Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Finally, a Life in Japan update: Work visa, process and success!

Yes indeed, it turns out the Japanese government doesn't mind having me around that much, because I spent a fair chunk of last Tuesday at the immigration bureau (a pain in the ass to get to, though once you're there, it's not that bad... usually) picking up my brand spanking new resident card.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tech stuff: Docker, why it's a questionable choice, and more points against node.js

Docker seems pretty cool. Until you realize that the whole "super fast to start and scale" is only technically true because the platform is so neutered you're expected to run just a single process per container.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

This is why programmers can't stand (most) recruiters.

I get a lot of recruiter email, because my resume is all over the place. Most of the time they're at least coherent, even though they're very rarely any kind of match, since most of these people just shotgun their crap to anyone they have an email address for, but once in a while I get a real gem. Emphasis added.

Medium: 6+ year of work experience

Primary Skill Requirement
Software Languages , Perl, HTML, JSP, JavaScript, PHP
Framework/Platform Sencha 5, jQuery or Yii
Data Formats: JSON and XML
Technologies Web services(SOAP and REST)
Platform BEA WebLogic, Apache, J2EE, JBoss, Tomcat
IDE (s) Eclipse, Visual Studio
Database MySQL, Oracle, SqlServer
Operating Systems Knowledge UNIX (Solaris, HPUX), Linux ( RedHat, Ubuntu and Suse), Windows Server(2k3, and2k8), Windows (7 and 8)

Primary: Develop end to end web applications using Javascript (jQuery and/or Sencha 5 Extjs), Perl/Php and possibly Java 7 web services. This will include but not limited to the following activities database table development, front-end development, data integration and support hand-off documentation

  1. Perl, HTML, JSP, JavaScript, and PHP. All rolled into one! This is already a place I'm not sure I want to work at.
  2. Sencha does pretty much everything, jQuery runs in the browser, and Yii is a PHP (server-side) framework. "Or" makes exactly no sense here.
  3. UNIX, Linux, Windows Server and desktop Windows? So this is, what, a legacy sysadmin, new development sysadmin, Windows development sysadmin, and desktop Windows support job?

Job descriptions are often written by HR knobs who have no idea what's actually being hired for, but this is one of the most worthless I've ever been sent.

In case you'd like to know who doesn't have a clue or a care about their reqs, this tempting career opportunity came from the folks at Kaztronix.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Something different: Clojure!

Rather than Japan or food (I'll get to those next time, promise!), this is about learning a new programming language: Clojure, a functional programming language and dialect of Lisp.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Shakshuka: A cheap, easy, filling Middle Eastern specialty

This stuff is pretty good, mostly for the reasons listed in the title. Granted, the recipe I used (the site is annoying, and I'm only linking it because I wouldn't have learned about this dish if not for it) is underseasoned, but with a heavy extra dose of spices, it should be pretty good.

Homemade walnut butter: Easy and freaking wonderful

So here we have it... walnut butter! The first of my not-peanut-butter experiments in nutty condiment creation. Thus far: Excellent. I have a nice big batch of pecans on the way; this promises to be a long term shindig.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Healthy eating, good intentions, etc. feat. Lara Bars and Marinated Eggs

I've been starting to eat much better lately. I think I mentioned before that the grocery stores have pretty OK premade salad mixes; you have to opt for the ones with shredded cabbage instead of lettuce if you want to get anything like a reasonable price, but hey, for greens, carrots, and some corn with dressing and a bit of whatever meat I have lying around, I'm just glad to get salad again. They sell similar mixes for stirfry, which is pretty great. Plus, bean sprouts are unbelievably cheap here, so they're ideal filler.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Notes from the Pickling Trenches vol. 1 (and also some more healthy eating)

Words to the wise: Japanese pickles are often made with vinegar, sugar or some other sweetener, and soy sauce. My advice, if sugar is part of your brine, is to stick with a raw sweetener.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A new job, an apology, and a condolence prize (and a WHOLE LOT of random pictures!)

It's been almost a freaking month since I posted here. Ugh! Sorry.

