe me when I told her that I was attacked by a jellyfish, but it puffed up pretty good and clearly was a jellyfish sting. A few hours later it was ok, but I do not like getting stung by jellyfish.
We also had dinner at a seafood restaurant by the sea, and stopped in at their bar that was out in the ocean. One of the patrons was actually fishing while having his drink. I had a Bintan beer, and the first ingredient on the list of ingredients was "Air". I later learned that "Air" means "Water" so that made more sense once I figured that out.
On the day that we decided to relax at the pool, I read a book on my kindle, and R. read a book on a book. After lunch we got an hour massage on the beach for something like $60 for the both of us. Very nice.
Indian Vegetarian Dinner at New Madras Woodlands
We saw a bunch of temples in Little India
We hunted down some Durian Fruit
Durians for sale
On Friday morning we headed out to the Ferry terminal to return to Singapore. There is an hour difference between Singapore and Bintan, so when we got back to Singapore it was close to 1:30pm. We caught a cab back to our Singapore hotel (Hotel York near Orchard Road) and checked in. When we entered Singapore I realized that my passport was full, so we caught a cab to the US Embassy which was conveniently close. We got there just before they closed the office for adding passport pages (3pm) but they were kind enough to accept my application. Also, since Monday was a holiday and we were leaving on Tuesday (and it was Friday) they were very kind to do a rush job and add pages to my passport right then. Great!
We had a quick late lunch / early dinner at our hotel, sampling the famous Chicken Rice, and then I signed us up for the Night Safari. That is actually a really fun tour. You go to a part of the Singapore Zoo at night, and ride a tram around (or walk) at night to see a bunch of animals. Lots of people try to take pictures (no flash photography please!) and all fail because it is night. So it is one of those things that you will need to remember, instead of document.
Saturday we went to Little India for lunch and had a very nice vegetarian dinner. We ordered the lunch set, which had a whole bunch of different types of curry that you can eat with some bread and rice. It was a delicious and very filling meal. We wandered around for a bit and checked out a few of the temples in the area (quite a few!) There was even one place that had a Hindu and Buddhist temple next door to each other. After some sightseeing we stopped for a coffee in a mall, which had some Sesame Street show for the kids. I was glad to see Cookie Monster, but I never remembered him having three back-dancers.
After that we headed out to see my friend Min, and he gave us a few tips on Singapore. We decided to take him up on one of them and went out to find some Durian fruit. I am not a fan of Durian, but R. had never had any before and was excited to try it. I don't like the smell (rotten) or the consistency (slimy) or the flavor (hard to tell once you get back the smell and consistency.) We also got a bunch of other fruit like Rambutan and Longan. We actually made a dinner of just fruit after a lunch of just vegetables, and I considered it a good food day! Amazing!
So after that we headed home and go some sleep.
Hey, what is that? A Merlion! Yep, we went to Sentosa, the ridiculously overprice Singaporean vacation play-land. It is like a place that wants to be both Disneyland and Coney Island. Sentosa Island costs some amount of money to get to, and is basically a beach with a lot of attractions. That are expensive. I bought us two tickets that let us try a few of the attractions, but I think we spent over $160 or so for the two of us. Just to get there and walk around and do a few things. Way to go Singapore! Still, we got to see the famous Merlion. We went up inside his head and got to see the surrounding island, and Singapore from that vantage point. Pretty good.
What else did we do at Sentosa island? We saw the Images of Singapore museum thing, and then tried to get in line to see a 4-d movie at the 4d Magix movie theatre but we didn't have the time. We did catch a cable lift type thing down to the beach, and then saw Songs of the Sea. Songs of the Sea was a show with water and lights and lasers and people singing and fire. When it started I thought "oh man, they suckered us." It was a bunch of people (6?) on the beach singing some really campy songs that sound like it should be a Disney thing, except you don't know the characters or songs. But then they started to get accompanied by lasers and water and fire. In the end it was pretty good, but still feels like really we should have gone to Disneyland.
After that we headed back to Singapore itself, and on the way back stopped by Clarke Quay. Apparently Clarke Quay is a place with lots of bars and nightlife. So we went there to check it out. Turns out they were running the Monaco F1 race live, and it was some sort of historic race where there was a wreck and the final few laps were started after a yellow flag. Exciting. If I knew more about fast cars. R. really loves F1 though, so we had a good time.
