Amy and the Rudicks then showed up, with Amy happy to bound around the loft. The BBQ was fired up and the traditional pork loins were set upon the grill whilst we warmed up with slices of fine domestic beef. Kairi and Ericka came soon after, giving Amy a playmate and completing a fine collection of children's toy cellphones.
Others gathered and the food piled up. We made an extra beef run, complete with Alaskan King Crab legs, revived the BBQ for its Second Coming, and put away even more food. Complete and utter gastric destruction; no one went home empty-handed and the fridge is still packed with left-overs.
Took advantage of the day off to accomplish three things:
- Went up to Saitama to practice at Shinbukan. More Kenjutsu. Everyone else was practicing iai and Kuroda-sensei asked me if I had my sword with me. I didn't bring it, assuming I wouldn't be doing iai for months. So all I had was my wooden sword. He figured good enough and started showing the first iai form. All the iai forms are from iaigoshi: fold your left leg under you, such that your left heel is in your butt, then put your right heel in front of your left knee, keeping your right knee off the ground. So yeah, you're sitting on your left foot. And yeah, it hurts. But wait, it gets better. From this position, rise up into a low stance, right foot forward, left knee off the ground. But don't stand up, you have to basically float up; ukimi. Literally "to float." Needless to say, the top of my left foot is nicely sore and swollen.
- Came back from practice and put the Cuisinart to use: made about 3 kilograms of Mama's Famous Fake Chicken Liver Pate (carmelized onions, string beans, walnuts.) Cuisinart, as you know, is French for "Kitchen Power Tool" and it is the single greatest invention since the Intelligent Meat Fork.
- At my request, Hiroko cooked her stunningly good fried chicken in sweet/sour marinade. Add in a spinach salad, miso soup, and fresh rice and we had us a meal.
Speaking of which, Ramesh now officially owes me money, as not only did he not run the marathon in under 5 hours, but he didn't even bother to go to Hawaii! Beers on him, but it's up to me to collect!
This is Andy. Andy came to Japan 18 years ago with a UK new wave pop band. Now he goes to the Tsukiji fish market every morning, buys up all the leftover good stuff, and sells it at Shin-hinomoto, right under the train tracks at Yurakucho station.
He is tall of height, quick of wit, and a damn fine chap who sells the best and cheapest seafood in the dingiest salaryman hangout.
Research X-Mas party, so at the Tokyo American Club first we went bowling and my team came in 3rd! Woowoo!
Then we headed over to the banquet hall and had some food and bingo insanity.
After that we were singing karaoke up the street until I finally dragged myself home.
Check out the photos.
Ako from the NY Japan desk is in town, so she and I and Scott went to Akihabara for uh, technology, um...research. Yeah, that's it.
We did the standard tour, checked out the cool TVs (Ako really needs to buy a new TV) and had a killer lunch at some hole-in-the-wall. The owner was showing off his festival photos and told us to come back in May.
Saw a totally ridiculous protest march: a bunch of college students complaining about not having adequate health coverage and benefits as part-time workers. Um, maybe they're unclear on the concept: it's called 'part-time', as opposed to 'full-time', i.e. "I work for a living" versus "I leech off my parents and earn just enough spending money to keep me in Gucci and karaoke."
Sorry kids, no pity from me. Here's a novel idea: you are students, right? How about maybe studying something interesting and actually becoming a useful member of society?
Went to work and spent the morning in the bathroom, doubled over in pain. Didn't eat much. Came home early, curled up fetal on the couch.
Haven't had white-hot-iron-poker-in-the-abdomen pain in months, and will be happy to never have it again. Must check expiration date on apple sauce...
Did kenjutsu today for the first time at Shinbukan. Actually, all I did was suburi, practicing one basic cut over and over. Elbow was tweaking, but didn't hurt nearly as badly as my legs. Try this: stand with your feet together, move the right foot way forward and face left, such that your toes and heels are all on one line. Now turn your left knee way, way in until you're facing forward again. And lower your left knee until your left calf and right thigh are parallel to the ground. And don't let either heel touch the ground. Hold that position with practicing basic cuts. For two hours.
As for my path, thought I would have Honbu all to myself because Miyasawa started teaching the Friday classes at Tokiwa down the street, but as it turns out the gym was full of chairs for an assembly, so everyone ended up coming to Honbu. He and Kaeda spent their time with a new dude, two people watched class, and I just zoned out and practiced for an hour and a half. Recently been trying to figure out how to use my left hand/arm/side of the body, not my right, to draw smoothly and quickly. Definitely Kuroda-sensei's book gave me a hint: the left wrist needs to not be rolled out; keep the left armpit closed, elbow back, open the left chest and keep the wrist straight, dropping the saya back and down.
