Went over to Nancy's new place tonight for a Losers-who-had-no-place-to-go-this-holiday-season turkey dinner. Damn that turkey was juicy! I was in charge of the mash'd potatoes, but the SpudsInABox soon ran out. So Tony and I popped off the the mom--n-pop grocer around the corner and grabbed two bags of potatoes. A quick skinnin', hearty boilin', tireless mashin', and lots of cream, butter, spices, and sour cream, and we had us a heaping bowl of mash'd potatoes. Nancy and the gang were busily cranking through bottle after bottle of wine as Hiroko and Haruka put away plates of feeding. I had a heaping plate before I headed back to the office for the always exciting Friday-night-at-work-because-everyone-else-was-smart-enough-to-turn-in-their-vacation-requests-early night.


I got a new cell phone: NEC's N504is.
It has a high-res CMOS camera on it that takes wonderful pictures:


Had a lovely weekend at Appi Kogen. Matt at Tabibito Travel sets up these killer ski/snowboard tours. We crashed at Rocky Inn -- a really nice "pension" with a sweet fireplace in the middle -- and hit the slopes for 2.5 days.
The conditions were pretty bad; not much base and many runs closed. Kind of icy and grass showing through...but then Matt and some of the more wacky folks jumped some ropes into the closed trails and we found tons of fresh powder. Amazingly, ski patrol never even came by, so we kept ducking ropes and hitting untouched powder on closed-off trails for 2 days. Once, when walking out of the bottom of a sweet face of powder, some official-looking dudes on a snowmobile came up behind us with the siren blaring. But all they wanted was for us to get out of the way, and off they went!
After boarding we hit the onsen in the hotel across the road, hung out around the fireplace at Rocky's, and basically talked smack and goofed off all night. And damn the icecream was good, too.

freaky dreams

OK, what the hell does this one mean?
Hiroko and I are in high school, it's the day of the yearly school festival. Most of the students are fairly rowdy, no-good types with little interest in the formal proceedings in the gym. Hiroko and I are outside the gym. There are two very high, white slides. I'm on the steps outside the gym, looking down at all the shoes. Hiroko can't find one of her shoes (the red pumas) but I spy it and point it out to her. She gets her shoes on and goes up the one slide's ladder. I go up the other slide's ladder. It's high. I mean REALLY high. I get almost to the cut and I see Hiroko climbing back down the ladder. She's smiling and having fun [reality check: Hiroko is deathly afraid of heights], so I decide to climb down, too. Did I mention it's high? And my hands are sweating and the metal is slick, painted white. And I'm sort of hanging from a light trellis or something, but I finally climb down.
Scene change (as only can happen in a dream)
I'm in a boat going down the street (all the roads are waterways, like Venice, only it looks like a midwest town that's been flooded) to the wedding reception.
I get there and am hanging out with some less-than-respectable mafia youth ruffians. One dude is going around the table checking the pockets of the jackets hanging on chairs, pulling out the wallets, and grabbing the money. He gets to the bag of the dude who was with me and takes out the wallet and cash. I'm kidding around with him but remind him that's not a very nice thing to do. He puts it back and asks why everyone tells him that when you study calculus in college, first the review all the algebra. I remind him that I've been out of university for a while, but as far as I know the reason they do that is because everyone always forgets the algebra basics since they don't use them so much. You're still in highschool, right? I ask him. You just taken algebra recently, do you remember it? And he goes no, not really, and looks satisfied with my answer.
[alarm clock, cue reality]

last practice

Had the last iai practice for Shibuya last night, after which we went out for an End-of-Year group dinner at a cool place in Shibuya. On my way home there was a lane closed off with cops all over the place, randomly diverting cars into the other lane. I was flagged and pulled in, not knowing what was going on. My first thought was "I have a sword strapped to my back" but then this cop sticks what I thought was a microphone in my face and goes "Blow hard, testing for alcohol." Ah! I breathed on this thing and then I was on my way. Later down the road I was stopped at a red light, and as soon as the light changed the car behind me squealed his tires and revved hard, almost clipping me off my scooter as he shot around me. I caught up with him at the next red light. He was playing with his cell phone. I pulled up on his left side and knocked on the passenger window. He looked confused and I started yelling at him in English. He got an even more confused look on his face so I switched to yelling at him in Japanese. I was pulling out every bad phrase I had ever learned from hanging out with 15 year-old street punks and watching yakuza movies. Then he got a really scared look on his face as he realized how pissed I was. I don't think he even realized what a dickhead maneuver he pulled at the last light, but he sure looked like he was afraid I was going to bust his window open and drag him into the street for a beating. Which I considered. Then again I still had my sword strapped to my back, and there were cops all over the place, so I decided against it.

weekend warriors

A bunch of folks from iai joined in the festival at Sengakuji Temple on friday:

Kanai-san and Terao, the famous sumo wrestler.

Tanaka-sensei, warrior.

On Saturday we had lunch with Jeremy and then watched some Jackass on his laptop in Starbucks. Oh my dear lord, them some crazy fools.
Saturday night we went to a wedding reception for some of Hiroko's former co-workers.
Spent all day Sunday doing iai; cutting practice in the morning so I got up at 7am and went up into the freezing boonies that is Saitama. Then came all the way back down for a special seminar in the afternoon with Niina-gosoke. By 4:30pm I couldn't move my arms any more. So I came home and Todd and Narumi and little Amy were there already so we stuffed ourselves on crab with a big kani-nabe. There was some left over so guess what I had for breakfast?

holiday elves

santa's little helper ren

mieko the red-faced reindeer

communication day

Yesterday was The Day.
Bad news: didn't get promoted.
Good news: got a bonus and still have a job.
Better news: Todd and Hani got promoted, so there is justice in the world.

Did my once-a-year drinking last night, but I reaffirmed that I really, really don't like the taste of alcohol. And I verified that fish & chips are good. Didn't get slammed, and since we started at 5pm, by 10 everyone was tanked and I was hungry. Got home by 12:30 with all my morals and brains in tact.


Woke up this morning to see Tokyo blanketed in white. Causing havoc with the trains, but the cold is easier to deal with when it's snowing.

Jeff and Ericka arranged a fancy year-end dinner, so on Saturday we all went to Tableaux for some eatin' and drinkin'.

Then on Sunday I spent all day at iai; popped a blister on my right index finger and damn that hurt.
Masa came over for dinner so she and Hiroko made up a big pot of tonjiru and we feasted. Watched some tv, but got bored so we cranked a few levels of Torneko's Big Adventure 3.

company x-mas party

Me and Shino being festive:

In standard end-of-year fashion, the annual Morgan Stanley Year End Party was a drunken debauchery, held in the glorious Ebisu Westin Hotel Galaxy Room.
And was of course followed up by many a drink and salty chip at Inishmore.

myoclonic jerk

Thanks to Kevin for the clarification:

scary dreams?

What's up with that thing where you're sleeping just fine, and then all of a sudden your whole body jerks and you wake up all of a sudden? What the hell is that? I mean, I know it sometimes happens when you dream you're falling off a cliff and it happens just as you're about to hit...but what about when you're just sleeping and dreaming that you're, I dunno, baking apple pies or rowing a boat or something, and then *WHAM* you have the bodySpasm and you're awake and you wife is going "What? WHAT?!" and then you go "Nothing." and then she's all grumpy that you woke her up for nothing (like I guess it'd be better if your appendix was about to explode or something.)

even more photos

Finally put up the photos from Hiroko's camera:
Lee & Charity's wedding
Smith & Wollensky's

Had a kumitachi seminar this weekend: smacking each other with wooden swords. Damn that's fun! And I even motivated enough to wake up early on Sunday and go to Tamitsuji-sensei's practice. Came home to find a box of apple's from Hiroko's mom's apple tree, so I made some apple pies after we fed Masa.

wedding photos

Haven't put up the photos we took yet, but here's some from other folks.
Also my dad took some photos of me and Hiroko with his Big Camera.

murphy's law

"Why haven't there been any bloggageness about Lee & Charity's wedding and this wonderful NY vacation?" you wonder. Blame Murphy. By some miracle Hiroko and I got upgrades for the flight out to NY, so after getting some grief from the Lounge Lady, we found Beck and were kicking it with free drinks and snacks. And my laptop died. Kevin called an IBM buddy who was on the original ThinkPad team, and we found out that a Bios 8611 error is a "pointing device" problem. Basically, the nipply pointer is broken, rendering my whole machine useless. So glad I dragged it all the way across the planet.
Anyway, when I get back I'll put up photos from Hiroko's digital camera, but the wedding was a raging success.
We also did some time in the city and hanging with the parentals. Shopping. Eating. Shopping. Eating. Watching tv. Shopping. Eating.

buy! buy! buy!

Oh lord what has the world come to. You can now buy your very own GIVE YOUR MEAT goods!
Shop early for the holidays! Get that special someone that special something with that special message: GIVE YOUR MEAT!

new york, new york!

Off to the city tomorrow and praise the lord we got upgrades to bid'ness. Gonna hit Lee & Charity's wedding in New Jersey and then hang out for a week shopping and watching videos.
Tanaka-sensei came to student's practice last night and we did the first 5 seated forms 10 times each. Damn he's fast, and so effortless. And there is no doubt that his cuts cut.


