Wednesday, January 25, 2006

How You Know When You've Found the One

...perfect job for you. What, did you think I was going to wax--or wane, depending on your point of view--intellectual on matters of the heart again?

Let me explain: I just spent the last hour on It started innocently enough, with me just looking up some of the new releases from Safari, to see if any were worth "bookmarking" in my Technical wishlist (hint hint?).

Veteran Amazon shoppers will probably already be shaking their heads in bemusement over my naïveté.

You see, whenever you are foolish enough to add something to your wishlist, Amazon is helpful enough to show you what other people who shopped for that book also shopped for, as well as what other people who shopped for items contained in your wishlist also shopped for. Since my Technical wishlist (got that link yet, kids?) is chock full o' excellent technical books, this is a damned useful feature. To wit (you will probably want to clicky clicky so's you can read-y read-y):

Amazon being helpful

Of course, this can be a huge time sink, and worse yet, for Amazon employees, you can wind up owing your soul to the company store.

But seriously, if you work for a company and still think your product is great, that is probably a good sign.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Slowly Spinning Planets

And other thoughts provoked by my time on commuter trains.

I was riding the Keiyo Line train from Ichikawa-Shiohama to Tokyo--the first leg of my return commute--the other night, and the train was pretty sparsely populated. This is probably because it was only 17:00.

Let me explain. I used to work from 09:00 to 18:00 every day. Just Wednesday, it was Decided that we should start working two shifts: one from 08:00 to 17:00, and the other from 10:00 to 19:00. So Thursday, I got to go in late but come home late, and on Friday, I got to wake up at 05:40 in order to catch a train at 06:40 and get to work by 08:00.

But I did get off at 17:00, and this put me on a non-crowded Keiyo Line train--which was my original thrust, remember? And it is an important fact that the train was not crowded, for the two seats across from me were vacant. When the train hit a section of track that was banked so that my side was slightly lower than the opposite side (which I was facing), what to my wondering eyes should appear but a rather fantastic optical illusion!

There are a lot of lights in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area. The trains almost all run either underground or on elevated tracks. The Keiyo Line runs most of the way from Chiba to Central Tokyo on the latter.

And with all of this data, can you guess what I saw?

No? Well allow me to explain. The lights from out the train window behind me were being reflected on the window in front of me, which was serving only partially as a mirror; it was also giving me a view of the lights on the other side of the window. What this added up to was something that looked very much like a spinning galaxy. The reflection of the lights behind me, superimposed on the window in front of me, which was also displaying lights far beneath the train and out towards the sea, moved in such a way that it looked like nothing but a galaxy spinning slowly on a starfield.


Another interesting optical illusion offered by trains traversing elevated tracks at night is the "space bubble effect". Wherein the passengers of a distant train which happens to be running parallel to your own train, illuminated by the interior lights of their train, look like there are flying through space in a transparent craft.

I wonder if this has anything to do with how they dreamed up Galaxy Express 999?

Friday, January 20, 2006


This is lunacy! Well, you know my views...

One of my co-workers, a certain Sato-san, is a graduate of none other than West Virginia University. He spent four whole years in scenic Morgantown, and professes his admiration for the natural beauty of the Wild and Wonderful state (you know, "Blue Ridge Mountains, the Shenandoah River?), but also admits to being pretty bored for about three years, 364 days, and--he supposes--about 23 and a half hours. He also refuses to watch "Deliverance", but he won't say why...

I had to sign approximately 27 (well, OK, more like five) birthday cards today. Apparently everyone in my office was born in January. My inscriptions for most were fairly prosaic, but when it came to the aforementioned Sato-san's card, I had to break creative. The Japanese version of "happy birthday" is 「誕生日おめでとうございます」 (tanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu), but I noticed that on the card, most of the ever context-sensitive Japanese had simply written 「おめでとうございます」 (omedetou gozaimasu), which means "congratulations"; since it was in a birthday card, the occasion for congratulations had already been established, you see.

In case you were wondering, Japanese is one of those languages where you are allowed to omit the subject when it is understood from context. In fact, you are encouraged to omit the subject except when it is introduced or changed, lest you emit stilted Foreign Devil-style Japanese. Yuck! In fact, you are also allowed to omit particles, verbs, any other word that is understood from context, and the ending phrases of many (most?) sentences? So you can convey an awful lot in Japanese without actually saying much.

