Halloween And Suchnot

We celebrated False Alarm G’s birthday. He turned 41. He said he wanted a Star Wars cake, and KrisDi delivered magnificently with the largest and most involved cake she’s ever made. In fact, three separate cakes stacked on top of each other. G was awed — literally speechless and drop-jawed. We lit candles, sang and blew them out, savored wonderful cakes, took a shot of Guamanian rum, and headed out for drinking and pool (G’s requested birthday activities). KrisDi and the kids stayed home with A and the kids.

G and I ate at a place that might have been named “Food and Liquor”, then pool and beer at Beveridge Place Pub, then pool and cocktails at Temple Billiards (we defaulted back to beer after G was nearly annihilated by a Dapper Dan), then pizza and beer at Holy Mountain, then we tried to go to Flatstick Pub for beer and mini golf, only to be shocked by a two hour wait. We had beer and went home.

While we were out, Chilkat and M drew a jail with a bunch of “HBs” to symbolize Chilkat spending her birthday in jail. I’m not sure why, but it was very cute.

The next morning, after G was finally coaxed into dragging his hungover corpus off the couch, we went to Bob’s Pumpkin Farm and Corn Maze with the False Alarms. My favorite part of the day was the kids’ corn “maze” — it was not a maze, just a path through a corn field. They had posted a page or so of a story about a square pumpkin (celebrating diversity) at every turn or so, and Chilkat breezed through reading all of them with almost no problems. She’s a good little reader.

That afternoon, we went to Popita’s birthday party at a local Y. Kids ran and played, we hung a pinata (in the process of doing so, I think I may have permanently hid a bottle of water in their ceiling). I also delivered the Pope’s presents — a bottle of whiskey from Guam, and a bottle of whiskey from Japan.

The next day, we had Daddy Son Day and Mommy Daughter Day. Chilkoot and I went to a park, then went swimming, then had a “trucknic” lunch for him at a QFC, then went to a brewery for my lunch, then we went to Chuck E Cheese, then we went home — Chilkoot fell asleep on the way, and then he slept on me while I napped on the couch. It was great.

We had a family night at Chilkat’s school. We picked and carved a pumpkin. Well, we picked, and I carved. Apparently Chilkat had a bottle of paint explode on her in an activity while I was busy carving a pumpkin.

KrisDi hired a photographer to do a quick 30 minute photo shoot. She decided to use it to get holiday pictures for holiday cards. So, we all dressed up and trooped out to a tree farm and preened in front of a camera. Our kids are cute.

We spent the afternoon and evening with T Dog brewing beer. Some other friends came along. It was the first time we’ve participated in a brewing activity for about four years…the last time T Dog brewed.

Halloween, of course. Chilkoot and I were gnomes (people guessed Santa, Elf, Wizard…). Chilkoot got to wear his costume with me at my work. Chilkat was Alex from Minecraft, and she asked KrisDi to be a Creeper. We trick or treated around the neighborhood. We hit maybe twelve houses before the kids got sick of it. Then KrisDi and I sat on couches while the kids answered the door for trick or treaters. Chilkat loved the opportunity to boss people around. “Only take TWO pieces! NOT a handful!”

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Japan and Guam

As all (both) of my readers know, I go to Japan twice a year for project meetings, once around April and once around October. You may or may not know I usually fly into and often out of Narita airport outside Tokyo.

My older brother recently moved his family to Guam for a three year assignment.

There are basically two ways to get to Guam from the USA: Through Honolulu, and through Narita. Since I was going to be in Narita anyway, I decided to casually drop in to visit my brother in Guam for the weekend after my fall Japan trip last week.

Japan was basically normal — not a lot to say. But, I took pictures of every dish put in front of me for two meals (9 dishes for one, 8 for the other) just to give people a better idea of what my business dinners in Japan typically look like. I also took a picture of the polite little note the hotel put up saying, “We’re sorry, but if it looks like North Korea is actually firing missiles at us, a bunch of alarms are going to go off, even if it wakes you up” (This is paraphrased). The one adventure I had was looking for fresh wasabi root for my brother and KrisDi (and also picking up a variety of other things and getting one of my Japanese friends to order a traditional sharkskin grater from Amazon Japan).