A weekend of good consumerism and family fun.
On Saturday Haruka and Reichan came over with little Kailey and mom. We made some lunch and Kailey played with all my pens and colored pencils. That little gremlin ate a whole banana in about 5 seconds, then finished off half a french baguette one piece at a time. Small children are tiring.
Sunday Hiroko and I double-dated with Kevin and Z. We met in Harajuku at the infamous Aux Bacchanales and loaded up on french fries and baguette sandwhiches before launching into a shopping spree that bounced us through Uniqlo (cheap winter coats, gotta come back), Bornelund (cool magnet toys), North Face (snowboard gear?), FCUK (sweater on sale 70% off!), Kiddeyland and Oriental Bazaar (stuff for Lee & Charity but I won't say what as they might be reading), and finally Tocca where Hiroko got the killer black dress for Lee & Charity's wedding.
Z then went home to start cooking dinner and Kev and Hiroko and I went to Bic Camera in Shibuya for the day's main event: Hiroko's digital camera. Ended up getting a Canon IXY 320. Very slick little digicam; takes compact flash and even does short video! 2x zoom + digital zoom, easy to use, USB connector, long-lasting battery. To celebrate we went back to Z's and feasted on home-cooked Indian curry while watching FOX (Friends and Buffy the Vampire Slayer...I really don't miss American TV that much.)


Finally got my Yahoo!BB 12MB dsl working. Haven't gotten the home LAN set up yet; still wondering what to do with the old G3 and mac printer. But it sure is nice to have fat data into the apartment. Now if I can just get the company VPN working...

again i am confused

On the train on my way to wednesday practice in Akihabara. Almost at the station, when Kiyokawa calls me: "Dude, there's no one here. No practice tonight!"
What? Again?! So we meet at the station, get back on the train and go all the way back across Tokyo to go to Shinjuku. Then we wander around west Shinjuku for 20 minutes until we finally find the place.
Practice was great: Sano-sensei basically gave me one-on-one instruction for half an hour. But then the last draw of the evening, I snag the mouth of my scabbard and take a tiny chip out of the blade tip! Well at least I didn't cut through the scabbard and slice off my thumb, which is usually what happens. Still, it's a bummer, but then again I'd rather have a chipped sword than a bloody thumb.


Went to student practice in shibuya last night like I do every tuesday. Got there early so nobody was around. Went up to the gym. Locked. Asked the dude at reception and he looked at me like I was the freak I am and told me there's no practice. Doh! Totally forgot! Called Kiyokawa and he said to come to Suidobashi, so I scootered down to Shibuya Station and got on the subway. Got lost coming out of Suidobashi Station but finally found the place. Sano-san was running us through the basics, and I was a complete mess: zatsu.
Looking to test for 3dan in February, but I'm nowhere near ready. Too slow, too messy, too bobbly. No speed, no snap, no stability. On sa and yu I can't turn and draw smoothly. The first cut of ren isn't cutting, the second cut is too weak. I stop the sword too high off the ground. I have no focus. I cut small. zatsu. *sigh* Much work to be done...

national tournament in shimane prefecture

I'll do a more thorough write-up later, but suffice to say:
1) 12 hours on a bus with a bunch of drunks is both really fun and really tiring
2) I got 1st place in division! 2nd place in team competition

Here's a couple of photos. Ohtsuka-san took a bunch, so when I get a CDR from him I'll put up more.
Sekido-san and I in the finals. Note all the things I'm doing wrong: kissaki (sword point) isn't pointing at the opponent's eyes, wrist is bent up so the blade angle is off, arm is too high. *sigh*

Sonkyo -- paying respect to the opponent I've just felled. Note all the things I'm doing wrong here, too: Right hand is too low, back isn't straight, chin is lowered (should just lower the eyes, but keep the head level.)

Tanaka-sensei (5th dan, Denshobu) and I in the finals for team competition. Our teams were one for one, so this was it. By some miracle, I managed to get one out of three flags, so it wasn't a complete crushing. But still, this is the difference between an uppity student and a serious instructor: besides the fact this his gaze probably burned a hole through his opponent before his blade ever cut, note how deep his cut is, blade all the way through the diagonal, hands well past his left knee, back straight but full body put into the cut, blade angle just right, kissaki the correct height above the ground.

mac switch

From Ollie: http://www.fandango.net/switched.mov

cleaned and oiled

Noxon is magical. Gave my sword a thorough cleaning and oiling in preperation for the national tournament this weekend. I'm sure it'll start rusting as soon as I put it away, but that's how it goes when you're a sweaty dude in a humid country. Thinking about getting the handle re-wrapped in silk instead of the leather I have now; the black dye in the leather turns my hands black because my hands get so sweaty.

puchi hates me

The damn dog that lives in the house next to my building just hates me. It's getting old. Every morning I go out to get on my scooter to go to work, the dog starts barking his head off, mom comes out, sees it me, we say hello, smile and laugh, and then she tries to calm the dog down until I leave.
I've burnt through a bag of dog jerky and the mutt still fears me. Screw him. Next time he barks at me I'll just bark at him louder. He thinks I'm scary? I'll show you scary.

Had to leave work this morning for a couple hours nap -- allergies were killing me. Head all swollen and nose stuffed and red hives on my face and neck...no fun this allergy thing. I think I'll go to a doctor in the US and see what they say. Is it REALLY totally incurable?
So I'm not feeling too hot, so no iai tonight. No practice tomorrow either because I've got my Thursday night conference call, so that's it until the national tournament this weekend. 12 hours on a bus leaving Friday night to get down to Shimane Prefecture...not looking forward to that, especially since I'm on the "B" bus, otherwise known as The Bus For Drunks and Degenerates. Just leave me alone and let me sleep!


Hiroko and I went up to Ibaraki yesterday to play with Momoya, daughter of Hiroko's buddy from back when she was little. We met Satchan at Ueno Station and then took the Joban Line up to Toride Station.
Momo and her dad picked us up at the airport and we went back to their house. In traditional Japanese-boonies style, the first thing we did was eat. Then Momo gave me some cool colored pens that smell like the color (peach, strawberry, melon, etc.) and I gave her the books we bought in the US: Olivia and Olivia Saves the Circus.
Momo and I played around outside a bit, then we all went to the Ibaraki Nature Museum.
It was getting dark and we were getting hungry, so we asked Momo what she wanted for dinner. Most typical 5 year-old girls want to eat something fun, but Momo is actually a 60 year-old man in the body of a five year-old. Her answer: "Ramen or Yakiniku!"
So off to cook meat it was! We drove to the local yakiniku place and started cooking up plate after plate of meat. And of course Momo orders a plate of yukke and finishes off the whole thing herself, as well as a bowl of rice and a whole bunch of meat ("Daddy, I want the really FATTY one!") Momo, are you really 5 years-old?


So I'm sitting at a red light and I heard this thunderous roar come up from behind. With my vast knowledge of motorcycles, I thought it must be a Harley. When up next me pulls a beautful, black...50cc honda scooter? His helmet covered in stickers, this guy had the biggest, meanest, loudest custom tailpipe I have ever seen. On his scooter.
The light turned green, and fifty cubic centimeters of pure, raw one-stroke engine power growled to life in a cloud of oily-blue smoke as he shot off the line. Before I knew it he was maxxed at 25 kilometers/hour and I blew past him on MY 50cc Honda scooter.

sheryl crow

Sheryl Crow live at the Budokan was great last night! Of course I got lost on my way there. I'm so lame, I got to Shibuya Station and went downstairs to get on the Hanzomon Line, checked very carefully which direction to go, jammed onto a packed train of people going home from work and next thing I know I'm half way to Yokohama on the Den-en Toshi Line! Huh? So I jump off the train and get back on going the other direction, using the 5 seconds of cell signal when stopped in the station to email hiroko: "Wrong train! Soon!"
So as I'm walking up the hill to the Budokan I can here the kick thumping, and I jam up to the second floor and somehow get close to the seat and Hiroko goes "REN!" so I climb over the row in front of us, much to the dismay of the Japanese couple sitting there. Great show; Cheryl's so cut and she was busting out all the Japanese words she knew and everyone was just having a grand time. Very sing-along and some cool live twists on both old and new songs. And then, as only Japan can do, one encore later, the show ended right on time. Actually, 2 minutes early: 8:58pm.

5 minutes

Last night at practice Kanai-san brought in a stopwatch. Actually it was a purple kitchen timer shaped like an eggplant. She times us doing the 5 forms for the national tournament, including the opening and closing bowing. 5 minutes is TIGHT. I barely cleared it by seconds and one time went way over. It's tought to hurry but not look like you're hurrying.
Also have some serious work to do on the forms: first cut in ren is a mess, angle is all wrong on enyo because I'm not even looking correctly behind myself at the opponent, gyokko just isn't happening, and in maegoshi I'm leaning forward and walking on a tightrope, so I'm all off balance and cutting small. *sigh*


Wow, crazy weekend of iai. Showed up Sunday morning all nervous and freaking out about taking the 2dan test. We have a normal practice seminar, and then just before it ends Gosoke walks over, whispers in Naganuma-sensei's ear and says "Ren, you don't have to test. You're 2dan. 3dan in February! Hah hah hah...!"
So I'm 2dan. Freaky. Doesn't really count for much though. 3dan is where it gets ugly. For 2dan you just need to know the kata and do most of them reasonably accurately, but for 3dan you need to nail the kata AND have speed and timing. Gotta be fast cuts, smooth, and with the right rhythm. Lots of people fail the 3dan test. So I'm basically back to the beginning. As soon as the national tournament is over in two weeks, I'm back to drilling hard for February.