Then went home. There were lots of bars there, although the prices were ridiculous (possibly better than Sentosa, but running pretty close.)
On our final day in Singapore we did some shopping and then headed over to the Marina Bay Sands complex. We hung out in the shopping center (and did some shopping!) and eventually headed over to Sky 57, a nice restaurant up on top of the building. The dinner was great. I took pictures of the meal, but don't really feel like posting them here. You can check them out on Flikr if you are really interested though. Very nice dinner. Before dinner though, R. went to the Casino. It was her first time at a Casino. It was probably my third or so. I'm not big on betting, because I figure if you keep at it long enough you will lose money. The only exception might be poker, where you can win money off of the other players if you are good enough. I know that I am not good enough. I don't really know how to play poker really, so I stay away from it. When I do go to casinos I will play blackjack, because I can add up to 21. Pretty much.
Anyway, R. decided to play Roulette. I explained the game to her to the best of my ability. And she won 2x the money that she started with. She turned $50 into $100. Amazing. I told her we should never go to a casino again. I also had a run of luck and turned my $50 into $200 at blackjack. So I guess I shouldn't go back to a casino again either.
After the casino and dinner it was late, and we went back to the hotel. We had to get up at 4am to catch a cab to go to the airport to get there in time for a 7am flight back to Japan. And we both had work the next day.
My foot still hurt from being viciously attacked by a jellyfish, but we did make money playing at the casino (and then spent much more than we made at the mall and dinner) so I guess in the end it was ok. I didn't get sunburned, we relaxed, tried some strange fruit, and go to read a lot and swim in both a pool and an ocean. A very nice vacation!
March 20, 2011
Dinner and a Movie in Tokyo after the Earthquake
For the past week, R. and I have been at home. I have been working from home (it is great that I work at a company where this is possible) while R. has been off of work because Tokyo Disneyland is currently closed. I have not been getting out and about the city much, I really have only been visiting the local supermarket and a few stores around where we live. We have generally been eating stuff that we have on hand - I've made a bunch of omelets since we were able to find eggs. We cooked up a batch of Curry on Monday, and have had that for dinner and lunch quite a few days. Curry is great because you can make a lot of it at once, it keeps for a long time, and you just need rice to go with it.
On Saturday, I wanted to take R. out to do something, and coincidentally the movie Tangled just opened in Japan on Saturday. She wants to see Tangled, I'm interested in getting out, and so we had a plan. A normal sort of thing that people do everywhere: a movie and then dinner.
Note that actually this isn't something we do a lot here in Tokyo. I used to see two to four movies a month (hi Carl!) but since moving to Japan I have not seen many movies at all. Tickets here cost about $30 (given the current crazy exchange rate) and just are not as common of an activity as they are in the US. Still, it is still a pretty normal thing to do. So R. reserved us some tickets for a 3:30pm showing over in Roppongi Hills.
That got me to thinking about dinner. One thing I want to do is to support the Japanese economy and get things back to normal. Sitting around at home eating curry for a week (while it is economical on our end) is just not going to do that. I've been hearing good things about Union Square Tokyo for the past few years since it opened in 2007, so I wondered if they would have an opening for us. This place is a nice restaurant, not say Michelin three star or anything, but it is a nice place where a main dish will run from $40-$60 or so. Normally I would try to get a reservation a week or so in advance just to be sure, but I called them up Saturday afternoon and they took our reservation for that evening.
So, here are my main reasons for trying to get out and go do dinner:
- A week after the earthquake, I think it is time to get back to normal life (not that we are always going out to high class restaurants) and stop sitting around at home.
- I wanted to see how well mass transit could serve us. Roppongi Hills is usually about 30-45 minute trip from our place on a train and a bus.
- I thought after a week of sitting around, Risa and I deserved a bit of a treat after surviving the largest Earthquake in Japanese history. If anything deserves a bit of a celebration, that is it.
- I love curry. But I love me a good steak a bit more, if I can get an excuse to put out the money they cost in Tokyo.
Click the "read more" link to see how well we fared.
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