Anyway, interesting news first: I've secured a senior developer position (bit of a step down from CEO, but hey, being the CEO of two people including yourself just isn't that impressive anyway) at a social media analytics company called HubNami. My work visa is in process; once that goes through, hopefully in about a month, things can really pick up.

Now on to the well-mannered frivolity!

Friday, September 18, 2015

One final "thanks for visiting, have a nice flight" from Kai

Well, after looking into it at a friend's request, I might be eligible for a "designated activities" visa, which is often used for job hunting after leaving school... except Kai won't provide a letter that's required for doing so.

Their reasoning for this is because I'm "no longer a student." So apparently you have to get this from them when you're still a student, even though it's supposed to include your full transcript... so I'm guessing this is an excuse for not doing it rather than a valid reason. But the documentation is so sparse on this subject that all I really know is I need a letter from them, and they refuse to write it.

Thanks for the tuition! Don't let the aircraft door hit you on the way out. Anyway, not a great conclusion to my time at Kai.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

All-out Yakuza gang war, coming soon to a tabloid near you! Also, CNN...

Let the Yakuza gang war fearmongering commence!

I'm occasionally mildly surprised by the people and sources major news outlets will grant real estate in their publications, but this one is a little worse than usual. CNN decided it'd be a good idea to let well-known sensationalist 'journalist' Jake Adelstein to spout off about Japanese organized crime, despite his often-juvenilenotable history of complete fabrications.

The links above came mostly from a nice collection. One overriding thing to note is the lack of sources, and the lack of credibility when they're present.

In actual Japanese media? A warning that kabukicho, an area that's always sketchy, might get more sketchy. It could indeed be bad -- there is currently a big schism forming in the Japanese mafia's largest family -- but a full-on gang war spilling onto the streets of Tokyo seems just a bit farfetched when the worst we've seen so far is one quiet night with extra police and no incidents.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Definitive answers on what happens when you leave school/work/whatever your Japanese visa is for!

This should be simple, and it should be something everyone knows, but it obviously isn't either one of those things. Fortunately, it's something that's straightforward once you know where to look, and I confirmed it directly with the school (yep, I officially quit). This is good news for people who want to understand how your visa status is effected.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

I'm likely on the way out of school; now seeking employment!

For those of you paying attention to me not saying anything, my apologies. It's been kind of a long few weeks, partially because school is just getting to the part that's really, really hard, and partially because the last week has been vacation, something I really don't know how to deal with.

Friday, July 24, 2015

I got a PS2! Also, new 'Chairs'

No, not a PS4. Not even a PS3. Yes, a glorious, original model PS2.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Photo Dump, Random Food edition (probably number 2 or 3)

In which I exhibit just a couple Japanese (and one American!) food products I've found and ravenously either ogled or consumed in recent memory.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

...but the most successful fish broiler subject yet? Skin-on chicken thigh.

  • Chicken thigh. Skin on. Obviously.
  • Salt.
  • Pepper.
  • Heat.
Cook on high, skin-up, until skin starts to brown. Drop to medium for a while. Flip and keep going on medium until the thing is almost certainly cooked through, then back to high to brown the meat; flip it again and brown the skin as far as you like.

Tender meat, crispy skin. Fish of the land! Slice it up and enjoy it with quinoa and pesto.

Fish broiler shenanigans

Well... I guess broiling fish in a fish broiler (i.e. using it as intended) doesn't really count as shenanigans, but hey, it's new for me.

I think about three days out of the last week my breakfast has been broiled fish. Yep, just broiled fish, either salmon or amberjack, usually with some salt and either a little bit of chili powder or an impromptu Creole seasoning for blackening (which is getting better as I collect the ingredients it's actually supposed to have).

Broiled salmon with just a bit of chili powder

Fresh fish, salted, broiled. Nice and tender, tasty crispy skin (seriously, fish skin is good!), and cheap: Almost always under $3 for two reasonably-sized fillets, and sometimes under $2.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tokyo is officially one hot city. Way too hot.

Yes, I was warned. Yes, I believed the warnings. No, that did not make it any better.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Django-CMS: Another package I don't intend to ever use again.

Add Django-CMS to the ranks of Satchmo, a similarly impressive work in Python that's just way too complex for its own good.