I left the US on Sunday, arrived Monday, had dinner with my boss Monday night (I asked him to take me to a delicious yakitori place we have often visited, but I didn’t take any pictures). Meetings Tuesday through Thursday. I went to the airport and flew to Guam on Friday. It’s a ~4.5 hour flight, and I got bumped up to business class, which is pretty sweet.

No real sight-seeing on Friday (unless you count a trip to Home Depot as sight-seeing). My brother’s neighbor (we’ll call him the Chamorro) has taken a real shine to Eldest, and apparently his whole extended family felt the need to put on a roughly 8 course buffet (including ghost-peppered beef feet). The locals appear to be totally, delightfully warm and welcoming (I’m sure this drops away when tourists are rude or stupid). The neighbors were super, super nice. The Chamorro himself might be a little crazy (he claims to have beaten a man to death with his bare hands), but he’s funny and outgoing and incredibly eager to please.

Guam is jungly. Everything is green and damp and teeming with life. ‘Seething’ might be a good alternate verb, as it implies a little more conflict. I saw geckos, monitor lizards (the one I saw was ~4′, Eldest claims a ~6′ lives near his house), multiple wild pigs, hundreds of wild chickens, tons of bugs, tons of fish, tons of birds, hundreds of ‘wild’ dogs (apparently called “boonies” or “boony dogs” — strays), cows, carabao (they look like oxen to me), goats, and probably more that I’m forgetting (not including the incredible quantity and variety of plant matter).

Saturday, we did drive-by tourism. Eldest and J literally drove me around the entire island. We even stopped at both of the island’s breweries (Lunch at Mermaid Tavern / Great Deep Brewing, just beer at Ishii). We stopped at a number of places that were right off the road — beaches mostly, viewpoints, etc. In terms of visiting things, it was kind of like reading the table of contents for Guam. We had dinner that night at a place called Papa’s, which is a fancy-ish restaurant at a location that has a great view of Tumon bay. The food was inconsistent (mine was fine, Eldest’s was bad), beer was tainted (we ordered Steinlager bottles, and both had garbage under the cap) service was good, and the view was obscured by the thick coating of condensation on the outside of the windows, since Papa’s air conditioning was cranked and Guam is a humid, warm, tropical island.

Sunday, we had a plan to visit three locations in greater detail.

(1) Tarague Beach from Andersen AFB. Basically, your classic beautiful tropical beach. When we visited, it was a beautiful sunny day, and there weren’t very many people there. There were lots of crabs and fish and hermit crabs and snails and sand and whatnot. This is where I learned that while Guam weather is fine for lounging in the shade, it takes me less than an hour hour to sunburn, and about one minute in direct sunlight with leisurely activity to start sweating like a cold beer in hell. On our way out, we scavenged four relatively fresh coconuts and saw a dead coconut crab.

Then we went to lunch at Jamaican Grill, which was very good, and an awful lot of food.

(2) A short hike to a cave + a scenic view of some rough, coral-y shoreline. The hike was very short. Apparently, it’s a fairly common practice to make sure you remove valuables from your car, leave it unlocked, and leave a note on the dash saying something like, “Unlocked — no cash” — so thieves will only rifle through your car, instead of break your window and rifle through your car.

The hike was easy and short, the cave was really cool (the water actually might be a more beautiful shade of blue than shown in the pictures); there was a local family having a party outside the cave. They offered us food and drinks. We accepted some iced tea and went on to the cliffs overlooking the water and stared down at awesome tidal / surfy effects and big bright blue parrotfish.

(3) Ritidian point, on the north end of the island, is supposedly a beautiful beach area. To get there, you drive past Andersen AFB‘s front gate. As soon as you pass the gate, the roads become unkempt. I think it was only a two mile drive or so, but it took like 20 minutes with all the dodging and weaving and planning around potholes. At a certain point, I was laughing out loud while we were jostled violently and cars coming the other way were weaving crazily to try to avoid the unavoidable. When we got to the gate, it was closed. We went to a scenic overlook on the way out, and then braved the shitty road again.