Hiroko made a killer pot of curry for dinner last night. Masa came over and we all watched the latest incarnation of Warau-no-inu. This season it changed from "Silly-go-lucky" to "Gonna Go Crazy! Funky Dogs!" The have a new game, too. Everyone pairs up, and the first person says something that starts with the chosen letter, and then on rhythm the second person has to make the sound of that word. So for example if the letter is "s" then the first person goes "swim! ing! pool!" and his partner goes "Splash! Splash! Splash!" As expected, it's insane and hilarious.


All day iai seminars. Really tired in the AM seminar. Then Gosoke shows up and I show him the translations of the kata and now we've got a pretty good plan for making English materials to go with the iai videos. Then all of a sudden Gosoke gets that twinkle in his eye and he goes "Heah, ren, you wanna test for 2dan tomorrow?" And I stutter "Huh? 2dan?" and he turns to Nishihara-san and says "Sign ren up for the 2dan test. No guarantee you'll pass. Heh heh heh..."
So I'm testing for 2dan tomorrow. Strange world we live in.
Had dinner with Hiroko tonight at the new Thai place in Azabu Juba, Saam Roa. Damn good. And there's even not-spicy stuff I can eat like spring rolls and pad thai.

eri nagata

Finally had some coffee with the mysterious and elusive Eri Nagata. Haven't seen her in years. The short story:
1 - She's still anorexically skinny
2 - She's still a princess
Other than that it was fun. Still not entirely sure what her company does -- some kind of placement agency or something -- but she's having fun so it's cool.


For anyone who doesn't believe the sheer quantity of bananas we got at the Festival and Tournament during the summer, check out these photos. See that big table covered in bananas? And the photo next to it, of the three folks bowing? I'm the dude in the middle, absolutely laden with bananas.

i love ninjas

This is the coolest shirt I've ever seen.
I wonder if there's a wishlist-type website, where I can collect all the things I want. I know I can make a wishlist on Amazon, and another one on drugstore.com, etc. but how about one giant wishlist for ALL the other sites out there, including the big guys like Amazon and the little guys like cafeshops.com? This could be my million-dollar internet startup idea!

blog problems

Having some issues with blogger -- titles are getting messed up and can't always publish. Not sure what's up, but I think it's some issues with the latest version of BloggerPro...stay tuned...

Too much eating

Had the Too Much Food BBQ at the Calverts, and then everyone came to our place for dinner last night to finish off the weekend of gluttony. Pork chops. Wild rice. Pasta with pesto (basil from the balcony garden!) Shoe Cream. Ugh.

3 day weekend

Thank god for Sports Day.
Hiroko's birthday on Friday, but since she's not into doing big hooplas, I just sent her some flowers at work.
Iai was kinda crazy on Friday: junior highschool volleyball was using the gym we usually used, so we got sent upstairs to the RomperRoom of the kindergarden. Low ceiling, small room, six people. Talk about a cozy practice. We mostly practiced for the upcoming tests and tournament, attempting not to kill each other.
We will, however, have a BBQ at the Jeff & Ericka's tonight.
Did some cutting today and it went pretty well. Getting that one-handed rising cut (gyaku-kesagiri) almost every time. Everyone else was stressing because exams are next weekend and this was the last practice before testing. Something like 6 people going for 4dan, and they all have to do some cutting for their test. Good luck everyone!
Had a weird dream that Hiroko picked our new apartment in New York, so I go home to see it for the first time. It's in China Town. I go up to the 7th floor and enter the apartment: not bad; a decent room, kind of dark, wooden and brick walls, very much like Lee & Charity's place. But then Hiroko shows me the rest of the place: HUGE, modern white rooms with high ceilings, floor to ceiling sliding glass doors looking out onto the pool/pond, fireplace, big couches. So I ask her how much the rent is and she says "700,000 yen a month." "$7000 a month?! Are you nuts?" So then the real estate agent shows up with the contract ready to sign and say "Not paying more than 500,000 yen. $5000 is all you're gonna get, and with the economy the way it is, you'll never rent this place." And he looks totally bummed as we've already moved in and everything, and I can see on his face how he's trying to figure out what to say to his boss when he goes back with an unsigned contract. And then I woke up.
Hiroko says I probably had the dream because right before we went to sleep we were talking about her boss Terrie having an argument with his wife about their house in New Zealand.
On a totally different subject, for the national tournament next month I need a name patch for my uniform; a 10 cm x 15cm with "Tokyo" across the top and "Kuroda" in the middle. So I went to Tokyu Hands and got paper you can print on and then iron onto cloth. I designed the name patch on my computer and printed it, cut it out, and ironed it onto a piece of black felt. First one came out ok, but I ironed it too much and the letters got all yellow. So I made another one but forgot to take the backing off of the paper and when I ironed it it didn't stick to the felt. Then the third one the letters looked just right, but in the back around the letters there was some crud or something and these white lines also showed up. Tried blacking them out with a pen, but now it all different blacks.
So I went down the street the Blue and White, that cool store that has all the sashiko stuff, traditional fabrics and whatnot. The owner Amy wasn't there, but I had an interesting conversation with the other girl working:
Me: Do you do embroidery?
Her: Me personally? No. Do you?
Me: No...no I mean do you guys embroider to order? Like name patches and stuff?
Her: Oh yeah, sure! But I don't.
Me: I don't care WHO does it! You do offer such a service, eh?
Her: I don't-
Me: I know you don't! What is this, the Comedy Channel! I give you money, you give me an embroidered name patch, yes? No?
Anyway I managed to order a nicely embroidered name patch, but they have to check with the owner to see how much it'll be. Whatever it is I'm sure it'll be better than anything I could make myself!

instant lame

So the moment I get promoted, I immediately become stunnigly, phenomenally lame. I trip on my own hakama. My obi is tied too lose. I get a blister on my finger. I scratch my own arm with my thumbnail.I can't balance, I can't focus. I step with the wrong foot. I hold my breath too much. I lean to the left. My eyes wander.
Then again, as Sanno-sensei says: "Realizing how bad you are is the best way to get better. If you think you're good, you think you're good enough, and you stop getting better. Actually you get worse because you don't even notice your own mistakes." So in a way it's good, but it really sucks to be this lame 2 weeks before the national tournament! Also I found out I'm on the 'B' bus to the tournament. The 'A' bus seems to be all the normal, boring people who will probably sit quietly or sleep the whole way. The 'B' bus has Naganuma-sensei, Tanaka-sensei, Sanno-sensei, and all the other hard-drinking folks who will make the most of their time stuck in a metal box on wheels. I am afraid, very afraid.

two weeks off

Haven't done iai in two weeks, so of course I kill myself over the weekend. First on Saturday morning there was a special seminar run by Niina-gosoke himself, and only nine students. I was great to have one-on-one, and at the end I got promoted to shodan! So now I've got to get ready for 2dan test in February.
Went home and immediately starting making tons of gyoza with Hiroko, as Kevin and Lisa came over.
Sunday morning had iai again, so now my arms are REALLY sore. Sunday afternoon ate some leftover gyoza then walked all over Omotesando, Harajuku, and Shibuya with Hiroko. Looked at some cool clothes and nice furniture, and bought Hiroko a cool leather jacket for her birthday on the 11th.

more jet lag

Did some more work in the office meeting w/various folks about various things. Took Moka and the other Japan trainees to dinner, goofed off more with Lee and Charity.
Saturday early we took an Amtrak train up to Kingston, Rhode Island, then got a van up to the Courtyard Marriott. We got there just in time to catch everyone and headed off to Glen Manor for the wedding rehersal. Nikki's family got lost driving up from NY, and they finally arrived six hours after leaving the city.
Nice place by the way, right on the water. If this was the summer cottage, what was the main house like? Straight outta The Great Gatsby.
Finished rehersal so we headed back to the hotel and then off to Walgreens for some snacks and Kinkos so Andrew could check his email. While there in walks Danny and his wife (small town) so we head over to a local cafe for lunch because we're all starving. 6 people and the bill was 30 bucks. During lunch Dave's cousin from Texas calls: he's in Atlanta on his way to Boston. Uh, the wedding's in Rhode Island? So Danny's wife has to drive up to Boston to get him. Later we head to the Cheeky Monkey for pre-wedding dinner. Dave gave us groomsmen (me and Andrew and Danny) GameBoy Advance (score!) and the bridesmaids got various neat things. Danny got drunk and proceeded to explain to a shocked Nikki that the cute picture of baby David that she loves so much is actually a picture of Danny. Some were skeptical, given Danny's sense of humor, but mom will be consulted to verify the truth (I believe him.)
Back to the hotel and some fools continued drinking in the lobby but Hiroko and I crashed. We could here Amanda's laugh ringing through the night like the squeal of Flipper, and about 2:30 am somebody/thing crashed into our door, but we ignored it and it went away.
Awoke the day of, stuffed ourselves at the breakfast buffet (make your own waffles!), kicked it in the jacuzzi for a bit, and then got ready. Surprisingly, my rental tux fit just fine, and before we knew it, the wedding was underway. Saw Melissa and her man, and Binka and hers, and various other folks from days gone by.
The ceremony was short and very cool, with poetry readings and awesome vows that Nik and Dave wrote themselves (they met in a creative writing class after all), and then it was done. Many photographs by a great and hilarious photographer, and then a cake straight outta Dr. Seuss, and then more fun back at the Cheeky Monkey and presents to Nikki as it was her birthday, too.
Next morning had breakfast with Mel and Patrick, and then mama and aunt Emily joined, and before we knew it we were on the road back to Connecticut.
Mama picked up her new silver Subaru Forester, and then we stuffed ourselves on pasta and pizza and Darien Post Road Pizza before settling down to sleep in preparation for the flight back. Great flight, by the way, as the GameBoy really made the time fly by!

jet lag

Went to dinner at trusty Five Points with mama and papa, Hiroko, Lee and Charity, and Aunt Emily and Uncle Dolf. Damn fine salmon, and of course chocolate fondue for dessert.
Gave Lee and Charity t-shirts from Lucky and Korean-made fake Kappa nylon sweat pants; his in yellow and hers in pink. In return, they gave me a gold, diamond-studded NY on a fat gold chain. Quality. I will, naturally, wear it to their New Jersey wedding in November.

yes buti feel so safe!