I'm not denigrating the effort or professionalism that went into these things; I've met the guy that started and wrote much if not most of Satchmo; he's a decent person, and very talented. But these packages have both hit the critical mass of complexity where even seemingly benign minor version changes have a very nasty and consistent tendency to break sites that depend on them.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

I'm a cowboy, baby!

OK, not really. But I play one on TV.

OK... not really.

But sometimes I walk around Tokyo dressed like one, and THAT is fun. A friend and I dressed up a bit in different very-American styles for school to commemorate the US' Independence Day (July 4), despite it being July 3 at the time.

Faces have been changed to protect the innocent.

After school I hit a party that a couple other good American friends threw in honor of the holiday; we had, as usual, a ridiculous amount of fun. Hot dogs, homemade pizza, Rice Krispies bars, Chee-tos, and various other quite western snacks... and, of course, the hat got passed around, as it does in that sort of situation. A great time!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Looking forward at long-term options to stay in Japan

After realizing I've been here for nine months (seriously, nine freaking months?!), it occurred to me that my language program is only two years long... hopefully extended by three months for the level I'm currently retaking, but still, I'm closing on half way through the stay my school realistically allows. Finally taking a look at my options for staying in this country, which I'd really like to do, has been... less than encouraging.

New Japanese Bicycle safety law!

This is quoted from the US Embassy's July 2015 ACS (American Citizen Services) newsletter. I'm not trying to poke fun at them; this is a valuable service and I definitely suggest Americans outside of the company sign up for it. But the contained information is a bit funny.

Under the new law, any cyclist who is caught riding through a red light or violating other traffic regulations more than twice in a period of three years, will be required to take a safety course before being allowed back on the streets. The course lasts for three hours, and costs the participants 5,700 yen. Anyone who does not attend the course after receiving the order will be fined up to 50,000 yen. There are 13 traffic violations covered by the new law.

  • Riding through/ignoring traffic signals
  • Passing under a railway crossing gate
  • Not stopping at stop signs
  • Violating traffic regulations while riding on sidewalks
  • Riding with malfunctioning/non-working brakes
  • Riding a bicycle while intoxicated
  • Entering off-limit areas
  • Riding too slowly on sidewalks and obstructing pedestrian flow
  • Not following traffic lines
  • Riding onto pedestrian-only areas of sidewalks
  • Entering crosswalk without green-light to do so
  • Not paying attention to other pedestrians and or cyclists due to using mobile devices
  • Violating regulations when at circular cross-walks

I say this is funny not because it's a stupid law -- I don't think that at all -- but because of two things:

  1. Japan already has plenty of laws and plenty of penalties for breaking them. Enforcing laws is where things tend to fall apart.
  2. This list is actually a great primer on what to expect from bicyclists in Tokyo. Read up and watch out, because cyclists here usually don't!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cheonggukjang: Korean fermented bean and vegetable soup (from a Japanese recipe)

This is an interesting dish I stumbled across while looking for interesting things to do with natto (fermented soybeans; a very traditional Japanese things that is almost always an acquired taste). The recipe I (mostly) followed is on Cookpad here: Korean Style Natto Stew (Cheonggukjang).

Friday, June 19, 2015

Debunking a CNN Japan travel article

Sorry for the radio silence! Got some updates to post, but this is an easy target, so I'm going to hit it first.

CNN (one of those big sensationalist American news outlets, but one I do read pretty regularly, though I keep a shaker of salt nearby) has an article claiming to inform regarding Japanese cultural norms. While I'm all for understanding where you're going, as someone who previously accidentally espoused uneducated advice in this area, I'd like to clear up a few things for anyone who happens to read this.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Chili oil with fried garlic, onion, and other happiness (食べるラー油)

I recently came into possession of a jar of S&B brand 食べるラー油 (たべるらーゆ / taberu raayu), which is basically chili oil in which a great deal of garlic, onion, and other wonderful things have been fried until they're crunchy. Yes, that is correct, this is the perfect condiment, and I will likely need to order it in bulk and buy another jar to hold me over until Tokyo's typical 1-2 day shipping comes through.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Final test schedule, Kai level 3 (a.k.a. Project Impending Doom)

Free talk went well, as did the presentation yesterday (there was a bit of unintentional bribery, since I went all in making a ton of gyoza for the class, and it turns out we had to rate each other); now the less fun stuff starts. Oh, and by the way... another verb form!