(4) Failing Ritidian, we went to Two Lovers Point. This is, I believe, the highest point on the island (368 feet), and it’s directly on top of an amazing, sheer, vertical cliff overlooking the ocean. It’s a terrific view. There’s also an impressive “bottomless pit”. We wandered around, took pictures, paid to get up on the platform and take more pictures from a little bit higher, and then started throwing things off into the water to see if we could see a splash, but we couldn’t find anything big enough we could actually track it all the way to the water or see a splash.

Afterward, Eldest grilled steaks at his house for dinner, and we drank beer and sake and sarsaparilla whiskey; the Chamorro demonstrated the removal of a coconut husk; Eldest torched the removed husk and used it to smoke the steaks a little; we released and tormented Mr. Coco.

The flight home was pretty grueling. For whatever reason, I couldn’t sleep well that night, and I ended up getting up at 2:30AM after ~3 hours of crappy, broken sleep. Eldest took me to the airport sometime before four (only a little earlier than I planned anyway), and I paid $10 for a half-assed americano (I think it was literally watered down drip coffee — it even had a ton of grounds in the bottom) and a ham and cheese croissant with brown lettuce for breakfast (have I mentioned I hate airports?). Six hour flight with no food to Honolulu; three hour layover where I tried making a meal of snacks at the United club; maybe another 5.5 hour flight from Honolulu to San Francisco where I had a very rushed breakfast at the United club, then about 2.5 hours to Seattle, where Les and Chilkoot picked me up.

Souvenirs from this trip:

  • Trainer chopsticks from Japan for little J (she loved them, disassembled them, and then lost the primary part while I was there)
  • Weird Japanese candies / cookies / treats for lots of people
  • Stuffed Anpanman for Chilkat
  • Stuffed Shokupanman AKA “Super Breadhead” for Chilkoot
  • Combo-color ballpoint pens for Chilkat and Chilkoot
  • Japanese whiskey (I can’t read the brand, it’s in Japanese)
  • Green Tea Match Kahlua from Japan (I’m going to make the weirdest White Russians ever
  • Wasabi roots (one for Eldest, one for KrisDi)
  • Wasabi paste from real wasabi (one for Eldest, one for KrisDi)
  • Wasabi powder (fake)
  • Pickled wasabi stems and leaves
  • Traditional sharkskin wasabi grater for Eldest to go with his wasabi root
  • Chamorro treats for my work (cookies and whatnot)
  • Guam’s Own (only distillery) Whiskey, Rum, and Mango Vodka (all gifts — the mango is terrible, the rum is reputed to be good, and the whiskey is reputed to be terrible)
  • Guamanian shochu (for me)
  • A number of Modern Times beers I can’t get in Washington

WAY more than I usually take.

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September Part II

Zwanze day has come and gone. This year, the Slow Boat hosted again. They only sold 80 tickets instead of 100 this year, though, and they sold them all in one day. Last year, they sold 50 on one Saturday and the other 50 on the next Saturday. Last year, on both days, they lines were full to selling capacity by about 7:30 in the morning. So, to get tickets for KrisDi’s one must-have beer event of the year, I arrived at the line roughly 7 hours before ticket sales started. I had learned at this point that “waiting in line for some beer thing” is also a social event amongst those beer-nerdy enough to participate — people bring beer to share with each other, and spend the day BSing, mostly about beer. So, I remembered to bring beer, and anticipated sharing with others.

So, in essence, KrisDi selfishly took the kids out and ran errands while I selflessly read books, drank beer, and socialized with beer freaks — in the name of getting both of us tickets to a beer event both of us were excited about.

The event itself was also nice. We sat next to some people who were familiar from my line-sitting. There were only 80 people there, so lines were short. Mom watched the kids for us, so it was a quiet mom-and-dad event. And, we actually got to talking with the people next to us — a young, recently married couple that recently moved to Seattle area. About a week later, they invited us to their house for a “bottle share” (beer nerds get together and bring bottles of beer to share). There were several other people — and I was one of the less rabid beer people there. This is a little surreal for me.

I did think it was funny…this couple has lived in Seattle for a couple months, and I think they’ve made more friends than we have in ten years.