Finally experienced new and improved airline travel. First I totally forgot about the tiny little swiss army nail file on my cell phone, but it was quickly and efficiently confiscated by security at Narita.
Then I enjoyed my fine business-class meals with a metal fork and plastic knife.
Finally we landed in JFK and the family of 5 in line in front of me was given the full security re-check. I'm surprised the security guards didn't ask the guy to put his 3 year-old and 5 year-old kids through the x-ray machine. I guess they fit the profile of luggage-laden child-toting terrorists because they were *gasp* middle-eastern! The mom had a scarf wrapped around her head and everything.
The best part, though, was when the customs guy grilled me:
him: Ya live in JAPAN?
me: Yup.
him: How long ya been there?
me: 8 years.
me: [looking very jet-lagged]
him: Ya been on any farms lately?
me: I live in the middle of Tokyo.
him: Yes? No? Farms? Got any fresh fruit? Been in contact with any farm animals recently? Got any meat? Raw sausages?
me: Tokyo. TOKYO. It's solid concrete 100 kilometers in any direction. TO-KEE-OH. In Japan. No sausages. No fruit. No animals. Concrete. And lots of people. Bad Asian rap music. Teen pop idols. Silly hats. Tiger-striped fashion accessories.

new york, ny

Hiroko left yesterday, so I spent the day getting ready; shopping in Shibuya, playing Kengo2 on my PS2, and packing. Left the house this morning and came to the office (taking the bus from the Westin Hotel across the street) to do a final mail check and lunch. Not entirely thrilled to be diving head-first into the assinine world of renewed airport security -- I can already imagine some monkey with a metal detector telling me to take of my boots and prove there's no bomb in them, or drink my own shaving cream to prove I'm not intending to spew toxic foam all over the plane. Well at least I've got 3 laptop batteries. I hope the movies don't suck, too.


Had a crazy dream last night: I was part of a special operations anti-terrorist swat team (me and another guy). We had all kinds of cool wear and gear. I had this great pistol that took what looked like shotgun shells but they were really giant orange rubber bullets. So me and the other dude go to liberate this high school where some of the "bad" kids were holding everyone else hostage. As we work our way up the stairs to the cafeteria on the top floor, I'm popping the occasional rubber bullet into an attacking student's stomach or knee or whatever. Doesn't kill them, but knocks them down and appears to hurt like hell.
So we get to the top floor and everyone's in the cafeteria and the leader of the bad kids (who looks just like one of those many popular young singer/actors from one of those boy-bands always on tv) comes up and says that the only way to settle this is with a knife fight.
So we all go down to the courtyard and I'm supposed to fight four of them including the leader. So first I tell the umpire (sitting in a high chair like a tennis referree) to move his white chair back and up the curb. He moves, and then I make sure all the cars are moved off the courtyard and I tell the four kids to each stand in a corner of the courtyard. The courtyard is big, like a soccer field. So they all go to their respective corners and of course in all my great gear I don't have a knife so I borrow someone's thumb knife with a lock blade.
I walk to the far corner from the leader and face the fat kid. He takes up a wicked knife-fighting pose like he's done this before, and he's kind of sizing me up and dancing around a bit and I'm just standing there. Then in super-slow motion he slashes at me and I just side-step out of the way and stab my knife into his neck. We stand there for a second: me with my hand on my knife in his neck, him with his arm outstretched slashing at where I was. Then I pull my knife out and this stream of blood just spouts out of his neck and he drops like a rock. I look back across the courtyard at the other 3 kids and they're not happy. The leader is looking a bit worried, and I start walking to the next kid in the closest corner and he's looking like he'd really rather be anywhere else.
And then my alarm clock rings and I woke up.

photos up!

Put up some photos from the denjushiki this weekend. Thanks to Otsuka-san for the nice photos (mine are the blurry ones.)

3-day weekend

Dinner at Lucky with Eric and some folks. Eric's finally on his way back to NY after several months in his Tokyo office.

Laundry, dry-cleaning, 6 taiyaki for breakfast. Had the Denjushiki ("Receiving of the License") for Naganuma, Okazaki, and Ando sensei. Having one Menkyo (licensed) sensei is a big deal, three is amazing. Shiokawa-gosoke gave them each a long scroll, listing that they are licensed in all 20 basic forms, plus the naiden and okuden advanced techniques. Then they each did a few kata (photos later) and finally we went downstairs to feed and drink.

Tamitsuji-sensei convinced me to come to practice in the morning, so I went to the newly opened Meguro Ward Citizens' Center. Wow. What a brilliant waste of taxpayer's money! It's a fabulous building that opened a month ago. Completely air-conditioned gym, changing rooms, big lawn...After practice we grabbed some lunch and drove to Hatogaya for some cutting practice. Only about 5 of us, so Tanaka-sensei was giving one-on-one instruction. The result: totally successful one-handed gyaku-kesagiri (rising diagonal cut), four times in a row! I think I'm getting the hang of it, even though I still can't cut cleanly on a draw -- then again that's pretty advanced so there's no reason to expect being able to do so.

Hiroko and I braved the rain and went to Ueno to try and find Charity and Lee some Korean-made rip-off Kappa tracksuits. Mildly successful. Then we met Masa at Roppongi station and went for a 2 hour thai massage. Absolutely fabulous. This needs to a monthly event!

quite possibly the best picture ever taken

quoting jeremy:
Jason Lee was on Conan last night wearing a white
t-shirt with this picture on it.

morning ritual

Morning is a time of ceremony, mostly because the brain isn't quite working yet. I get up at 7:30 and Hiroko's already been up for an hour. She's usually in the shower by the time I stumble into the kitchen to cherish the last few drops of coffee. We battle at the sink, her hair dryer versus my toothbrush. I usually lose, and brush my teeth in the kitchen. By the time I start getting dressed the old man in the apartment across the street has his apartment door propped open. All the better for us to hear his throat-hacking, moaing/screaming: "ggghhhahhhhrrrrrrhhhh!" First time it happened I thought we should call an ambulance. Now it reminds me it's time to take out the garbage. As I step outside, Puchi (the dog of the Takazaki house) begins ferocious growling and barking. I hurl a bit of dog beef-jerky in Puchi's general direction and drop the trash at the designated location, bowing my way through the throngs of old women congregating on the corner. Back in the house I finish dressing and get my iaido gear together (quick oil and sword check, fold up the uniform, grab a towel and bottle of water) and then get my shoes on just as Hiroko is realized she has exactly 48 seconds to get to the bus stop or else she'll have to wait 12 minutes for the next bus and be late for work. So out the door we go in a haze of anti-bug spray.
Weekend mornings are less hurrried, but more ceremonial in that the temple behind our apartment is usually engaged in some funeral type activity. Streams of black-clad men, women, and children swarm up and down the street as the priest pounds drums, rings bells, and chants. At 7 in the morning.

weekend o' fun

Saturday hiroko and I went to ginza for some shopping. Her favourite shoe store Camui re-opened after months of remodeling, but she didn't find anything she liked. I, however, got a lovely pair of black sandals that I use instead of slippers at work. Camui shoes are great because they have that squishy water-filled insole that is so comfy to walk around on.
After Ginza we checked out the new Maru-Biru (Maru-no-uchi Building) right in front of Tokyo station. It just opened that weekend, so we and everyone else in Tokyo with nothing better to do crammed in there. Fairly typical: nice office building with 5 floors of retail on the bottom. Nice Conran Shop, so if we need to buy fashionably overpriced candles we know where to go.
Then we headed over to Ichikawa and hooked up with folks at Master's to get some yakitori. Lisa was in town (for a month) for a wedding so the old gang did the traditional gather-at-Masters-and-eat-and-drink thing. I helped Hugh keep little (well actually quite big) Toshiki from getting run over and grabbed bites of chicken-on-a-stick, and then we headed home in the rain.
Tried to wake up early on Sunday but failed. Ended up going to iai in the afternoon and everyone was wondering why I didn't go to the morning session. The place was full of mosquitoes so Gosoke had us close the windows and light a bunch of anti-bug incense. In a matter of minutes the room was full of smoke, but the mosquitoes had left (probably because there wasn't much oxygen left!)
Came home and Hiroko and I had a lovely home-cooked meal of rice, fried fish, and tofu -- sometimes ya just gotta eat traditional.

good news, bad news

Good news:
Got the results from my yearly health check: all A's! I'm healthy!

Bad news:
Our belov'd Spike not only got his motorcycle stolen, but he also got his health check results: liver=D -- very bad, too much drinking!

Chihara-kun has been busy taking photos and updating the Student Iai page. Some photos of me doing (a very lame attempt at) the first seated form shin and some cute photos of Kanai-sensei.