Monday, June 1, 2015

US Embassy mailing list message regarding safety in Tokyo

I'm posting this in its entirety just because it's extremely, extremely important information. It addresses the most serious risk of crime you are likely to face as a tourist in (or foreign resident of) Japan. Pay attention to the part about touts! Those bastards are nasty and nothing but trouble.

A listing of this message and others like it can be found on the Tokyo US Embassy's site. If you're a US citizen traveling abroad, it's a good idea to register as a traveler with the State Department (mostly in case of emergency; I don't like Big Brother looking over my shoulder, either, but when you leave the country you put yourself in a complicated position).

"Free Talk" tests at Kai

Today at school (it's still funny to type that), we had our "Free Talk," which is sort of an informalish part of the testing process involving pairing us up with other students and having us talk to Japanese volunteers about whatever asinine stuff comes to mind (usually hobbies, home country, food, and travel).

Kai Japanese Language School: Testing Your Future Self!

In listening practice the other day we got a section on formal Japanese (敬語) that we hadn't been taught, and the teacher was cryptic at best when asked whether the final test would be limited to things we've actually studied (basically: "You will be tested on grammar at your level").

I can't blame this one on myself; it's hard to have confidence in teachers that are obtuse instead of reassuring and mildly uncomfortable instead of apologetic when addressing their mistakes -- or, more accurately, declining to address them.

If I'd expected to pass this level, I'd be more upset, I think... as it is, I guess we'll see, but my feeling is that I'll be taking it again. I have looked at other schools, and I will probably continue to, but it seems they're much more interested in students coming into Japan fresh than in people who are already here on existing visas and are looking to transfer.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pretty big earthquake today during school; really funny result.

During our "disaster drills," which many of us find pretty comical, we're always first told to gather our things. Really? In the event of a major earthquake that's going to be your first priority? Riiiiight.

Turns out... yeah, that's how it is. At least at Kai.

ibus language management in LibreOffice in Linux

Quick note for tech types struggling with multilingual support via ibus in LibreOffice (a fork of OpenOffice).

A combination of command line flags and environment variables can make the default 'libreoffice' package play nicely with ibus, but apparently only if you open it manually via the command line. Not a particularly good option.

This is, fortunately, unnecessary: You can just install the libreoffice-gtk package, which aside from making LibreOffice look infinitely more palatable (and respect your system display settings, provided you're using a GTK window manager), happily and without hacks allows your ibus hotkeys to work in LO.

Provided, of course, they don't clash with LO's shortcuts, but that's a different problem.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Chashu Gyoza

Don't get too excited. I did and was let down. But then I kind of went nuts on this recipe so it's a bit hard to say whether the idea itself is flawed or whether it was just poor execution. Oh well, pictures.

...and also, a condom update.

Basically: Japanese condoms... bleh. But I successfully imported some good ol' American prophylactics.

Before the recipe deluge starts...

I have a bunch of food posts that need to go up over the next few days, but before that, I'll just say hi from our default after-school hangout...

...and introduce you to my most recent grocery store friend; cleaned, boiled, sliced, and ready to eat, for about $3. It's important to have friends. Tasty, tasty friends.

When life hands you lemons, squeeze them onto seafood.

On a more positive note, back to music!

The shamisen is a traditional Japanese instrument, basically a fretless three-string guitar, usually played fairly gently. So what's exactly the right application for such an instrument? Yes, of course, it's rock music. As proven by The Syamisenist.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A quick note on Kai: Turns out it's not just me.

A friend from my current level (3) has been very informative regarding how things go after this point, since many of her friends are in level 4... and have been more than once... with others who have been... more than once.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Trials and Tribulations involving Condoms in Japan

If you couldn't tell, this one is going to involve sex talk, so if that's not your thing (or if you're related to me), take the blue pill and pretend you were never here.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

How to make an interview test even worse

Despite my own personal problems, Kai has been throwing some really nasty stuff at us lately, the most recent of which is our midterm. More specifically, the part that's spoken in casual Japanese... with another student.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Shiitake mushroom omelette

More like... I don't know, an egg pancake? There's a word for this, I just don't know it. Oh well.