That whole 'move without moving' thing is pretty farking weird, but here's how I explain it people:
Extend both arms straight out in front, palms together. Now swing open your arms so that your arms are extended out to the sides. Your arms are now open 180 degrees. Each hand moved 90 degrees. OK, so do it again, but this time, as the arms open, pull the right foot back, turning the body to face to the right, moving in sync with the right arm. When you're done, you should again have the arms extended out to your sides, open 180 degrees, only this time you're facing right, not front. Notice the position of the left hand. If you do it carefully, you can move such that the left hand stays fixed in space. But you opened your left arm; it moved 90 degrees from its original position. Get it? Move without moving.
After practice I had a mad craving for sweet & sour pork, so went with Gosoke and Ohtsuka-san and Wakabayashi-kun to the cheap-ass greasy-floored Chinese restaurant at Kanda station, and because I was really hungry I also had spicy shrimp.
As a matter of fact, this is the coolest toy currently in my possession.
Red laser projects image of keyboard on my flat desk. Then all I do is type. Touch typing takes on a whole new meaning with this thing, but it's damn fun to use.
Naturally it has a battery and cables to hook up to all the various palms and portables for road warrior use.
Got a voicemail on my cellphone:
"Heah it's Dave...I'm at the airport in Tokyo now...I gotta meet this IBM lady and then go to the hotel...so maybe we can have dinner later, cause I don't feel too tired. The hotel is...The Royal, Park...something. Near the TC...? In the middle, y'know, of Tokyo. OK. Bye."So I email Hiroko in an attempt to decipher this enigma. She writes back:
Well, you're related to him by blood.She is great. I am not worthy.
Royal Park Hotel in Hakozaki, close to TCAT (Tokyo City Air Terminal).
I called them and left him a message to call us at home or my mobile when he checks in this evening.
I am great.
After that I went up to Yutenji to have dinner with Smallwood. We went back to his place to make sure his new sound card was working. By playing Half-life 2. Let me use my fine command of the English language to explain how good this game is: holy fucking shit.
And that's about all you need to know. The machine gun and rocket launcher are cool, but not nearly as much fun as using the gravity gun to:
- whiz circular saw blades through multiple targets
- knock furniture into shards
- splatter paint cans
- smack around dead bodies hanging from bungie cords
- throw milk crates
This game makes we want to buy a PC just to be able to play it!
Inoue-sensei, who runs Hiroko's Fighting Fitness Kyokushin Karate Gym. We went to a local Korean restaurant for his 36th birthday and packed far too many people into a tiny space. Everyone was generally muscle-bound (including a pro boxer who was huge) and really nice. The women in particular are generally insane.
Went to Namikawa Heibei in the morning with the gang, and bought tons of stuff.
In the afternoon we went to Honbu (with a quick haircut detour) for training, and then after training we naturally went to the all-u-can-eat-&-drink place.
Nothing like a viking buffet to get the blood flowing!
National holiday, so Hiroko and I cleaned. Cleaned the vacuum cleaner, took the covers of the bed and couch and went to the laundromat to wash them. Did lots of laundry.
In the evening we met up with Jenn at the Keio Plaza and wandered around Shinjuku looking for a certain sushi place. Couldn't find it, so went into the place with the biggest frozen fish head outside.
If New York pigeons are flying rats, then Tokyo crows are flying coyotes. They are big, smart, and nasty. They'll tear through trashbags, abscond with small pets and children, and smoke and gamble all night, shrieking up quite a racket.
The one thing they don't like is other crows, dead. So Hiroko, a veritable wellspring of random knowledge, commanded me to find a fake dead crow. And lo! For twenty bucks I got a life-sized, plastic fake dead crow.
He's hanging stoicly on the balcony, and I swear since he's been put up I haven't even seen one crow in the near vicinity, though I can hear them far off in the distance.
Now I wonder if I could find a fake dead New Religion peddling old woman to hang on the front porch?
Went shopping Shibuya with Hiroko. I wanted to fix my broken watch band, and she wanted black leather boots. Turns out my watch band is no longer made and they have to check with the factory. Meanwhile I spotted the most stylin' Marc Jacobs red rubber, high heel, non-slip boots and Hiroko simply had to buy them. Ah, to consume. Small is the economic role we play, but proudly do we play it.
Also hit Muji for various supplies like a big cushion on which to sit, an incense holder, small useful plastic case, and bath salts that smell like a hot spring resort's fine soaking.