In this spirit, I simply wrote:


or, in the romaji:

IT no Guraba- Joshu

which in English would be like writing:

Josh Glover from IT

If you cannot figure out what that means, aks my dad! ;)

I have broken into the top 1000 Wiki contributors at work (I am actually number 738 as of the last time the statistics were generated; perhaps I will be higher next time the stats come out)! Hurrah!

This basically means that I write a lot of documentation. Which is A Good Thing(TM).

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

PRIDE (In the Name of Love)

Remember the 男祭 / Otoko-matsuri / Man Festival? Well, when Lyani and I were at Narita AKA "Tokyo" International Airport, we saw none other than this dude, making a withdrawl from the bank:

Fedor Emelianenko

And who might he be--aside from an ex-KGB wetworks specialist--you may ask? None other than Fedor Emelianenko, the current PRIDE FC heavyweight champion.

ZuluWhether he actually had a bank account, or just threatened to punch the teller repeatedly in the face until she capitulated. Which is exactly what he did to Zulu (pictured at left) during the 男祭.

Lyani and I were both a little too scared to ask him for an autograph. :)

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What a Girl Wants

Is not necessarily the same as what a girl needs.

So yeah, I'm back from the Evil Empire / United States... Sorry, I just could not refuse taking a dig at Ronald Reagan. I was reading the Washington Post on the way back from America, and they had a sidebar mentioning how all two-term presidents in recent history (starting with my personal hero, FDR), had record-low approval ratings coming into their fifth year in office, and what they did about it. In talking about Reagan and how he was able to shrug off the Iran-contra Scandal by the end of his fifth year, the Post managed to give him credit for ending the Cold War.

Huh? So Reagan's fundamentalist rantings about how communism was the root of all Evil and how the Soviet Union was the Evil Empire, his desire to build a space-based missile defence system at a cost of hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars, while not cutting back on nuclear arms productions... Reagan ended the Cold War? It had nothing to do with Gorbachev basically telling Reagan that the Soviets were going to dismantle their nuclear arsenal, and whether the US chose to do so was up to us?

OK, now that I have gotten my usual liberal ranting done, here is a rant on a topic that is decidedly abnormal for this blog. I used to, back in school, have all of these thoughts about various topics that I would write down in a notebook I kept. Then, I realised that most of my thoughts weren't as good unless I talked them over with people. Luckily, a few years later, I have found a wife who is (at least) my intellectual equal, and who even puts up with my long-winded way of thinking out loud.

But I just realised that now I have a blog, and what are blogs for if not thinking out loud? So, thanks to the Internet, you can tune into my thought processes any time you dare! Not that this will mean that my poor, long-suffering wife will be spared my rants, of course. :)

So finally, to today's topic: what a girl wants.

I have seen a lot of movies in my time, and read a lot of books. Most fiction is escapism, and escapism tends toward the romantic. Most people who know me also know that I am a bit of a romantic. I am a bit sappy, and yes, I have been known to mist up a little bit whilst watching, say, "Anne of Green Gables" (gee, Mom, wonder where I got that trait?). So I am not the sort of guy to shy away from romantic comedies. In fact, the romantic comedy (and no, Matthew, "Scarface" does not qualify, I don't care what you say!) genre is probably one of my favourites. Granted, I like them a little wittier than "Bring it on Again" (which I refuse to link because I don't want you actually buying that shite), but I do like them.

Romantic comedies, more often than not, are concerned with the question of what a girl wants; in fact, some of them even put that right out there in the title (I will link this one, but be warned: it is not the best movie in which Colin Firth has ever appeared)!

And unfortunately for the women of the world, most of them get it dreadfully wrong, or at least communicate the wrong idea to the Sensitive Male of the 90s. Or 00s, I guess, though the Sensitive Male seems to have gone a little out of style after his mid-90s heyday.

You see, romantic comedies teach us men to be everything the woman wants. Be supportive, be "emotionally available" (whatever that means), be romantic, be spontaneous, be funny, and above all, be good looking. While I personally don't have a problem with any of these requirements (heh heh), they can create big problems for a relationship.