In which I complain a lot about non-Japan-related things (feel free to skip this one)

I didn't realize until recently how utterly burned out I am, and looking back, I never really did get over the burnout I hit probably a year or two ago.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Chicken Mushroom Curry

This is an interesting concoction I whipped up in the wake of my previous batch of curry, a really simple lamb preparation, which turned out to be the best batch I've ever made. This one was just passable, but hey, pictures.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Food Image Dump

As I continue to clean out my camera (read: crappy phone), I bring you a selection of tasty oddities from around Tokyo.

Monday, May 4, 2015

...and a few random events from the last month or two.

Battle of the Bands! A bad picture of a great show. The live music scene in Tokyo is pretty great.

Relaxing at Haneda Airport, watching the planes and eating chocolate banana cookies. Yeah, it's a little random, but it was nice.

In class we have culture lessons once a week, and part of the last one was a bit of origami. It's a hat.

At my favorite little izakaya, I was there a while ago on a very slow night and watched a Japanese historical drama with the proprietor. The American guy and the old Japanese woman, watching an NHK special in a bar. Yes, life is strange, but good.

Adventures in Ginza

Going through the pictures I've taken but been too lazy to upload, I found several that fit this theme, so they get their own entry! These adventures come courtesy of my good friend Phil, the social butterfly.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Quick note on some more Kai craziness...

Tomorrow we have a lovely new verb form to learn, which means we got a Dropbox video to watch; once again its sole purpose is to explain the conjugation rather than providing any information on what the form is for (a little research indicates it's for passive voice, and the examples suggest it's going to be a bit of a mindbender). This term, though, in addition to the video -- all of six minutes, almost all of it a slow list of examples -- we have a worksheet assigned to go with the video. Which is, yep, just conjugating a list of verbs.

I can actually kind of see the utility this time, only because the extra 10 minutes in class (I'm cutting out a lot of the time the worksheet took since it was pretty much unnecessary) will be nice with this particular verb form. Still, though, the timing is terrible...

...because, for tomorrow, we have sixty-six new vocabulary words to learn.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

New Zealand x America: Weekly Craziness and a New Form of Government

A while back I made a good friend from New Zealand. He's been in Japan for a very long time and is a genuinely great guy; he's a happy family man, but also a bit of a party animal. So every Saturday (which usually gets moved up to Friday, but the plan is Saturday), we go out on the town, which typically means Ginza.

Last weekend we reached our pinnacle: While pre-Ginza dining at a kushiyaki (skewered meat) restaurant in Shibuya, we devised what may be the perfect society.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The pace in Kai level 3 is absolutely ridiculous

Granted, this was just the first week, but still... it started too strong and hasn't let up. The grammar so far hasn't really been that bad, which is a change from level 2; the vocab, however, is off the charts (I looked back to my previous level 3 entry and found the same phrase used; I'm leaving it here to denote my agreement with myself).

Premade, uncooked pork and veggie stirfry

When you're feeling lazy but not real-fast-food lazy... grocery stores often stock premade but uncooked meals like this. Veggies and pork in a garlic soy sauce, ready for the wok... it was just shy of too much for one meal for me, which is pretty good for about $3.20 (if I'd eaten rice with it it'd have easily been two meals).

It was pretty good. The sauce was mild and the pork was quite nice (pork belly or, if not, a really fatty cut that fried up very well); the not-quite-green-beans were... OK. But hey, veggies.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

(probably unofficial) Gunslinger Litany t-shirt (Stephen King's Dark Tower series)

Despite having fallen out of love with Stephen King after re-re-reading the Dark Tower, I still love most of the series, and ordered one of these when it was up for sale (no longer available). It should arrive next week. Exciting!

It's a mantra the gunslingers (basically Old West style lawmen with six shooters) recite as part of their indoctrination training. Looking forward to walking around Tokyo in this and seeing if anyone gets the reference.

