yet another gyoza party

Lots of gyoza. Lots and lots of gyoza:
Beef and tomato, chicken and corn, shrimp and komatsuna, tofu and bell peppers, fried tofu and bean sprouts, pork and cabbage, chicken and mushroom, pork and eggplant.

tomonori & masami's wedding photos

Finally put up the photos from Tomonori and Masami's wedding.


Iidabashi is nasty: bugs. Mosquitoes, actually. Gnarly stuff. Practing while fighting off bugs is Not Fun.

more joys of the japanese banking system

So I have this penny jar that's been sitting on my desk for years. Actually, it's not a penny jar, for it holds not pennies, and it is not a jar. It's a big, clear plastic bear that, when purchased at Costo many moons ago, was filled with chocolate graham cracker snacks. A good 40 cm tall and near as much wide, the bear sat next to my, a whole ripped in its blue plastic lid, accepting the errant one yen or five yen coin.
By now, the bear was nearly a quarter full, and it was time to cash out. The last time I took a large quantity of small change to the Fuji Bank branch downstairs, the teller batted not an eyelash. She dumped the contents into the counting machine, sorted through the various paperclips, screws, and canadian money that clogged its inner workings, and handed me a considerably smaller pile of change and some crisp, fresh bills.
But in the 21st century, things are different. The Fuji Bank branch is now, thanks to mega-mergers and bank 'reform', and Mizuho Bank branch. I'm fairly sure the teller is the same woman, but her uniform is now blue and red not green, and her first question upon seeing the bear and its contents was "Do you have an account here?" It seems that they are unable to conver the money into bills. They are, however, able to count it and deposit into my account, and then I can immediately withdraw said amount. Alas, I have no Mizuho Bank account.
So off to Hiroo Station I went.
First to Shinsei Bank. I love Shinsei, because they have strained the chunky, unnecessary bits of banking in Japan and distilled it into a smooth, clear broth of automatic, low-cost transactions. Shinsei doesn't do difficult, rare services like funky foreign denominations or complex payment schemes. And, alas, they also don't turn plastic bears full of change into bills. They do take small change deposits, but only as much as can fit into the ATM at one time.
So across the walkway I go to the Evil That is Citibank. With the attitude I have come to expect from the better-than-thee Citibank tellers, I was told straight up that they do not accept deposits of unknown amounts. If I count the change and fill out a deposit slip, they will verify the amount and, if it matches, deposit it in my account. The conversation went something like this:
Teller: How much do you wish to deposit?
Me: I have no idea. Can you count it please?
T: We can only deposit a known amount, otherwise you can claim to have been ripped off by the bank.
M: How can I claim to have been ripped off if I admit I have no idea how much money this is?
T: ...
M: OK, how about I write '2000 yen', then you count it and it's actually 5000 yen, so then I'll rewrite the -
T: If you write 2000 yen, we will count 2000 yen, deposit 2000 yen, and return the rest.
M: How about I write 10,000 yen, then you count it and it's actually 5000 ye-
T: If it does not total the amount you wrote, we cannot accept the deposit.
M: How about you just count it for me?
T: We do not provide money counting as a service.
M: How about you charge me 1% for such a service?
T: We do not provide money counting as a service. Japanese banks may choose to provide such a service...but Citibank does not.
M: Citibank is not a Japanese bank?
T: ...
M: You have been, as expected, most unhelpful.
T: Thank you for choosing Citibank.