Here is what I mean: women may want guys who are all of these things, but women really need a guy who is willing to be himself (though they may not realise this). I know from personal experience that trying to be Super Guy, the best boyfriend in the world, makes you a shitty boyfriend. Why? Because she may be happy, but she is not getting to know you. You know, the real you? The guy who sometimes gets irritable in the morning before his second cup of coffee, the guy who stays up too late working on his computer, the guy who actually cannot stand her annoying friend, the guy who has no real fashion sense besides what he sees in programming magazines. (None of these examples have anything to do with me, by the way; I'm just putting them out there.)

And sooner or later, you get tired of being the Super Boyfriend, tired of pretending, tired of putting her first. And then you dump her. Or maybe she sees through your charade and dumps you. Or maybe she wants Super Boyfriend, and when she sees that is not really who you are, she dumps you.

In any case, it ends with tears, hard feelings, etc.

This is the part that the romantic comedies do not show you. And I don't blame them: that sort of thing makes for a pretty depressing movie. (Before you ask, yes, I do know about "Hi Fidelity", which actually does show this happening. Great movie. Watch it!)

But, drawing on my vast reservoir of personal experience, I can tell you that when you are yourself, and it doesn't work out, it tends to not work out faster. You know, before the L-bomb has been dropped and everyone is really invested. And hell, sometimes it does work out, as evidenced by my matrimonial state.

There is a good lesson that can be gleaned from some romantic comedies, though: fate. Stop trying so hard to find a girl, fellows. In my experience, when you are relaxed and confident, she might just find you. Or you might find yourselves picking up trash together in rural Japan. Whatever. Just go with the flow, man. ;)

Wow, was that me writing all of the above? I promise that the next entry will be more like what you have come to expect from me: bad language, far-left liberal-fringe lunatic opinions, off-colour jokes, and commentary on life in Japan.

But Valentine's Day came early. What can I say?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Coming to America

As I mentioned in the previous entry, I will be heading to America for my sister's wedding. So if you are one of those lucky few who know how to get in touch with me (standard email addresses and my dad's phone number apply), I will be Stateside for a week.

See you there!

The Good, The Bad, and the Busu

Git yer Japanese on!

2005 is over. Has been for a few days now. However, I have been doing all of my living in meatspace rather than the 'Sphere, so you have not heard from me in awhile. Sorry about that.

So here is a recap of my holiday season to make up for not blogging in so long.

Christmas Eve

Lyani and I made the long and arduous trek out to Mauro and Mizue's for a Christmas Eve party. Much fun was had, many of Mauro's rugby player, model, and rugby player / model friends were met, I was much admired by Mauro's friend's three-month-old-baby, and Lyani was jealous. We had to make an Indiana Jones-like escape from the party in time the catch the last train home. Not kidding, I had to wedge the train door with the handle of my bullwhip whilst Lyani dove in.

But we made it home, and decided that since it was now...


...we would open our presents! We got tonnes of Bulgarian food from Lyani's family, which Lyani made for Christmas dinner, much later. Lyani got some Yuzu CDs that she had been wanting ever since she met one of the two band members at an IUC event in Yokohama (turns out that one of her colleagues from the IUC may now be dating that guy--which is my second connexion to a famous dude, the other being the fact that a friend of a friend went on a date or two with Larry Page, of Google fame. I got a TViX M3000U! Good lookin' out, Lyanka! :)

After opening presents, it was nearly 02:00, so we decided to go to sleep. When we woke up, I threw open the curtains hopefully and was delighted to see that a fresh snowfall had erased the urban ugliness of Kotobuki-cho, covering everything with a soft blanket of white.

And if you believed that, I have some oceanfront property in Ohio to sell you...

(For the slow of wit, that means that I was lying about the snowfall. Ain't seen any yet this winter, ain't likely to. Stupid Kanto!)

OK, despite the lack of snow, Lyani and I spent a wonderful Christmas together, culminating in a traditional Bulgarian Christmas dinner, complete with ракия and then White Russians for dessert--had to put two of Lyani's Christmas presents (blue label, baby!) to good use!

Tragically, since Christmas fell on a Sunday, I had to work the next day. And work I did! For the next five days, I was busy hacking on Firefox, working some sweet XUL / JavaScript magic for an IT project here at work.