Some time ago, Chilkoot’s vacuum died. I diagnosed it as a battery pack failure, and was unable to obtain a replacement. So, I disemboweled the vacuum to salvage its motor, in the hopes of using it to make something move. I wanted to turn it into a number of lessons for the kids: Building things is fun; things don’t always work right the first time you try, but you can learn from them and improve based on what you learn; don’t get frustrated, think about what happened and what to do about it.

Anyway, the project was shelved for a while after the initial interest. The previous set of iterations had resulted in a car that could move, but not while carrying its own battery.

Recently, Chilkat saw it on the shelf and decided she was interested in resuming work on it, so we did. This time, I improved the “bearings” by using little eye-screws to hold the axles, which also gave the car a higher clearance and required relocating the motor (from the inside to the outside).

First test run had the belt slide quickly off the driveshaft, which is unsurprising. I coached Chilkat into the idea that we could put something on the end of the driveshaft to make sure the belt couldn’t come off.

So, as the video attests, we got the car moving under its own power, but the wheels come flying off after a little while. Then we had to go somewhere else.

Chilkat also learned what happens when you short a powerful battery with flimsy wires: The insulation melts and/or burns, things smell bad and get hot, and in this case, you leave permanent damage on the table top. This was my own fault for not warning her and for not disconnecting the wires from the battery while working on the car – but it was exciting. She felt really bad about it, and I had to work very hard to keep her focus on what she learned from the ordeal, instead of on the feeling that she ruined something.

KrisDi and I went to see Modest Mouse. Mom came down to watch the kids while we adulted. It was fun. For some reason, this show smelled like Amsterdam.

KrisDi let me go to the Fresh Hop Festival in Yakima with my friend and former co-worker, Mr. JJ. It was pretty fantastic, but also pretty dangerous. Most beer festival “samples” are 5 ounces on the top end — this was 8 ounces on the bottom end, with many places giving them away for “free”. It’s a long drive out there, and I didn’t feel particularly well the next morning, but it was fun. Mr. JJ and I have been out there the preceding two years, but not for the festival itself — just for the pre-festival proliferation of fresh hop beers about town. We also dragged his neighbor along with us for his first visit out there, and hit a couple breweries on the way out there and back.

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It was the most touristy trip I’ve taken to Japan in many years. Warning: Lots of words.

Japan, Spring 2017

Our original itinerary: Fly Sunday, arrive Monday, meetings Tuesday and Wednesday, factory tour Thursday, meetings Friday, nothing Saturday or Sunday, meetings Monday and Tuesday, fly home late Wednesday afternoon (because there’s not an earlier flight). But, the group we needed to meet with for Tuesday bailed, and it was cheaper to stay in Japan for the day than to change our travel arrangements. Consequently, we had all day Saturday, Sunday, and Tuesday with no plans, and half of Wednesday before we needed to get to the airport.

My colleague was Mr. I. He’s young, from a small town, and this was the first time he’s left the country (not counting Canada). He seemed to really enjoy the trip.

The meeting days were pretty much routine (aside from the excitement generated by massive upper management changes). Food and hosts were excellent, meetings were generally good, although occasionally baffling. We did have one unexpected interesting experience: After dinner on Friday night, we got to meet several of our colleagues at a bar for I-san’s “welcome home party” (he recently got back from a six-month trip to the cubical next to mine). It was… *ahem* …very evident that we were at a post-party gathering.

The factory tour was a little more interesting. We got to take the Shinkansen out to Utsunomiya. It’s surprising how smooth 240kph felt. Also, I was surprised that at 9:30 in the morning, the Shinkansen is apparently the place for retirees to hang out, chat, eat snacks, and drink beer and sake.

The factories themselves were very cool. We saw where a most of the calipers are made, starting from cutting the pieces out raw sheets of steel with laser cutting machines. They use my Vision measurement machines in some of the QA/QC steps. We saw where all the CMMs and any large Vision measurement machine [i.e. more than 600x600mm stage] is built. They were in the process of assembling a CMM with a measurement volume of 6m x 3m x 1.5m. I wish I knew what customer or type of parts that was for. That’s gigantic for a measurement machine. We also saw where all the scales are produced and most of the small tools’ electronic modules are assembled — the primary line is completely automated. Super cool to watch.