Had lunch with Yoshiko Motoyama yesterday. She's our Internet Analyst and she rocks. She spent the whole time destroying all my theories about the net in Japan and explaining how Softbank is kicking everyone's ass and will continue to do so. Makes me wanna finally sign up for Yahoo! BB's DSL service.

puchi no like me

Couple of weeks ago the Takazaki family moved into the house next to my building. And so did their white dog Puchi. Puchi doesn't like me very much. He barks at me every morning when I'm leaving and every night when I come home. Gets to the point that some poor Takazaki comes out, toothbrush sticking out of his mouth, to shut the dog up. And it seems to only be me; Puchi doesn't bark at the old lady who always makes sure we throw our garbage away correctly. Puchi doesn't bark at the little kids who live downstairs from me. Puchi doesn't even bark at Hiroko. Unless I'm with her, then Puchi's a raging bellows of canine fury.
So I started a new strategy. I bought a bag of doggie snack beef jerky, and every time I go outside I give a piece to Puchi. This morning Puchi ignored the snack, then a few seconds later noticed the delicious morsel sitting inside the gate. Tough to chew and bark at the same time.

ann & jacob

Got some photos from Ann & Jacob's adventures with us. Glad we could spread some traditional japanese summer fun!

vietnamese food

Had some great food last night in Nishi-Azabu at a tiny little place called Kitchen. 2 cuties making and serving Vietnamese food. Much less spicy than I thought, which is good because me no handle spice good.
Was with Hiroko and Terrie's Angels*, always good for a laugh. Finished the evening with some Hobson's icecream and Hiroko and I walked home through Azabu.
* Terrie's Angels: Hiroko, Rei, and Haruka all work at Linc Media, run by the Charlie-like Terrie Lloyd. The three go to a karate place twice a week to kick and punch away their stress.


Cut my left ring finger when cleaning my sword. Yup, the sucker's sharp.

spoonerism from jeremy

Smart feller!


Reds will hole!


Todd's 2 week old gremlin Amy is lookin' more human by the minute.

azabu juban summer festival

It was a fun-filled, action-packed weekend. Got a mail from Ann and Jacob (friends of Steve and Cheech) saying they'd be in Tokyo and could we meet up? Perfect timing with the summer festival, so after some phone tag at the hotel because Ann gave me her name but the hotel room was in her boyfriend's name, we finally met up. Took the unsuspecting tourists back to our place, dressed them up in yukata and jimbei and off we went to Lucky for some eatin'. We sat next to a table of HUGE sumo wrestlers, and A&J took some photos with them. Then we went down to the festival, which is basically a billion people packed into several city blocks with vendors of all kinds. Ann tried her hand at the traditional goldfish scooping and managed to grab one, but I think the guy took pity on her and gave her an extra fish. Then we plowed our way through the people, grabbing some cotton candy, trying other games (nice keychain Jacob!) and hitting the International Bazaar, which was more of the same with a higher concentration of foreigners and weird food. Someone Ollie managed to find us, and we coordinated with Kevin and Z. to meet up later. Ollie went off to find his other friends, so we went back home to change as by now Ann's feet were killing her and she couldn't breathe with the yukata obi tied up so tight. We rested for a minute and headed back out to Lucky to hook up with Kev and Z and Ollie and some of his friends, got a room upstairs and put and put away some beverage and more snacks. A good time was had by all -- A&J hook us up with some photos!
Next day I got up early for iaido and Gosoke schooled us for 3 hours. Came home and Hiroko needed some shaved ice, so we went back up to the festival (last day) waited in line for a bit at THE shavaed ice place, pigged out, then on the way home bought up all kinds of bits and bobs for dinner. That evening we dined on a feast of Jamaican jerk chicken, samosa, pad-thai, chijimi, iwashi, and cotton candy!
P.S. Anne's goldfish died.

scary dream

I was curled up on the bed fetal, wrapped in a comforter, watching the tv at the foot of the bed. Kaoru (IT admin/ops) was sitting in the comfy chair to the right of the bed watching tv, too. Then this REALLY scary dude's face came on the tv. Next thing ya know we're standing there talking to the landlady (Kaoru was renting the house I guess) who's in the doorway to the room, and them from above her left shoulder the scary dude's face just appears. Kaoru and I look at each other and just BOLT. How we got out of the room I dunno, because the landlady/scary dude was in the doorway, but next thing ya know we're jamming out of the house across the front lawn, and the scary dude is like floating through the front door, across the porch, and through the porch screen door.
Scary dude: tall, shortish blonde hair, smooth white skin, large eyes, body in shadows, face lit from below.
Woke up seriously freaked. It was about 4am and my throat was really dry so I got some water and then went back to sleep.


I like spoonerisms, ever since I heard one when I was a wee child: peas and carrots, keys and parrots.
We had printer problems yesterday and so they replaced it with a fake bricks printer...uh I mean break fix.


Niina-gosoke ran practice again last night, because Ando-sensei had to back to his home town; seems his father is sick with cancer.
Past couple of days since the typhoon cleared out have been wonderful weather; warm and sunny and windy and really low humidity. Such a difference to not be drenched in sweat.
Niina-gosoke has me going full-bore translating the various iai pages as well as the Hoshoryu Saijutsu page because sai will start next month. He asked if I will start sai, and I think I managed to politely decline by saying I still have a long way to go mastering the sword, let alone starting up a different weapon.


Gotta love the day after a typhoon. Clear blue sky, low humidity, strong breeze, and Tokyo air that's actually breathable for once. Staring out the window at work to see majestic Mount Fuji rising into the cloudless sky, and realize it's payday! Ah the small joys of life.


James Randi is the ultimate skeptic. I remember him debunking psychis on That's Incredible! when I was in elementary school. He still offers the Million Dollar Challenge: "we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event." He should come to Thanksgiving at my parent's house...

typhoons suck

#13 is crawling its way over Tokyo, dumping rain in an attempt to look like recently flooded Europe or something. Umbrellas are great for keep the upper body dry, but from the knees down I got soaked. Kinda unpleasant, but at least my ass-kickin' cowboy boots have proven their worth once again. I love Wyoming.
Keiran made me a cool card for my birthday:RenBday.jpg
And Ericka put up some photos from Jeff & Kevin's Big Beefy Birthday back all those weeks ago.

tools that think

Jeff and Ericka hosted another meatfest BBQ at their place, starring a couple of giant slabs of pork. This time was special, though, because I handed over the tools. They are now the Keepers of the BBQ Tools. May the lord be merciful.
And here comes typhoon number 13...

mugai-ryu english homepage

Talked to Niina-gosoke last night and he gave me the go-ahead to spread the word about the English translations of the Mugai-ryu Iai-hyodo pages I made. Check them out at: http://renfield.net/iai


At what age do most people stop seeing patterns in the clouds? I was watching a couple of circus elephants juggle bicycles in a particularly impressive cumulous formation the other day, and was so lost in the display of dexterixy I almost got run over by one of those really big Mercedes Benz yakuza-mobiles. You know, the ones where they take your standard yacht-sized Benz EL-900000 and Brabas or AMG lowers it, puts incredibly wide tires on tiny little rims with the purple disc brakes showing through, tints all the windows, makes every body panel bubble and flare somewhere, and puts like 11 giant exhaust pipes on it to handle the even-more over-sized engine. Very convenient to drive in downtown Tokyo.

the photo my mom wanted

Small version of the photo my mom wanted. This is done mostly to check out Blogger Pro's file upload/imaging functionality.


GIVEYOURMEAT has gone Blogger Pro. There's no stopping us now.
Japan plods into the 21st century. I picked up my new Alien Registration Card today at the ward office (aka "gaijin card") and was pleasantly surprised to see registered foreign aliens in Japan are no longer fingerprinted! Of course the card still has my photo, signature, name, address, work address, and passport information, and I'm required to carry it at all times and show it to any law enforcement or government official whenever requested for any (or no) reason. Failure to do so is grounds for arrest and possible deportation. Ah, progress!
Seriously considering upgrading to Blogger Pro.
I also looked around at all the various cool blogs out there and decided...I don't want to expend any effort whatsoever in an attempt to get linked to any of them.
Hot and sweaty practice last night, and thanks to the shizankai on Sunday, my forms were all messed up -- everything too high and too much follow through. SIGH.
Put up some photos from yesterday's cutting practice. Tried nukiuchi a few times but it's still beyond me...I can't even consistently do one-handed cuts yet. Lots of messy cuts and flying straw. My goal for next time is 5 clean cuts in a row: both diagonals up and down, and one straight, smooth sideways cut.
Last night we had a small going-away dinner for Kokubun-san. He got transferred out of Tokyo and will be leaving next week. We went to an all-you-can-eat (otherwise known as a "viking" in Japanese) dinner place on the 31st floor of Cross Tower in Shibuya. Had a nice view of the fireworks in the bay!
Took a few really bad photos of my sword. This Digital Mavica was Sony's top-of-the-line write-to-floppy camera 2 years ago!
I'll have to bum a better camera off someone and get some more decent shots.
Went to Choshuya in Ginza this morning and the very amicable Tomoriki Imazu put a second seppa (washer) on my sword for free! Now it's nice and tight and I'm ready for practice...but I think I overdid it last night because my right shoulder is pretty sore. Gotta take it easy today.
Ericka has put up some photos from my birthday party.
Successfully managed to keep all my fingers attached last night in iai as it was the first practice with my new sword. The tsuba has a bit of play in it so I'll probably stick another seppa (washer) between the tsuba and tsuka to tighten it up. The leather wrap feels really good and the menuki are pretty thick so it's a solid grip, and man that blade sings when the cut angle is good. I like it.
The weekend was a raging success.
Saturday night had my 30th birthday party at Lucky -- everyone was in fine form in traditional Japanese yukata. Photos coming soon.
Sunday we had a koushukai at the Nikon Sports Gym, and then in the afternoon the sword dealer had his wares spread out, and I found my sword. Ended up paying 528,000 yen (about US$5000). Still have to take photos, but here's the stats:
Made in August 2000 in Sasshu, Kagoshima Prefecture, by Morimoto Moriatsu.
2-shaku, 3-sun, 5-bu (71.3 cm) length, 1.6 cm sori (curve), 850 grams, one mekugi, black leather handle wrap over white same (stingray skin), mixed fittings (silver fuchi and kashira, iron/gold (?) menuki, iron tsuba, and a sweet black and red/brown speckled saya (scabbard) with same wrap below the koiguchi. Not a great description but I'll post some photos soon.
First practice with it tonight: goal is to not remove any fingers!
OK, WWW.GIVEYOURMEAT.COM is up! Bookmark now!

