Sep 302006
 

Nothing new to say since yesterday, just more pictures put up (including Japan):

White Sox at Angels, first game I saw the White Sox win in a regular season. Pictures in and around Yokosuka, where I was staying in Japan. My visit to the Yasakuni Shrine and a few other pictures. Playing with bugs in Japan, and some neat sushi.

Just so you know, sea snail tastes horrible. I’m serious. It’s horrible. I’ve been told that I ate the wrong part of it, and I’ll only be willing to try it again if I have a guide present. The part I ate tasted like sea bed.
Also, I forgot to mention that I read Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl (sequel to Chocolate Factory) as well as the first two Harry Potters (Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets) by Rowling before I left for Japan. None of them are heavy investments in time or thought, but they were all enjoyable.

Sep 292006
 

Well, as most of you know, I’m back. Trip was extended a bit, but not horribly long compared to some trips I’ve been on. I didn’t take as many pictures there as I have before, but it’s kind of a ‘been there, done that’ attitude. That was my fourth trip to Japan, and I’ve spent almost two months there altogether. I’ll put the pictures up eventually (hopefully near future, but we’ll see about that).

I got Mei a Catbus thing, and KrisDi got a table curling set (which I’m making her share — so far I’ve used it a lot more than she has, but she’s still better than me — it’s awesome), I got Mom a “Night Ocarina” or something like that. I couldn’t find a Hello Kitty laptop bag for Dakashy, unfortunately, although I did get to drag my co-worker through some Hello Kitty sections against his will. I got Jon a traditional music CD (I finally got the explanation for that — he decided he wants to get a CD at every country he visits, and since he hadn’t gotten one when he went to Japan last year, I got to play catch-up for him), and he spent the morning listening to it at work. I have change for GirlAndi, which I’ll send with my Tesla book soon. I got myself, SkaYoYo, and Oleo little wooden mind-bender puzzle things.

SkaYoYo came to visit. Well, he actually came into town for work, and caught up with me when I got back from Japan. I’m sure I bored him terribly (we didn’t really do anything but drink, talk, and table curl). I had a great time, though.

I read a lot, unsurprisingly. I finished Tesla: Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney before I even landed in Narita. It wasn’t as technical as I had hoped, but it was interesting. Tesla was a big proponent of alternating current (AC), and was the first person to design and build an AC motor, which is superior to DC motors for a number of reasons. Edison, at the time, was the leading edge in electricity, and he was a dogged direct current (DC) supporter, since that’s what his entire business was based on. Eventually, it turned into a war between AC and DC to see what the US’s power grids would be. Edison and company went so far as to capture and publicly electrocute cats and dogs with AC as proof that it was dangerous (although it’s actually less dangerous than DC), and the first “electric chair” execution failed because all of these experiments had been performed on creatures smaller than humans! All in all, very interesting. Some of the stuff was unbelievable, some of the stuff seemed like supposition, and the writer was obviously very pro-Tesla.

I was about halfway through Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick by the time we got to the hotel. Of course, I finished that before I came home. I enjoyed it, but I’m not exactly sure what he was trying to say with it. It’s an ‘alternate history’ type of book based on Germany and Japan winning World War II. The Grasshopper Lies Heavy (book within a book, based on the ‘alternate history’ of America winning World War II) was a major theme. Not my favorite book, but pretty good. It would probably be more meaningful if I knew more about Japanese, German, and WWII history.

The next book was The Gods Themselves by Isaac Asimov. The title comes from a Friedrich Schiller quote, “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain,” which is unsurprisingly the major theme of the book. It’s based on infinite alternate universes which can be taken advantage of with some interesting effects, and has a sizeable section written from the point of view of Asimov’s ‘para-men’, beings from one of the alternate universes. I really liked this book, and was surprised at how well he handled the foreign culture and physiology of the ‘para-men,’ (not having read much Asimov, I’m not completely aware of how good a writer he might or might not have been).

Last night we watched Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. It’s a horrible movie, it’s the same movie as everything else Will Ferrell has starred in, but it was hilarious. A lot of fun. Pokes wonderful fun at the world of white trash. If you want to turn your brain off for a little while, go for it.

Now, for completely unrelated pictures. We went to the Shedd Aquarium and to Hopleaf when we were in Chicago for vacation in August, and took these pictures. The night after, we went out to some other bars with KrisDi’s friends, and these two pictures were taken. KrisDi got me a new camera, which I took to work on softball day. I took some pictures of mine and KrisDi’s cubes, and some pictures at softball. Here they are.