Also hoping it fits...

Hotaru ika (firefly squid), a seasonal delicacy!

Mistake #1: I don't think these are intended to be eaten for breakfast (i.e. without some kind of alcohol).

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Kai level 3 has begun (ominous music here)

Thanks to a great deal of attrition and a fair number of people moving from afternoon classes to morning, we're down from having three different afternoon level 2 classes to just one afternoon level 3 class. However, instead of the 9 people my class had in level 2, we now have the maximum they'll put in one class, 15.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

One of the most twisted and impressive music videos I've ever seen (animation)

THIS IS NOT SAFE FOR WORK. The following video contains ridiculous quantities of nudity, plenty of violence and more than a little gore, and aside from that, may cause unexpecting viewers' heads to explode, resulting in considerable mess.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Pork for breakfast, lamb for lunch...

...and a sensible dinner.

Clear Asahi is kind of upscale happoshu, not-quite-beer that's very cheap because of a loophole in the legal definition of "beer."

The chips, on the other hand... yeah, apparently this is a crossover between a big potato chip maker and KFC. Which had me pretty excited, at least for some really interesting flavor, but they're quite mild. Just sort of a black pepper normal-chip flavor... oh well, next time I'll try something else.

I've understood a bit more of my troubles with Japanese

Outside of conversations with close friends, when I'm in a situation where I need to (or even want to) speak Japanese, I try to wait until I can make myself understood. Not at a native level, certainly, but to the point where a sympathetic listener won't have to translate "what the hell did he just say" in his or her head before attempting to request clarification or simply drop out of the conversation.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Meat. It's important.

The ever-important ongoing initiative, Don't Run Out of Meat, is proceeding as planned.

A much-deserved thank you to Niku no Hanamasa for making this lovely display possible.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Photo dump (last one for now): Hanami (sakura viewing)

This is one of the things I desperately wanted to see and missed the first three times I was here. Sakura are pretty iconic in Japan, and this season is a huge thing all over the country.

Photo dump: Leftovers

The stuff I forgot to include in the previous two entries. Oops.

Photo dump: Food edition

Again... this time relating to things I've cooked or eaten, taken pictures of, and forgotten about.

Photo Dump: Bar/Izakaya Edition

My phone has been accumulating pictures that haven't gotten uploaded, so here's the first set, representing quite a few late night adventures.

Friday, March 27, 2015

As promised: Homemade chashu, onsen tamago, and rice

Yes, I even cooked the rice! Impressive, I know.

The egg was cooked (in the shell) by leaving it and three of its friends in the rice cooker right after the actual cooking had finished. The residual heat and the lower heat from the cooker's warm cycle is good for getting this result; in my low-end Zojirushi (so still a pretty decent appliance), it's 45 minutes for four eggs on two cups of rice.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The end of Level 2!

Despite struggling quite a bit, I ended up doing better than expected on the final exams, and will be moving on to level 3 at Kai starting in April.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A whole bag of frozen happiness

Last night I spent some time (less than I expected, I didn't realize how quickly I could fold these) putting together 77 happy little pork and shrimp gyoza to take to the local izakaya tomorrow night for a slightly premature post-exam celebration (the last tests, which are also the hardest, aren't until Monday).

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Simultaneously cooking gyoza and chashu

Tonight I'm stocking the fridge by cooking things I've had in the freezer (a pretty common thing for me; tonight it's chashu using some pork shoulder I had sitting around), but I'm also making gyoza. Let the fun commence!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Update on Kai

Basically, I don't think I'd recommend it at this point. My own self-imposed troubles aside (read: phenomenally poor study habits), the curriculum has been consistently letting me down.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Shipping in Japan (at least through Amazon)

I just have to plug this again. Sorry if it's repetitious. Well, sorry anyway, because it is repetitious. But it's just awesome how well shipping works here.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Shelving! Bedding! Microwave! Oh my!

The first of this round of apartment updates to arrive:

It was a minor pain to put together, as it's entirely actual wood and came with wood screws (and an Allen wrench, which I thought was pretty funny), but that does mean it's nice and sturdy, which is good. If it turns out I need more storage space I'll order another one for the other side of the kotatsu.