Saturday, I actually got to meet up with P-Dubs. He’s in Japan for three months or something near that duration, staying in Yokosuka. We had a busy itinerary of beer locations to visit. As always, I struggled to find things to do in between or before beer places I wanted to visit. So, we struggled through the train system to get to Yamashita Park in the morning, followed by Yokohama’s Chinatown, then found lunch at a food truck (doner kebab) near Yokohama Station before going to Thrash Zone.

Thrash Zone is a little local Yokohama craft beer brewery/bar. Their motto is “Extreme Beer Only”, and they’re reputed to cater primarily to locals and be somewhat cold (or flat out rude) to foreigners like us. They’re also (I think) thrash metal themed (at the very least, they’re metal). We got there only a bit after noon, so they weren’t very busy, and a live video of Bad Brains was playing at a surprisingly subdued volume. They were out of the two beers I was most interested in, but everything else I tried was either good or interesting. One IPA I would say was very good. Primarily, they serve their own beer, but they also had I think four American craft beers on tap. I was used as a prop in a selfie taken by what appeared to be a local metal band.

Then we went to the Baird Bashamichi Taproom, where we met with a friend of P-Dubs’ who has been living in the area for about a year and a half. We moved on to Charcoal Green for dinner, where my memory starts getting a little fuzzy. I do remember that dinner was very tasty and that the apple pie dessert was excellent. Then we went to Yokohama Bay Brewery, where I remember having an exceedingly bitter IPA — and if my palate, at that fatigue level, thought it was exceedingly bitter, it was super fucking bitter.

The next day, Mr. I and I got up early to go to Shibuya and visit Ichiran for a ramen breakfast. This is an excellent breakfast. I think Mr. I fell in love with it. The we met up with our Japanese friends, S-san and I-san, who took us out for exposure to “deep Japanese culture.” It was very generous of them to spend their Sunday with us, and pay for a lot of our food and drinks.

  • First, I-san and S-san guided me through the steps to get a Suica pass. It’s awesome — no more staring blankly at walls of Japanese text trying to figure out how much the fare is to my destination!
  • Train to Omote-Sando (one stop past Shibuya from the hotel), and walked through trendy downtown area and saw weird shops and weird stuff at normal shops.
  • Yoyogi Park, a huge beautiful semi-wilderness area in the heart of Tokyo that also contains the Meiji-Jingu shrine. Monks there were soliciting donations to re-roof the shrine. S-san paid ~¥3000 (~$30) for a copper shingle, onto which the four of us wrote our names.
  • Ueno Park (which I’ve visited before). It’s a large, beautiful park — but it was pouring. Mr. I and I looked crazy for not having or caring about umbrellas. I was impressed — people still were having picnics in the downpour, with varying degrees of success (one group put a tarp on the ground, and then stood in the puddles that formed on the tarp; another group hung their umbrellas upside down in trees and sat under them, which is temporary at best; others successfully contrived tent-like structures). We also ate street food (okonomiyaki, which I would describe as “pancake sandwich salad”) in a really ghetto tent area.
  • Ikebukuro to see cosplay people. This was mostly a parenting move on S-san’s part — his daughter was there as a participant, and he delivered money and a spare battery for her phone. Walking back to the train, we ran across this restaurant, and it was a little awkward trying to explain why Mr. I and I thought it was so funny.
  • Noborito, where we went to Craft Beer Moonlight. This was a tiny local brewery, with few or no concessions made for foreigners. Everything was in Japanese. They had a large selection of beers in the menu, but most of them were not currently available. They had a nice chart-menu on the wall, plotting the available beers on a darkness axis and a strength axis. After a couple beers there, we had to leave to make room for a group with a reservation.
  • So, we went for dinner at Kirin City in Noborito (it’s a Kirin-owned franchise, I think, but I can’t find it). Beer was bland to mediocre, but food was good and we had a good time. The “mega” sized beer seems ridiculous when in front of S-san.
  • The ride back to our stop was notable. Mr. I is a rock climber, and a random dude on the train was wearing a chalk bag on his pants. Mr. I and I were talking about it, and I-san decided to ask the random dude about it. No, he’s not a climber. He’s a sushi chef. I joked about him having sushi in his chalk bag, at which he acted surprised and pulled out a couple packages of sushi and gave them to us. Mr. I and I went to a convenience store to pick up chu-hi, and then went back to his hotel room to drink and eat the stranger-on-a-train sushi.