Last night at iaido, Naganuma-sensei stopped by unannounced. We went through regular practice, and at the end he helped me for a few minutes with the first seated form, shin. He seemed surprised to see me at Friday practice:
"I saw a scooter outside and thought 'that looks familiar', but I didn't think you'd really come all the way out here for practice."
"It's not that far...I'm going to iai 4 days a week now. Can't get off a conference call on Thursday nights so only 4 days a week."
"What about aikido?"
"Gave up. No time outside of iaido!"
I guess he seemed a bit pleased, as he was the first one to get me into iaido, and he's a nut himself, practicing all the time for years.
Hiroko set up a dinner at an Okinawan food restaurant last night for my birthday. Damn good but that green veggie goya is way too bitter.
Had a dream that I was back in high school, it was really crowded, and I was late for class b/c I couldn't get my schedule. Plus my history teacher kept playing with a big knife.
www.giveyourmeat.com is almost working...
I used Verisign/Networks Solution's online customer support email form to submit the following request because the web forwarding I had set up didn't seem to be working. What follows is the single most bizzare email thread I've ever been in. I still can't determine whether I was getting responses generated by human beings, software, or both. Note how I am intentionally being rude and sarcastic, and using the inquisitions, all in an attempt to fool the VeriBot.

From: renfield.kuroda@morganstanley.com
Received: 07/31/2002 11:05pm Central Standard Time (GMT - 5:00 )
To: customerservice@networksolutions.com
Subject: I have a different dot com forwarding question
name: renfield kuroda
comment: isn't forwarding. www.giveyourmeat.com should be forwarding to http://renfield.net/blog.html but
it's still giving the under construction page.

x: 1
email: renfield.kuroda@morganstanley.com
domain: giveyourmeat.com
y: 12
topic_id: REG3DCF
topic: I have a different dot com forwarding question
type: NSI-managed
------ Please do not remove your unique tracking number! ------


Dear Mr. Renfield Kuroda ,
Thank you for contacting VeriSign.
With regard to your inquiry, our records indicate the that web forwarding service has already been activated. Everything is working on our end.

Please know that your inquiry is important to us, and we value your business.

Best Regards,

VeriSign, Inc.


I'm glad to hear that. Now can you do me a favor? Can you open a browser and type:
http://www.giveyourmeat.com in the URL and see what page loads?
When I try it, I get Verisign's Under Construction page. That, in my opinion, does NOT mean that "everything is working".

r e n


Dear Mr. Renfield Kuroda ,

Thank you for contacting VeriSign.
We have received your request to activate/modify your Web Forwarding.
In order to begin, it will be necessary for you to have your account number and password available. If you need to retrieve this information please go to the below link and click the "Forgot your Account Number or Password" link.
In order to activate/modify your Web Forwarding, please follow the instructions below:

1. Please visit our main site located at www.netsol.com
2. At the top of the page, click the "Account Manager" tab.
3. Under the "Returning Customers" header, input your account number and password, click "Login".
4. Click the domain name that you want to set up your Web Forwarding for.
5. Click the "Web Forwarding Service" link located beneath the yellow "Web Site Manager" button.
6. Click the "Dot Com Forwarding" radio button.
7. Input the domain name or IP address that you want your domain to forward to in the dialogue box provided, click "Go".

**It will take 24-48 hours for your forwarding to be activated**
Please know that your inquiry is important to us, and we value your business.

Best regards,
VeriSign, Inc.


Is this a joke? Or is this some kind of non-human, auto-response email?
Let me explain the situation very clearly:
* I paid you money for web forwarding
* Web Forwarding has been turned on to forward www.giveyourmeat.com to
* you (Verisign) have verified that the Web Forwarding service is functioning properly
* I have verified that it isn't. When I go to www.giveyourmeat.com, I get the Verisign Under Construction page.

r e n


Dear Mr. Renfield Kuroda ,

Thank you for contacting VeriSign.
If you have registered or modified domain information, these updates can not be seen immediately. Once your modifications have been completed, it will take 24-48 hours before your new information will be visible on the Internet. This 24-48 hour delay is due to zone file propagation.

The zone files, which update the Internet, are not transferred instantaneously. They take at least 24 hours to upload to the Main Root Servers which, in turn, spread information throughout the Internet. This can create delays of up to 48 hours before changes are visible in our WHOIS database, located at: http://www.netsol.com/cgi-bin/whois/whois

These updates are made at 12am & 12pm Eastern Standard Time.
Requests received and completed by these times will be included in the next zone file update. However, your record may not be visible in the VeriSign WHOIS database for 24-48 hours from the time of the zone file update.

To check WHOIS, please cut & paste the following URL into your browser or go to our main page and click "Whois Lookup" in the upper right hand corner:

Best regards,

VeriSign, Inc.


Once again this information is quite interesting, but entirely irrelevant. I have not changed any DNS information, I have paid for your Web Forwarding service. I assume this means that the server Verisign uses to host the domain www.giveyourmeat.com
gets updated with a redirect page, either at the server or browser level. I fail to see what replicating DNS information has to do with it.

I'll ask this again: can you open your browser and type www.giveyourmeat.com and see what page shows up? If you see Verisign's Under Construction page, the service ISN'T working.


r e n

P.S. I have now gotten responses from "NATIVITY001" and "GIRLIE001" -- are you actual human beings with names, or just (fairly) intelligent bots?


Dear Mr. Renfield Kuroda ,
Thank you for contacting VeriSign.
We have checked on our end and the forwarding is working fine. Please
double-check on your end.
Please know that your inquiry is important to us, and
we value your business.
Best regards,


VeriSign, Inc.


Thank you, "FORSYTH001".
Whatever you did, it now works: www.giveyourmeat.com
is now correctly forwarding to


r e n

P.S. You are a computer program, right? "FORSYTH001", "NATIVITY001" and
"GIRLIE001" are some kind of code/server version handles, eh? Or are you
all actual human beings who are just not allowed to respond to customer
inquiries in any way that deviates from some internal customer service
handbook? Well, human or machine, my problem has finally been fixed, so
thank you.


Dear Mr. Renfield Kuroda ,
Thank you for contacting VeriSign.
Just glad to be of service.
We appreciate your message and look forward to providing you with continued quality service in the future.