Sep 142006
 

There’s this guy at work, Jim, who I work with every couple weeks or so. He’s a really nice guy, and I enjoy working with him. He’s married with eight-year-old twin girls. He was in a pretty serious car wreck the other day (someone clipped him as he went through an intersection and he went spinning into a post). He was hospitalized in critical condition with head injuries or some such. He’s still in critical condition, but stable now. His wife keeps us updated via email.

Anyway, I dreamed about him last night. It was a short dream, with none of my accustomed plottiness or cohesiveness. I was just sitting in my cube at work talking to my other coworker Jon (of magic bean fame) was sitting in a regular old wheelchair, coming round the corner toward our cubes. I got the feeling he was joking around, or just playing with a wheelchair that wasn’t his. Then Jim came up behind him in one of those huge Stephen Hawking style powered wheelchairs, IVs on poles sticking off it. Jim’s head was twisted off to the side and his neck was hugely swollen with a massive bruise on the face and neck. He had a sickeningly blank look on his face.

That was that. Off to Japan tomorrow. So far my to-get list is:

– A “Hello Kitty” laptop bag for Dakashy
– Coins for Andi
– Cheap fountain pens and a small Japanese musical instrument for Ma
– CD of “Traditional” Japanese music for Jon

Keep track of this exciting typhoon and see if it hits me!

Sep 052006
 

I’ve been reading a lot lately. I read The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. It was basically the written equivalent of an action movie. I enjoyed it, in part because the Church was cast as a villain through most of it. It was a pretty fast and easy read, and since I enjoyed it, I’d recommend it to people (but not strongly).

I also read The Other Wind by Ursula K. Le Guin, the last book in the Earthsea series. The first three books in the series were better, but I still like reading her.

Then I finally finished Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman. This is a collection of short stories and poems and whatnot that he’s written. I really liked it. That goes for everything he’s written that I’ve read. I loved his Snow White story (Snow, Glass, Apples), which cast Snow White as the villain and the evil stepmother as the martyred heroine. I also liked Murder Mysteries, which is set in Los Angeles and Heaven. These are the last two stories in the book. They most likely come to mind since I just read them today, and I read most of the rest of it months ago. I would highly recommend it, with the caveat that it’s not entirely cheerful and reassuring. In fact, it’s mostly pretty dark, and some of it’s downright disturbing.

Then today I finally read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, in part to settle a dispute over whether or not Charlie’s father was alive in the story (he was — he was employed screwing the caps on toothpaste tubes). I think the newer version of the movie (as opposed to the old version) was probably closer to the book, but I think I’ll always be more fond of the old version because that’s the one I grew up with. And I never read the book until today. It’s a fun kids’ book.

Most recently, I watched Pirates of the Carribean 2: Dead Man’s Chest. I liked three things about it: Silly irreverance, the Rosencrantz and Guildenstern characters (Pintel and Ragetti), and the CGI Davy Jones. It’s fun.

I also watched Walk the Line recently. Joaquin Phoenix definitely did a good job, but read the book (Cash) instead. The movie leaves out a lot of stuff.

So to what have I been up lately? I think I broke my toe playing softball last week, but we won. We’re in third place and there’s no way we can finish the regular season with less than a .500 record. We’ve won six games! I’m going to Japan in about two weeks. Let me know if you need something from there. I’m already going to get Andi some yen and look for a Hello Kitty laptop bag for Dakashy. I just can’t wait to walk around Japan with a Hello Kitty laptop bag. I spent hoards of money on books this weekend (Borders had a printable $10 off $20 coupon that KrisDi and I used seven times). I got sci-fi, KrisDi got some Salinger, Dostoevsky, Plath, and Moore. Oh, and A Confederacy of Dunces. So my “Haven’t Read” bookshelf is getting pretty heavy.

We also went to see the Foo Fighters acoustic show at the Santa Barbara Bowl. That was fun. They played acoustic versions of some of their famous songs, and the acoustic half of their In Your Honor album. Plus they joked around a lot. Dave Grohl claimed to be quite drunk.

Well, I suppose I’ll quit writing, otherwise it’ll probably turn into an especially bulky post. Plus, I can’t remember anything else.