Back home it was an evening of massive cooking. Hiroko made meat pies and curry and I slaved away caramelizing onions for an hour to make a double batch of my mama's famous fake chicken liver pate. Calling it that doesn't do it justice though. Blend carmelized onions, string beans, walnuts, and hard-boiled eggs into a paste and eat with your favorite crackers. It is stunningly good and damn addictive. And probably healthier than anything else I can inhale.
Went over to Higashi Koenji to have Hiroshima-style Okonomiyaki with Stevie and Eriko and Hye-won and Yon-sama and Eriko's family.
After dinner we walked over to Stevie's place and talked about the crazy times we had in Seoul. I brought the photos I took when we were there 10 years ago and totally embarassed Hye-won.
Hye-won and her husband, the famous Korean Idol Yon-sama!
Ren and Hye-won
The Wonder Twins
Went to Yurakucho after practice to meet Stevie and his cousin Hye-won from Korea and her husband and everyone else.
Haven't seen Hye-won in like 10 years, since I went to Seoul with Ivan and Stevie and Hye-won showed us all around. I have a totally traumatized image of Korea now, because all I did was hang out with Hye-won and her friends, drink, and eat, and drink.
Hye-won's now 8 months pregnant, so she's not drinking for now, but she's making up for it by eating!
His buddy Jud's write up was so good, I am blogging it here. Without permission, I might add.
Last Saturday, Lee and I attended the "Night of the Heavyweights" boxing match at Madison Square Garden. The featured match was a fight between a guy named Ruiz and the pride of Poland, Andrew Golota. The crowd was filled with thousands of Polish folk - faces painted, draped in red & white flags, yelling angrily in Polish (at least it sounded angry) and all absolutely bombed.
Lee, very proud of his Polish heritage, was like a kid in a candy store. As the night progressed, Lee proceeded to order trays of champagne for all of his Polish brothers sitting in the nosebleed seats in section 413. They were a bit confused at first and were not sure if they should thank Lee or kick his ass, but after explaining that he was a fellow Pole, they gave him a hug and chugged champagne together. (If you have not been to a boxing match before - they serve champagne like it is some kind of classy event, even though the crowd is roughly the same crew that hangs out in OTBs, with more fights in the seats than in the ring).
As the night progressed, Lee collected more and more Polish paraphernalia - every time Lee went to get a drink or go to the bathroom, he would return with a new Polish t-shirt, hat or flag given to him by a new friend. (The most interesting item he came back with was a doctor working for the polish mob, who gave Lee a business card and let us know that we could call him if we ever needed medical attention but required something more "discreet" than a hospital. I am not kidding - this actually happened).
At about 11, I turned around and found Lee leading a group of about 100 men and women in a Polish fight song. At midnight, Lee was at the front of a group of Polish people threatening to beat down some poor Ruiz fan. As I walked out of the Garden, my last image of the event was watching Lee crowd-surfing on top of a sea of people dressed in red and white.
I am sorry the rest of you were not able to witness Lee in all his glory - it was truly awesome.
Of course, to do a properly controlled experiment I'll have to spend one week eating donuts right before bed, another week playing with action figures before I go to bed, another week reading comic books before going bed, etc. and see if any of them cause me to drop off to sleep more quickly than normal, too.
Such is the life I live, dedicated to the pursuit of scientifically backed truth.
By the same director as Tasogare Seibei, and a very similar story: average Joe samurai, the woman he's always loved by can't admit it, the clash between old-world samurai and Western modernization, a challenge to friendship, a final duel, a secret technique. Not as good a movie as Seibei, but also better in some different ways. Not very much fighting; this is not a samurai flick. Someone told me it's a story told much more from a woman's point of view, and I sort of get that now that I've seen it. Anyway if you liked Seibei and Ame-agaru, you'll like this one. Assuming you ever get the chance to see it.
Everyone else cut ok, too. Presley was pummelled from aikido the day before, so he was all sore but doing ok. Sakaguchi-san cut pretty well, too, and he brought a couple of killer wakizashi that he's selling for super cheap. His sword shop "Mugaido" will be open in Takadanobaba soon. He's going to cater to practitioners, so unlike most uptight arty sword shops, he'll sell to iai practitioners who want to get a feel for the sword before they buy it, etc. Can't wait for his shop to open. He said he's got a cutter from a modern smith in Chiba that is an absolute light saber that he can get for a ridiculous price. I told him my custom-forged cutter will be coming next month and he just smiled and said "When your sword comes, we'll compare, and then we'll see which one you want to keep."