Best regards,

VeriSign, Inc.
Chimi's been working at Amazon.co.jp for a few weeks now, and her first project is finally live: DVD Movie Zone.
Iaido last night was awesome. Ando-sensei couldn't come, so in his place Niina-gosoke came! This is the first time I've been in practice with Gosoke actually instructing. There were only seven of us in class and everyone else was at least 3dan. Gosoke was strict but his teaching style was "old school" I was later told. He stood at the front, we all spread out around the room, and he called out the first form: "shin!" We all kept repeating the form and every now and then he'd shout something at someone: "Oi! That's how we teach the beginners, but if you move your feet that slow, you might as well not even draw your sword! Don't waste everyone's time if you're not going to think about what you're doing!"
At one point he was accosting the person behind me and then suddenly: "Oi, ren! What the hell you think you're doing? Bigger swing! Bigger! And...you're now 1kyu!"
Huh?, I mean "Yes sir! Thank you sir!"
So I got promoted to 1kyu, which means I can officially go for shodan (blackbelt) in October.
The practice went on like that for 2 hours. We went through all five basic seated kata, then the five basic standing kata. Each time we'd keep repeating the kata and every now and then he'd shout something at someone. A couple of times he came right up to me and corrected my footwork, not cutting me any slack and treating me like everyone else, even though I wasn't even dan yet and everyone else in the room was way above my level.
When doing "sa" and "yu" (seated forms in which you turn 90 degrees, draw, and cut in one move) Gosoke made a clear distinction between doing the form for competition -- show every move clearly -- and doing the form to cut down an opponent -- fast, smooth, no pauses. Again he didn't cut me any slack, telling us "we teach the beginners to do each little move; grab the handle, rise to your knees, draw a little, raise the leg, turn, draw some more...but you do that and you'll get your hand chopped off before you even turn to face your opponent. He's not sitting next to you drinking tea, he's charging you, sword drawn! React! draw-turn-cut!"
His final words to us were to practice with our bodies and our brains. It's not enough to show up to practice and do the moves, we have to THINK about what we're doing: where is the opponent, why do we turn like this, how does this flow? Given all the time it takes to get to and from practice and actually hold the sword and do iai, it's pointless if we're not going to think about what we're doing. And it's not just during practice, either. Standing on the train, eating lunch, sitting on the toilet; always thinking about iai. What if that guy charged me? What kind of attack would he use? How could I react? Where do I move? What if I try holding like this? The body without the mind is just meat moving in space, and there's no art in that, so we have to cultivate the mind (spirit) as well, and then the movements will come.
By the end of practice we were all drenched in sweat (yesterday was also the hottest day of the summer so far!) but glad we made it. I realize I have a LONG way to go...
As I will hopefully be spending more time cutting real things with real swords, I've added a Shizan page.
One more photo up at the bottom of the page.
Being an upper-middle class white boy of privilege, it's good to get a dose of old-fashioned discrimination now and then to keep reality in perspective. Today I went to the Minato Ward Office to renew my Alien Registration Card. All resident foreigners in Japan are required to carry this photo id with them at all times. Furthermore, we are required to show this card whenever any officer of the law and/or government representative demands it. Failure to have the card and/or failure to show it when requested are grounds for arrest, and most likely deportation.
Kannai-san gave me a couple more photos from the shizankai last month. Next one is in two weeks!
Shock! Kiyokawa said that he's already sold his sword! Seems when he was showing it to me last week, someone else happened to see it as well and was so taken with it, he gave Kiyokawa 100,000 yen on the spot as down payment! Who the hell carries around that much cash? If he wants the sword that badly, he can have it! I just hope I find a decent one this Sunday.
Fun-filled weekend:
Went to iai on Friday and as Kubota-sensei wasn't there Tanaka-sensei and Sanno-san showed up. Yet another hot and sweaty practice.
On Saturday Hiroko was off doing girlie things so I sat around and watched Orange County, which Nate lent to me last week. Then I wandered around Shibuya and decided to finally go see SW2. Whilst sitting on the street before the movie, trying not to move in the oppressive heat and humidity, Kev and Z walked by. It was Z's birthday and they were on their way to get some curry for lunch. So I joined them for a quick lassi and then went to catch the movie. I was pleasantly surprised: this movie was better than didn't suck, it was actually a good movie. Corny and played at times, yes, but a good movie nonetheless. Finished up the evening with a quick dinner at good old Lucky, and then back home.
Sunday Hiroko and I spent some quality time shopping in Shinjuku and ended up buying her a new yukata and all the trimmings. I got a nice junbei and new obi, too. All in preparation for my 30th birthday party next week.
Tonight after iai I was riding my scooter home and I rode through a pile of puke in the middle of a cross-walk. And that's all I have to say about that.
I hunger for a Ninja Burger.

Last night at iai 2 interesting things:
1) Taka brought his first sword in as I'm thinking of buying it. Beautiful balance and fantastic blade. And this thing absolutely SINGS. Barely swing it and it whistles high and loud. It's almost silly, but certainly instills confidence that the blade is angled correctly and cutting well.
2) I couldn't get the cut for the kata no-okuri correct, so Ando-sensei got two bokken (wooden swords) and proceeded to bonk me on the head several times until I figured out the parry and resulting swing.
How many times on this blog will I post "Damn it sure was a hot and sweaty iaido practice"? Probably as long as the hot and sweaty summer lasts, I figure.
Last night Kanai-san was back after a 2 week break and she drilled us in basics for almost the entire 2 hours. My cuts are small and my blade angle is terrible. Much work to be done!

Beware all ye who deny the power of Phil.
My brother informs me that he now has 2 foster kids bringing the total number of children in their house to 4 (including my brother, of course.) Oh yeah, and a trampoline.
While the newest addition to my family will very soon be, I hope, a real sword. Fingers crossed that I find something good: August 4th the sword dealer is coming to peddle his wares after practice.
Put up a few photos from the shizankai yesterday. I learned my lesson: take photos from in front. I have an entire roll of shots in which you can see someone's back as they execute some cut on some target that you can't see. So next time I conquer my fear and stand in front of the targets in the danger zone, risking life and limb and the occasional piece of straw in the ear.
Went to master's on Saturday night and had the best yakitori (meat on a stick) in Japan. Melinda is in town for a couple weeks; she's working at an international school in Brazil and applied for a job at a school in Tokyo for next year. Good chance that she'll get it, so she may be living close next year!
Eric's also here for a couple months (lawyers!) living down the street so we grab dinner now and then. Supposedly he and Melinda and the gang relived their Ichikawa days by drinking at Master's and then singing karaoke all night. Scary.
Steve and Oide's 9-month old Kane was in fine form slobbering all over the place, and Hugh and Mami's monster-sized gremlin Michael Toshiki was a mad ball of energy and noise -- he don't like people too much but damn if he ain't a cutie. And he's as big as Master's 3 year-old daughter even though he's half her age.
Shibuya group photo is up! Who's the sketchy white guy in the bottom right?
Yesterday I went deep into the sweaty depths of Saitama for my first shizankai. Here's what I learned:

  • real swords are fun!

  • bad blade angle won't cut, not matter how strong you are

  • yoko ichi-monji (one-handed horizontal cut) is non-trivial

  • nuki-uchi (cut from the draw) is seriously non-trivial

I managed to butcher a few rolls; had one nice yoko ichi-monji that I'm proud of because it was a full roll resting on a stand (not stuck on a stand spike to hold it in place), but it took 4 tries to nail it. Almost cut a full roll nuki-uchi but I'll blame the roll by claiming it was dry and very tough. Next month I'll try a half-roll nuki-uchi standing, and maybe sitting, too. Actually next month I think I'll just work on half-rolls with single-hand cuts. Fun!
A seriously sweaty practice last night. And since it's now summer vacation, half of the gym we use at an elementary school has been transformed into changing rooms for the kids who use the pool during the summer. So we've got half a gym and not much space.
After practice Taka and I got some Chinese food and talked smack for a while. Bummer none of the other university students showed up for practice, as I got paid yesterday and so it was my treat. Tomorrow is the shizankai where I get to try cutting stuff for real...will attempt to avoid taking off my own foot.
Today I spent all day attempting to renew my driver's license. As much as I'd love to blame the maddening Japanese bureaucracy, the reason it took all day was entirely my fault. First and foremost, I got a ticket and therefore lost my "gold" status and was relegated to the dregs of "regular driver", meaning that instead of hitting the local police station, eye check, cash payment, photo new license in 15, I had to go to one of the two designated license renewal centers and revel in the joy that is the one hour lesson. Secondly, I didn't read carefully enough and showed up at 11:04, four minutes past the cloes of morning registration, and was told to come back for the afternoon session. At 1:30. Doh!
So I got myself very familiar with the various backstreets of Kanda. First I tested the Starbucks Theory (which is a variation of the McDonald's theory): walk in any one direction for 10 minutes and you'll hit a Starbucks. I set off north-northwest and in a few minutes passed...a place that sells swords! This I had to check out. I went in and they mostly had blades for display, some heavy cutters, but nothing good for iai. Had a nice chat with the woman, gave her my card and told her what kind of sword I was looking for, and continued on my way. Sure enough, not 3 blocks down I spied the old green and black.
Lunch consisted of a banana and a tall rhumba frap, and then back to the license center went I. First in line, smiling photo, down to class, watch the video (oh, look out for that va-...) careful when turning right, speed limits are set for a reason, blah blah blah, and a good four and a half hours after I set off this morning, I had my new license in hand.
I am now determined to get no tickets for the next 5 years just so I don't ever have to do that again.
Ericka's put some photos from the Gyoza Fest up in her Ofoto Album (simple registration required but don't sweat it, eh.)
Found out in Iaido last night that August 4 the sword dealer is coming, so this may be my chance to get a shinken (real sword)!
Lower Manhattan Development Corporation has put up initial designs for the redevelopment of the former World Trade Center site. I hope reason prevails and they rebuild a commercial/retail/social/residential space that revitalizes downtown. A memorial is necessary, sure, but the "hallowed ground" argument is in my opinion a bit over-emotional. Not to belittle the tragedy, but the best thing for Manhattan, and for the memory of those lost, is to rebuild NYC as the economic and cultural dynamo it has always been. Restore the thousands of jobs lost, give people more places to live, relax, shop, meet, and be entertained. Remember, of course, but also revitalize.
Typhoon #7 come and gone. Not very interesting, actually.