So I walked across the street to the big Tokyo-Mitsubishi. They, like Mizuho, will only count and deposit the money into my account, assuming I had one...I finally went back to the office and got Koseki-san to take the money down to the post office, where they would, at their leisure, count the money and deposit it into his postal savings account.
Several hours later, Koseki-san left the empty plastic bear and an envelope full of 7902 yen on my desk.
Mission accomplished.

mathematics of cow tipping

Jeremy sends us a critical, in-depth look at the science behind cow-tipping. Conclusion: tip with a friend.

formula one us grand prix and jazz in indianapolis

Lee had a double-whammy weekend checking out both F-1 and Indy Jazz Fest and was interviewed in the Indystar newspaper:
New York City resident Lee Guzofski, wearing a crisp Williams-BMW team shirt, shared an observation likely to be clipped and saved by the pianists group -- and possibly the mayor's office:
"Between this festival and F-1, it's been a pretty good week in Indianapolis," the 32-year-old said. "I've seen you guys throw a good show."

it's official

After six years at Morgan Stanley, I am resigning and will start working for Deutsche Bank on August 9. As such, my Morgan Stanley email will stop working as of August 8, so best to email me at renfield at gmail dot com.
Six years at Morgan I learned plenty, had lots of fun, and worked on some cool projects. Career-wise, I've been trying to move out of the IT department and get more onto the business side, but I just couldn't make it happen and the offer from Deutsche was too good to pass up.
As my dad says: "In life, timing is everything." The corrolary is: "Timing is never good." So I hope to not be leaving too many folks/projects in the lurch, but when it's time, it's time.
At Deutsche I will be Head of Video Distribution in the equities/equity research department. Then again everyone is a 'head' of something at Deutsche, so don't put too much on that. I think I'll first be responsible for trying to cut costs and increase efficiency of research product distribution, mainly through video and other technologies. From there the role is pretty open-ended; going to be a fair amount of brain-storming, business development, 'I wonder if this will work?', new technologies research, and general playing around and goofing off.
The way Wall Street is going, the role of research as a critical service offering to clients is unsure, and because of regulations, the role of research in bringing in new banking and transaction business is also limited. The fact that everything's up for grabs is what's cool, methinks. This could be a foot into the front office (sales?), a buy-side job, maybe even back to IT...who knows?

japanese accent

While it's perfectly acceptable to speak Japanese with a totally flat accent, in reality there are syllable accents in Japanese. The problem is, there are no hard and fast rules to tell you when or why the accents are different for "candy" and "rain", or "bridge", "edge", and "chopsticks". You just have to memorize them. All.


Kiyokawa-kun will take over the Shibuya practice from me starting in July, so he came tonight to see how folks are doing and get an idea of who needs what. He and I split the class, me taking the beginners and him the upper ranks, and then we switched half-way through.
His technique is, of course, dead on. No strength or wasted effort, just pure body mechanics and uncanny timing. I, on the other hand, use every gram of muscle strength I can muster, and slop it on top of a healthy but erratic dose of hip movement. The results are lethal but unstable.


Had the Spring Iai Festival Kenkakubanrai in Toritsudai today, and as always it was a blast. Tanaka-sensei and I had to demo cutting first, and by some miracle I managed to nail nukiuchi-mizugaeshi (rising diagonal cut from the draw, then horizontal cut through the target before it falls.) Tanaka-sensei did an impress horizontal cut through two targets with his new beefy cutter from Hataya.
After our demo Niina-gosoke and Yamada-sensei demo'd kusarigama, jutte and tessen, tanjo, and jo. Then the team competition started, and I was judging with Tanaka-san and Ando-sensei. Somehow my Shibuya team made it all the way to the finals (which I judged) but they got clobbered by the other team and came in second.
In the afternoon there were more demos; Tanaka-sensei and Miura-san did some cool ryukyu (old Okinawan) arts including bo, boat oar, and sai, and then the performance competition began.
The Toritsudai team pulled out all the stops with wacky costumes and music, not to be outdone by Yaesu's team madness, the crazy dancing antics of Ikebukuro, Suidobashi's short play, and of course Kiyokawa-kun and Otsuka-san doing there Giant Sword series, not to mention Kosei-kai's blindfolded cutting demo. In all it was total lunacy and I was laughing so hard it hurt.
After the festival we went down to street and took over a local bar for some much-needed food, drink, and trash talkin'.