After practice I went back to Shibuya with Presley and bought him a hotdog, talking smack as we walked down the hill from Aoyama. Nice weather so the crowds were out in full fall fashion, so we swivel-headed at Hachiko Crossing while he waited for his 7:30. Conclusion: Japanese chicks are in general too damn skinny, and if you look up the word 'grace' in a Japanese dictionary, there is most definitely no mention of 'walking in high heels' for most of the knee-knocking female population.
The old man said "This is the jingasa the general wore when he was hunting wild boar in the forest."
It must be true because no one can make up a story that cool-sounding.
It's covered in chicken feathers, and in surprisingly good shape considering how old it must be.
Got up reasonable early and got down to Harajuku to check out the flea market at the temple. Andy was already there and professed his deep disappointment at the selection of stuff. Still, we wandered around and managed to grab some cool stuff; cufflinks, nice kimono, jingasa (helmet/hat) covered in feathers...
Got gyoza for lunch and then walked back to Nishi Azabu for some cake and iced tea before heading home. Ted went off to meet a client for dinner and Will come over to be fed. Surprised Hiroko because she didn't realize he's in town. Ate too much chocolate cake before calling it a night.
You can track him via his runner id: 38042.
I will be cheering him on from the comfort of my bed, stomach full of carbo-loaded pasta in his honor.
We then went on a video card fact-finding mission, grabbing lunch before getting Ivan a new video card and heading back to his house to have dinner and install the card to verify Doom 3's smooth polygon blood-flying.
Conan and bunch of other folks came over for a BBQ. It was raining all day and the coldest day yet this year, but that didn't stop and unending march of meat. Ivan supplied the cow, which was followed by pig, and mushrooms, and ribs...Miyuki brought sake and proceeded to drink it all herself. At some point we remembered the corn on the cob and the potatoes in the oven, and then Masa and her friend came by once everyone had gone home and with Presley finished off most of it, taking the rest home.
It was not a second too soon that I scampered out of work at about 7 and headed down to honbu dojo. No one was around so I let myself in and practiced for over an hour before Gosoke came followed shortly by Miyasawa, cramming in as much practice as he can before his 4dan exam next month.
Trained until about 9:30, with Gosoke giving pointers on noto and other fineries, before heading to the station to get some Chinese food. I have had an unsatiable craving for sweet & sour pork for weeks, and the more I eat it, the more I want to eat it.
Chatted with Gosoke about what it means to practice; to practice for yourself or for someone else (against someone else.) Without putting too fine a point on it, I don't care how "good" you are, if the only reason you're swinging that sword is to be better than someone else, to beat someone else, to prove something to someone else, you'll never get "good." You may become proficient at cutting and swinging, but if that's all you're interested in, try a machete. It's not some deeply spiritual concept of "the path" of martial arts or anything. It's really quite simple: it's about having heart.
Or, to put it more bluntly, are you being an asshole? Someone once told me "Brown, black, white, pink, small, large...assholes come in all shapes, sizes and colors. But an asshole is still an asshole."
The more I practice the more I notice everything I'm doing wrong. Too much arm, hips are late, feet are open, balance to the left too much, not straight, telegraphing with the elbows, chin tucked too much, grip is off, left wrist is bent, kissaki too high...it's a never-ending pursuit.
However I am also now buried in Omori Sogen's "Zazen Nyumon", in the hopes that I'll get motivated enough to start zazen (seated zen or meditation.) Of course it's like a totally 'zen' thing to do, and knowing my absolute mistrust and borderline intolerance for religion, it seems like an odd choice, but it will most likely be helpful for my iai, and my high blood pressure, and my winning personality in general. There a couple of temples in my neighborhood that offer 'basic intro' courses; 20-30 minutes with instructions for beginners and a little spiel from the head monk. Then again it's all about meditation. Omori talks about 2 types of people in his book: those who talk about zen but don't sit, and those who sit but don't do zen. Both are NG, but at least with second type, you're sitting, so all you have to do is focus on getting the zen part. I am, so far, the first type; all chatter and no sitting. The journey starts with the first step...but first there's some cool websites to look at, and some funny tv to watch...
Federal Aviation Agency
800 Independence Avenue SW
I have the solution for the prevention of hijackings, and at the same time getting our airline industry back on its feet.
Since men of the Muslim religion are not allowed to look at naked women we should replace all of our female flight attendants with strippers. Muslims would be afraid to get on the planes for fear of seeing a naked woman, and of course, every businessman in this country would start flying again in hope of seeing a naked woman. Hijackings would end and the airline industry would have record sales.