Last night in iai I realized my footwork needs serious help. I blame aikido. If I stuck with kendo I'd have no problem keeping both feet parallel, knees forward. But aikido has drilled into me the hanmi stance where the back foot is turned out. Great for balance, terrible for keeping my hips forward and driving sword cuts straight. For the next month I have decided to focus on my damn feet in an attempt to keep a shoulder-wide, feet parallel, knees forward stance.
Also, I have recently been consuming more than my fair share of mozarella, tomato, and avocado salad with Italian dressing. Damn good stuff, that.
More photos from the Iaido Festival and Tournament!
It was a weekend of gyoza. In expected G.Y.M. fashion, we managed to stuff and consume about 1000 gyoza on Saturday night. All involved where bloated and happy. This seems to be a theme: make lots of food, eat too much. I think Ericka took some photos so I'll link them up when available.
Interesting Mugai-ryu Lineage page up in Finland.
    Typhoons, pros and cons:
    • rain

    • rain

    • rain

    • wind

    • rain

    • hardly anyone comes to practice

Last night there were only three of us -- two 3dans and me -- and Ando-sensei, so we got basically one-to-one instruction. First he reviewed torei, the seated bow to the sword. He asked if I knew that I was a bit of topic of discussion because I won my division but Gosoke wasn't thrilled since during torei I held the sword with my right hand from below when tying the sageo (cord attached to the scabbard.) I felt like an idiot, but then Ando-sensei sort of implied that various instructors haven't been as strict in teaching torei as they should. To be honest I remember Kanai-san teaching us to hold the sword with our right hand as I did, but then after the tournament she apologized and taught us to hold the sword with the right hand from above, thumb keeping the tsuba (hand guard) in place. So I get the feeling that Gosoke was more upset with the instructors for not teaching strictly than he was with me for doing it that way. Anyway I'll be more careful at the national tournament in November!
Then Ando-sensei started with one of the more advanced sitting kata, inchuyo, really focusing on the parry and counter-attack movements. Halfway through the class he saw me struggling to keep up and finally asked me what my rank was, and he seemed surprised when I told him 2kyu. "2kyu?! Oh, well in that case you're doing fine." After class Kiyokawa-san told me Ando-sensei probably thought I was at least shodan or 2dan, but since I'd only joined a couple of months ago he couldn't be sure.
Today, the day after Typhoon #6 ripped across Japan, the sky is blue and clear, the sun is bright, and it is hot Hot HOT. Like 35C and 90% humidity hot.
Phil Moore is the bomb. He's Perl Guru and all around genius at Morgan Stanley, and he's one hella-wacky dude, too. My hero.
Bookmark this page; best English news about Japan.
Those crazy students are at it again. Everyone's putting their profile online (left navigation, 3rd link from the top).
Last night's practice was just sweaty. It was a good 30 degrees C with about 90% humidity. My hands were so sweaty I could barely hold onto my sword. Not fun, and it's only getting hotter. Yeah global warming.
Too much BBQ at Jeff and Ericka's. We seem to do that on a regular basis.
Iai tonight; wonder if Kanai-san's ok. She's been out for a week. Probably over-doing it.
Kanai-sensei asked me to write up a blurb about the iai weekend, so I did. Then Hiroko fixed my ridiculous Japanese, I translated it into English (how wierd is that, translating your own writing back into your own native language?) and the result is a rambling masterpiece. The big unintelligible mess on the first half of the page is Japanese, in case you thought your browser was hosed.
I hate mosquitoes, but they love me. So I got The Savanna Canopy Net and now I sleep like jungle royalty.
Couple of new photos of Iai practice up at the student's site.
For those who can't read Japanese, go directly to this frame. The caption next to the freaky white guy reads: "This is ren, who took first in the 3kyu division. He's not a student, but he often comes to practice and busts his ass just like one."
To make a long story short: I won! To make a long story long: The tournament started with some demonstrations by Shiokawa Gosoke, Tanaka-sensei, Naganuma-sensei, Ando-sensei, and others. Takana-sensei did some powerful tameshigiri and Naganuma-sensei did some as well, including an incredible okuden ("secret" or super-advanced) technique: seated with the sword lying to his right, with his right hand he smacks the saya so that it goes skittering behind him, leaving the unsheathed sword where it is, and then in the same movement grabs the sword (blade still pointing back) and does a rising right-to-left diagonal cut. It was so fast I don't think I got a good picture, but we'll see when I get the film developed. I guess the idea behind that move is that even in the least agressive (most defenseless) posture, with the sword sheathed and resting on your right, it's still possible to defend yourself. Sword sheathed and resting on your left is more agressive and of course wearing the sword in the belt is the most agressive and defensible position.
As for the tournament, I started in the E block of the lowest (3kyu) division. I had 4 wins to advance to the semi-finals, which where held in the afternoon. But first, the group competition! The point here was to make the judges laugh. We did ok with party streamers and bunny ears, but some of the teams really went the extra kilometer: 5 guys in bathing suits, pool caps, and goggles doing synchronized sword, several remakes of old samurai dramas complete with bad jokes, a troop of monkeys, and general insanity. After embarassing ourselves thoroughly (and losing, which was a good thing since we were only prepared for 3 rounds), I had the semi-final and then the final. I choked a bit during the final: in the second kata I did, called sui-getsu, you draw the sword back horizontally and leave the tip still in the saya (sheath) while sliding back with the right foot to avoid a downward cut, and then turning the hips back to the left and driving the sword horizontally straight into your oponent's abdomen. The worst thing to do is pull back the sword too much so that the tip comes out of the saya and drops; it's key to keep the sword on the same horizontal plane the whole time. But instead I didn't pull enough and almost got my sword caught not quite unsheathed enough. Luckily I am the master of gomakasu (tough to translate, but something like "getting away with" or "making do") and just did a slow draw until the sword cleared, and made sure the forward thrust was flat, straight, and deep. I guess it worked since I won in a 2-1 final judging. And my prize? A case of bananas! Hiroko was so proud. I introduced Kanai-sensei to Hiroko in the hopes that she could help convince Hiroko that I NEED to buy a real sword soon!
After that we went to Tony's down the street from Jeff and Ericka's ostensibly to watch Brazil trample Germany, but I was there for the food. We fired up the BBQ and grilled some chicken and steaks, had Jeff make a mountain of his famous mashed potatoes with the potatoes we got from grandma, and in typical fashion ate way too much.
Finally made it to the yearly koshukai (practice where all the different schools get together) after getting lost on my scooter for a good half hour. Good practice in the morning and then all of a sudden I'm being told I just made 2kyu! A bunch of people tested for shodan in the afternoon, and there was even a sandan test -- hope the photos of the (test cutting) come out ok. Also found out that there's a tameshigiri practice in late July; that should be fun. Tanaka-sensei said I can borrow a sword since I don't have one, but said that if I bent it I have to pay for it, and then Kanai-sensei told me how easily they bend when you cut badly, and then Tanaka-sensei said she should know, as she's always bending them. Seems she had to do tameshigiri for her 4dan test last time, but didn't pass so she's doing it again in October. And then as we were settting up for the tournament tomorrow Gosoke told me to get 1kyu next time and go for shodan in October! Doh! Everyone else was saying I should go for shodan this year, but when Gosoke says, I guess I have no choice.
So the tournament is tomorrow and since I'm in the lowest ranked group there's alot of people, but most won't show up so I was told I've already made it to the quarter finals. We go two at a time and the winner (3 judges call it red or white, majority wins) moves to the next round. My first opponent is female, and I've already been told (by Kanai-sensei, who's judging tomorrow but not my block) that judges tend to encourage female participation and therefore are more lenient, so I've really gotta nail it. Speed isn't required so I have to make my cuts big, keep my eyes steady, and make sure my chiburi (cleaning the blood off the blade before sheating) isn't wimpy...we'll see how it goes.
Causing me father endless amounts of hassle as I'm getting him to finally transfer renfield.net to me; right now I'm just admin contact, but he's registrar. Sorry!
Pet peeve time: waiting for a package to be delivered, and someone had to be home because I owed 850 yen COD. So I use the handy automatic push-button phone packaging system to have the package delivered today in the AM, knowing that the lovely and ever-dependable Lai would be, as she is every Thursday, busily cleaning my apartment. When I came home tonight, 850 yen sat on the coffee table with a note from Lai saying that the package never came. Checking the mailbox I saw the delivery slip: package delivered 12:43pm. Checked the answering machine: message from driver at 12:30pm saying he probably couldn't make it before noon. Called the package center and managed to get a human being. Explained to her that, as far as I know, AM actually implies BEFORE noon, to which she agreed. By some miracle of customer service she got the driver to deliver the package within the next hour. Package received: 8:15pm.
Last night's iaido in Akihabara was kind of freaky but good practice. There was little me (3kyu), another "beginner" (1kkyu), and EVERYONE else was 3dan or above (read: shogun battle masters, the lot of them). After basic practice we ran through the kata for the tournament on Sunday. Head instructor calls out "OK, 3kyu and below...no one here, right?" And I meekly proclaim by rank. All heads swivel and I am called to the front of the pack. We run through the 3 kata I need to know (shin, munezukushi, and enyo) and then before I know what's going on we're running through the dan-level kata, most of which I've never done and several of which I've never even SEEN as they don't teach them until you're at least 3dan. Naganuma-sensei finally came up to me and asked "You don't know these kata do you?" and I jus shook my head. "Don't worry about it, just move to the back and try to follow along...you're drenched in sweat! Don't stress so much!" I thought I had been called up to the front to get drilled before the tournament, but that came later...after kata practice we split into individual practice and I shuffled into a corner out of the way of all the real swords and started practicing. All the instructors, meanwhile, had gathered to practice judging for the tournament. Of course they needed to judge someone, so I and the 1kkyu girl acted as competitors five or six rounds. I thought the judges were just making it up because I actually won 3 of the rounds, but later Taka told me he thought I actually did win a couple of them. Very doubtful it was true, but it was just what I needed to motivate me to practice. General practice ended at 9pm but we could use the gym until 10pm, so Taka and I stayed around working on a few points: me, chiburi, him, really fast draw and cut. Finally the security guard kicked us out at ten and we cruised back to Ebisu to get some Ippudo ramen and talk crap until 11:30pm.
By the way the package I got was another iaido uniform: shorter hakama because I have stumpy little legs and a cotton top, much cooler (as in temp, not the Fonz) for summer practice.
I really hate mosquitoes. Woke up at three-thirty in the morning when a mosquito was dive-bombing close enough to my ear to drag me from my gentle slumber. Immediately noticed my left forearm and right shoulder were itchy. Got up, found the muhi, drank some water, turned on the electric mosquito repeller and started searching the net for mosquito nets for the bed.