Sunday, January 22, 2006

A Hike in the Winter

Continuing with the Mexican theme, on Saturday we had a small party at our apartment with guacamole (Jeff) and chili (me). It went well, but I stayed up way too late (2 am) despite knowing that I had to get up early (7:30 am) to join the hike today (Sunday). Fortunately it wasn't a difficult hike, up and down two 350 meter high hills. The countryside North of Tokyo, in Saitama, was very pretty, making me a bit homesick. Also in our group was a Japanese woman who lived in NY for two years, during which she spent one Summer month studying violin on the Bowdoin College campus! Talk about a small world.

After the hike we grabbed a snack at an innovative shop outside the station- they had a free (with purchase) communal hot water bath for your feet. Very nice after a hike. Here are some photos from the day on Flickr.

Oh yeah, it also snowed on Saturday. The most snow in Tokyo in five years: about six inches. Here's a shot my friend Peter took of a pair of monks at Meiji Jingu. Cheers!

Mexican Food in Tokyo

It's hard to come by. Not sure why. I was wandering Friday night in Shimokitazawa, a favorite, hip area, looking for something to eat when I came across a Mexian place called "Duke." Inside I met with the welcoming attitude I like so much about bars and restaurants in that area. I also met a San Diego resident named Jonathan who owns a translation company based in San Diego. He pondered about the practicality of hiring Mexican cooks to run a Mexican restaurant in Tokyo (our food was prepared by two Japanese guys).

Friday was some sort of Social Day for Strangers for me- as I was midway through the 20 minute walk from my office to the nearest station two middle school girls on a single bicycle called out "herro" to me as the biked past in the opposite direction. This is rare in Tokyo, but I managed to return the greeting before they were out of earshot. Later that night I was hailed by a Japanese guy who thought I was someone else. Strange, as bearded men are also quite rare here.

We also had a lottery (one draw with each purchase) Wednesday through Friday at the convenience store at Pioneer. First prize was a DVD recorder. I managed to pull 4th prize which won me the choice of either Meet the Parents or An American Werewolf in London. I went with the latter, but haven't had a chance to watch it yet. It sure was better than winning a "leisure mat," which I think was 3rd prize. I'm not even sure what such a thing is for.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fujitsu & LiveDoor

Today I surprised myself at how genki I was at work, compared to my dour outlook two days back. I took the day off yesterday as I came down with a cold. That helped, no doubt. I'm sure it also helped that I have finished, for the time being, doing the planning part of this project and have embarked on the coding part, proper. Even though I'm dealing with someone else's code (which "is hell," as Jeff put it) it's what I'd rather be doing. The fact that I had free reign to replace the crummy development environment with Eclipse, a PHP editing plugin and Subversion made it all the sweeter.

Ok, on to other news- I'm sure a few of you heard about the Tokyo stock market's recent sag and subsequent rebound, but did you hear that there were severe technical difficulties involved as well? Apparently the systems they are using to manage the transactions were approaching their limit and the market was closed 30 minutes early at 3.28 million transactions for the day. According to the Internation Herald Tribune, the NYSE "handles about 5 million trades a day." What's more, the maximum hit on Wednesday here in Tokyo was in line with the high monthly averages seen late last year. A coworker at Pioneer told me that Fujitsu was the company behind the system. I'm sure heads are rolling over there right now. Oh yeah, LiveDoor and Horie-mon have been disgraced. I'm sure the media will still follow this one avidly though.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Train Tales and Coffee Makers

I know, I know. I've taken another two month break from posting anything here. Terrible of me. I've been working in a different part of the city, down by Kawasaki. Currently I'm working on an Excel→PHP→MySQL intranet system for Pioneer. Could be feasible if only I had the proper amount of time to develop it!

Also, this morning I broke Jeff's coffee maker's carafe somehow. So I bought a new one at Yodobashi Camera. Fortunately the main store in Shinjuku is open until 10pm for those of us working Japanese hours. Feh.

On the way there via the Yamanote line I was reading my collection of the Best American Travel Writing from 2004 that Minako gave me for my birthday last year (excellent piece on semi-trucks by John McPhee), when I noticed a salaryman lying down on the seat, out cold. Another guy sitting next to him shook him by the shoulder to make sure he was still concious. I thought at first they knew each other, but it seemed not. The fellow lying down turned out to be okay, just drunk, fortunately. He dropped his glasses as he sat up, and the other guy picked them up and returned them to him. He asked if where the drunk guy was going. I didn't hear the whole conversation, but the drunk guy pointed out how stupid the sober guy was, then fell asleep again, this time sitting up. Last week I saw a turtle in a plastic cage forgotten on the train. Wonder what I'll see tomorrow.

Oh yeah, I posted some new pictures on my Flickr page too. Check 'em out.