Why didn't Bush think of this? Why do I still have to do everything myself?
I also take some small responsibility because I encouraged her to join IT not Corp Comms back in the day, and I like to think that had something to do with her meeting Tomo in IT. Then again it could be totally unrelated, but whatever.
Saw Spike and his very pregnant wifey, bumming because she's gotta go easy on the booze. Also saw Moka, who's announced he's leaving Morgan to go give a hand at the front office. Good for him!
The old ECT team from the days of yore at Morgan Stanley is slowly dissolving; life is change. And change is good.
Here's the photos.
Hiroko says, "Every time I wake up, all the comforter is wrapped around you, and I'm cold, and you're dead asleep." So it's some kind of karmic payback for stealing the covers?
Maybe it's because I've been eating better these past few days. The fear of high blood pressure has put a motivation on me, and I've been attempting to cook dinner for the past couple days. Here are some things I have discovered:
* You can put lots of different spices in the sauce and the chicken will still taste bland.
* Too much garlic is too much.
* Don't put any food into your mouth until you've thoroughly chewed and swallowed everything. And taken a sip of tea.
* Talk alot during dinner; it's more interesting, it makes the meal last, and you feel fuller without having eaten as much.
* Eating 200 grams of pasta in 20 minutes is just as filling as eating 500 grams of pasta in five minutes. And it's less painful afterwards.
* Hiroko still eats really, really slowly. But it's arguably a better way to eat than too much, too fast.
* Japanese food has lots of salt in it. Hiroko says it's because the water in Japan doesn't have any minerals in it like in the states, so all minerals, including salt, have to be added to the food. I think it's just because Japanese people generally like salt.
* Japanese food labelling requirements pale in comparison to the states.
Golly, I'm sure glad that there's no such thing as global warming, otherwise I'd suspect all these typhoons had some kind of meaning.
This morning it was a bit gray but the typhoon's gone off into the Pacific, and most of my neighborhood is still standing, so it wasn't a total loss.
Turns out that I cannot escape genetics. The high bloodpressure from my mom's side rears its ugly head. I need to lose weight and cut salt as I am a classic case of prehypertension.
I've never been a big salt fan and now I have an excuse to demand lower salt. Hard to do though in Japan; a spot of soy sauce and it's all over!
Then again cardiac arrest is not an option, so no more second bowl of rice, no more post-dinner icecream, more fruits and veggies.
Now if I can just figure out how to get all the remote controls consolidated...
I have not lived in the US for a decade, and yet I pay taxes. ALOT of taxes. The US is one of a handful of nations that fully taxes its citizens overseas.
The president, in my humble opinion, should be neither a lawyer nor a statesman. He should be an accountant, or at the very least have an MBA. Because running the US is simply about economics, but the economics are not simple. You have some money (taxes) that you have to spend on stuff (roads, schools, killing brown people in the desert.)
Here's what you do:
A) Collect fewer taxes
B) Spend the the money you do have wisely. Intelligently. Efficiently.
The only other thing I really care about is you and your God telling me that the way I live my life is wrong.
To this I give Kerry credit. When asked about his faith, he basically said: "My faith guides me in what I do and why, but not how I legislate, because I cannot force my faith on others who may have a different faith."
Bush, on the other hand, said "God told me to spread freedom and democracy and to kill all the fetus-killing, liberal, terrorist, non-Christians."
Unforunately, as my esteemed father taught me a long time ago:
"The average American is average. And that's pretty fucking stupid."
So my prediction is: Bush wins. I stay in Japan indefintely, where the government is at least as screwed up, but as Douglas Adams summed up best, mostly harmless.
Height: 169.3 cm (5'6")
Weight: 78.0 k (171.9 lbs)
OK, I admit I've got a nice gut going on and can stand to lose some weight; my BMI is too high and my suggested BMI is 22.
But my suggest weight is 62.4 k (137.5 lbs.) So I'm supposed to lose 15.6 k (34.4 lbs)?! I guess if I cut off a leg or something...
Weren't sure if we'd even make it, because the typhoon on Saturday was bearing down hard. We headed to the airport expecting our flight to get cancelled at any minute. The other two flights after hours, and basically everything else after 5 pm, was cancalled, but we made it.
Very cool hotel; stylish modern design but traditional rooms. Stunning food. Wandered around the town during the day, checked out the local pottery (kutaniyaki) and historical sites, and made my own traditional paper postcards at the Arts & Crafts Experience Extravaganza that is Yunokuninomori.