Personal stuff

For friends, family, and the morbidly curious: About a week and a half ago, my (ex) girlfriend and I broke up. Definitely unfortunate, but we had a good relationship for a pretty long time (the better part of 4 years), and we're still on good terms, so it certainly could've been worse.

One of the side effects is that, since she's now moved out, I have a whole lot more room in the apartment.

Saturday, February 28, 2015 is amazing.

I just wanted to take a little time out from complaining to reiterate something that I may or may not have made clear enough before. is freaking awesome. For those not familiar, it's a very, very simple mobile database, a specifically a replacement for SQLite. Now SQLite definitely has its advantages, and it's the default on Android, but the mechanisms for working with it on that platform are atrocious. It's so painful that it turned me off of Android completely several times before I finally powered through and learned enough of the platform to build apps.

Now? To hell with SQLite on Android. Realm is beautifully, wonderfully easy. It'll add a little bulk to your project, but considering the massive size of most apps and the ever-increasing storage available on devices, it's negligible (particularly if your app is more than 1MB or so anyway).

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Softbank Sucks volume... what, 4? Something like that

Softbank! What a great company. When I bought a (positively shitty) phone from them, and signed up for a contract (which they subsequently strongly implied I may not be allowed to cancel), they started sending me spam text messages (several times a week).

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Another webcomic: Gunnerkrigg Court

Yesterday into last night I had one of my periodic 10-hour webcomic binges, much of which was spent reading Gunnerkrigg Court. It's a very cool story about students at a kind of half-school half-research-facility; it uses a whole slew of technological, mythological, and paranormal characters and phenomena.

Great characters, very good art, really engrossing story. Definitely one to check out.

Monday, February 16, 2015

How not to learn foreign grammar

I like Kai. I do... in some ways. But it's becoming clear to me that their method (i.e. "teachers in most cases can't and in the rest won't speak English, at all, ever") is simply not a good thing. This has become the bane of my grammatical existence and I think it's the single biggest flaw this school has.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dakbokkeumtang (which is apparently Korean for "really good spicy chicken and potatoes")

Unfortunately, despite having made this twice (the first time with chicken wings, which was a pain to eat but very good, and this time with cubed chicken breast; MUCH more convenient), I still have no pictures.

But you should make it anyway. It's easy and wonderful. Dakbokkeumtang. I'd suggest trying to say that five times fast, but I can't even say it once.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Beer and Snacks, Volume 2: Doritos and Chee-tos

I'm going to retread a little ground that's already been covered, though in a bit more detail. But there are also some really... interesting... snacks on display, so hopefully this doesn't bore anyone too much.

Comment posting tweak

For the second time I had someone tell me this blog was not letting them comment... thanks a lot, Blogger. I switched to a popup for posting comments, so hopefully that will at least get around the problem. Please let me know if you are trying to comment but still having problems.

Japanese is freaking hard, but sometimes amazingly cool.

Being a bad student and generally too shy for my own good about speaking Japanese, one of the only times I end up using it is with taxi drivers when I miss the last train home.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tonight kind of highlights the ridiculousness of winter in Tokyo

I'm wearing three layers. Even on the coldest days in Minnesota I wear two; an undershirt and either a hoodie or a dress shirt. Now I'm wearing an undershirt, a long sleeve shirt, and the biggest hoodie I have, because it's so cold in my apartment that this is what it takes to be comfortable without turning on the obscenely expensive and inefficient heater.

It's almost never below freezing here. So at any given time during winter it's probably 20 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit warmer here than in MN, but it feels much, much colder.

Do yourself a favor: Definitely visit Japan. Just make sure you do it in fall or spring.

Friday, January 30, 2015

New shoes!

Normally I'm very practical about shoes; I've been beating the hell out of the same pair of good walking shoes since I got here (and have very nearly killed them; 5 city kilometers a day makes shoes unhappy). But it's hard not to want to look good in Tokyo, so I got myself some nice ones this time.