Monday was another day of meetings. Tuesday, we mostly chilled out. We had waffles for breakfast. Mr. I did some souvenir shopping. I got junk for the kids, and went to CoCo Curry for lunch. Later in the day, we headed out for what I really wanted to do. We went out to Ryogokyu station, wandered around and found some random Soba shop and had a cheap, delicious early dinner, and then went to Popeye.

I visited Popeye two years ago. It’s a world famous beer stop, which I visited two years ago (see previous post, which includes some pictures). I had a really good time then, and I had a really good time again. In fact, I met one of the same people this time that I met last time:

Popeye 2015

Popeye 2017

We also ran into a person we’d met previously at Thrash Zone. Apparently, this is the place for me to go to run into random Japan beer acquaintances. I’ll be back if I get a chance. Mr. I got to try Cantillon (I’m very impressed it was available), we had “Japanese soba-style spaghetti” (almost no resemblance to spaghetti). We made it home.

The next day, we went back to Ichiran for breakfast again (I told you Mr. I fell in love with it) and shopped a little at Shibuya before heading to the airport, where we shopped some more, had a simple lunch, and got on a plane to go home.

The end. Remember kids, it’s kind of cool to get free sushi from a stranger on a train in a foreign country!

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January Part II

January Part II

M False Alarm birthday party at Pump It Up. We went down to Tacoma. Generally, nothing too unexpected. Kids jumped and ran, lots of noise was made. You’ll see some pictures of the agility course. All the kids got better at it than they were last year. M had a first loose tooth, which was super loose, but which apparently she wouldn’t pull out and she wouldn’t let her parents pull out (or they weren’t willing to pull out). So, KrisDi offered, and M was all like, “Yeah, sure, whatevs.” Plunk! Gone. I think the parents were more shocked than she was.

Chilkat was signed up for a Computer Science class. I don’t know much about what hse did or did not learn in it, but it was one hour before school for three Tuesdays in a row. She told me one day that it was “The best day ever” because she got to wear her astronaut clothes (not costume, just astronomy themed stuff), because she got to eat ham and cheese for lunch (or something equally banal), and because she got to go to her CS class. She said she likes using computers when it’s easy.

Disney started a new show called the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Road Racers or something like that. We took the kids to the premier at the theater. They loved it. I endured it.

Lots of random stuff:

  • We had pizza with Popes. We drank a little of my interesting new whiskey. The Pope brought some Polish beer from Poland. Some of it was OK.
  • Chilkat taught Chilkoot how to write a letter D with chalk on the driveway, and then he wrote D after D after D.
  • Chilkoot dressed up as Chilkat. I don’t really know why. I just showed up when Chilkoot was strutting around with her coat and hat and backpack.
  • I took the kids for donut breakfasts — once together, once just Chilkoot.
  • Chilkoot got a sliver in his hand, and only let one of the Day Care teachers take it out (the lunch lady). He said she’s the only one who is ever allowed to take out slivers for him. So, she better stay in our life.
  • We took a day and visited a brewery, and a Cuban restaurant. Both were good.

Chilkoot is reckless and doesn’t listen. He’s such a smart kid, but he just doesn’t pay attention we tell him to do something or not to do something. I have to yell and scream at him for him to get anything out of it, which results in crying on his part and anger on mine. Not great. He’s also starting to get angry without knowing how to deal with it, so we’re trying to teach him to breathe and think when he gets upset.

Chilkat, in comparison, is cautious, usually listens well, but she is so fucking bossy and dramatic. Plus, she gives up easily when she doesn’t get her way.

So, they’re both interesting and cool, and frustrating in their own ways. Fifteen years…

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