Tonight Kai is having an izakaya party, so I'm dressing up American style (read: I look like a cowboy again) and am pleased that it'll at least look like I have boots this time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Don Quijote (ドン・キホーテ): Japanese WalMart

There's a store in Japan called Don Quijote (except in kind-of-Japanese). Granted: I don't think there's any location in Tokyo that attracts anything like the crowd that a typical WalMart sees, but it makes up for that by having absolutely no organization at all. You can find anything you could possibly want in Don Quixote. If you can find it.

Aside from the entertainment value -- Donki has almost as much in common with Spencer's as with Sam's little brother -- the nice thing about this place is that it often sports a pretty nice array of foreign products, from American peanut butter and jelly to Canadian maple syrup to... I don't know what else, but those are the things I happened to notice this time.

Anyway, the reason I'm making this note, and that I'm thankful for the presence of a Donki right near my school, is that I'm currently eating pretzels while drinking a Black Russian made with SKYY and Kahlua thanks to its presence.

Help me, Don Quijote.

You're my only hope.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Second term at Kai: Two weeks in

OK! Apologies for the lack of updates. Winter break was really, really nice in terms of getting a whole lot of work done, but after it ended, I was utterly unprepared to go back to school, both because I had basically not studied at all and because I was in probably the best work groove I've had in the last year.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Goodbye, asshole neighbors!

In what may be either an impressive coincidence or the first time modern Japanese culture has worked immensely in my favor, the idiots next door moved out after repeated contact from the guarantor company we apparently shared.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Significant tea, fried rice, and leftover tofu

I've been drinking quite a bit of tea lately; fortunately, a good friend left this gem for Christmas, along with several others that are still waiting to be enjoyed.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Braised pork shoulder with onions and tomatoes

I paid almost exactly double for a pork roast today what I would have paid in the US. Fortunately, pork shoulder is freaking cheap, so even at twice the price, it's worth it. Particularly when you're really craving something a little more home-cooked, at least the way I'm used to it. So I threw something together and it turned out way better than I had any right to expect.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Out with the old, in with the new... mouse

Unfortunately, my trusty Logitech G9x recently started having some pretty ugly issues, to the point where selecting text or dragging things was rather torturous. I stuck with it as long as I could, but finally broke down and ordered a different model (the G9x, though I adored it, has a cable -- not ideal with such little extra space -- and is very pricey now that it's no longer in production).

With that in mind, I grabbed a Logicool (the Japanese brand of Logitech, apparently) G602. It's massive overkill as far as the buttons -- I imagine for a serious gamer this would be amazing -- but the click action is nice, the scroll wheel is pretty smooth, and the middle click is much easier than the G9x was. The tracking, despite being over radio, is also excellent.

So while I'm sad to see the G9x go... I can't really say I miss it. And for about 40 USD compared to 70 USD, it's a hell of a lot better to buy these from than Score.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cheap sashimi, even cheaper: By the block!

Of course one of my favorite pastimes is hitting up the grocery store in the evening to get discounted sashimi. I primarily look for combinations of squid and salmon, which are my favorite seafood to consume raw. But there's an even cheaper way to get nice, fresh sashimi than buying premade servings.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Too simple to be a recipe: Buri (older hamachi) in the fish broiler

I think I've mentioned this appliance before... the little broiling compartment under our gas burners. I've made a whole lot of garlic cheese bread in it, but up until now, had not tried fish. As I've been planning a traditional Japanese breakfast, I figured this would be a good reason/excuse to figure out how to use the thing.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Christmas kitchen post-mortem (haha... oh wait, that's Easter)

I figured I'd post a little bit of photographic evidence of the leadup and cooking activities that culminated in our Tokyo Thanksgiving dinner.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Tasty, tasty lard: Rendered pig fat for Great Cooking Justice

In the US, I enjoyed buying beef suet and rendering tallow as a cooking medium. While everything beef is painfully expensive here, I did find that at Niku no Hanamasa I can get pretty big quantities of pork fat for next to nothing! So I decided I'd go for it.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Izakaya Log: A place I'm a little embarrassed about not knowing the name of, in Shinjuku

We just refer to it as the "habushu (snake liquor) place," for reasons that will become obvious as you keep reading this post. If you keep reading this post. If you don't... you will never know.

Make the right decision.