Of course, there was also some play. On Thursday night, we met a friend of ours from Kanazawa named E-chan (well, his name is actually 江沢・英光--EZAWA Hidemitsu) and a new friend of his who is currently studying at Kanazawa. We met at Tokyo Station so we could see the Tokyo Millenario (pictures here), a year-end celebration of lights. It was nice, but cold! While we were huddled in the shivering masses (there were a lot of people there), I got a call from Ota, saying he had just gotten back from Narita. He had been in the States for the better part of December, had just gotten back, and now had to go to his company's bonenkai the very same night. Now that is dedication (to drunkeness)!

Anyway, after the lights, we went to Hokkaido Ramen for a little something something. Drank hot sake, got warmed up, called Pura, another good friend of ours from those heady Kanazawa days, etc. Rode the train home.

On the next night, we got together with Ota at Shinagawa for a little bonenkai of our own at an izakaya. Fun was had, beer was drunk, various unified field theories were discussed, Lyani was bored out of her mind. Heh heh, just kidding. She was only bored out of her mind for the 15 minutes it took for me to explain my Firefox hack in excruciating detail to Ota. Excruciating for her, I mean; for Ota and I, it was exhilerating! Under my expert tutelage, Lyani has come a long way on the road to true geek 1337 Jedi Master bad-ass-hood, but she ain't quite there yet. Give me time; in less than a year, I expect she will be speaking C as well as she speaks English and Japanese. ;)

Saturday night was

New Year's Eve

Ota's aunt and uncle--who live just four stops down the Negishi Line (AKA the Keihin-Tohoko Line) from us in Yokohama--were foolish nice enough to invite us down to their place for the evening. It was quite a party! It started out with just Lyani and I, Ota and his girlfriend, his aunt and uncle, their middle daughter and her boyfriend (who was in the jieitai for nine years--freakin' sweet!). We whiled away the time by watching NHK's 56th Annual 紅白歌合戦 (Kouhaku Utagassen, or "Red vs. White Song Battle!")--which I am happy to report was won by White, thanks almost entirely to excellent performances by tha Fli-zo and Maik to tha K. However, the channel was soon changed, for the manly men arrived!

And by manly men, I mean the Master-san of a local izakaya, one of his bartenders, and one of their favourite customers, a chap they called "Japanese Mafia". Seriously, they called him 「ジャパニズ・マフィア」!本当!まじ!その他。。。

Sorry about that, non-Japanese readers. I would translate, but I don't think the joke would survive. Actually, come to think of it, it might not have even been funny in Japanese. 「寒エー!」, as my Japanese co-workers might say (that was samui, pronounced in a Tokyo badass accent, which usually means "cold", but in the context of a joke, it means that it sucked).

Right, so where was I?

Oh yeah, "Japanese Mafia". This dude really did look like a member of la cosa nostra. The fact that he was wearing a sweater that featured two cute puppies being cute probably made him even more frightening. Seriously, he was a nice guy. I just wouldn't recommend borrowing money from him... ;)

So these men were manly, and that meant only one thing: the PRIDE 男祭り (otoko-matsuri, which means "manly festival")! PRIDE is basically an (almost) no-holds-barred fighting league, similar to K-1, except it allows grappling, and disallows kidney-punching in tie-ups. Lyani was horrified at the violence, which basically makes it a good sport, by my definition! ;)

So, men being men, we had to make the fights a little more interesting by way of a friendly wager or two. Actually, two, to be exact. Both of which saw me double my ¥1000 bet, both times at the expense of "Japanese Mafia". Heh heh!

In retrospect, taunting him might not have been so wise...

In any case, the New Year came, and we popped out to the balcony to watch the fireworks. Ota's uncle lives on the 29th floor of the "Yokohama Scenery Tower" (yeah), so you can see everything from up there. In fact, I might have seen the fireworks at Gypsy Hill Park! ;)

After the fireworks, Lyani and I headed home, but the rest of the people went out for the traditional shrine and temple visits, bell ringing, arrow burning, and so on.

We watched a little "Ally McBeal", then went to sleep. When we woke up, it was

New Year's Day

which is the biggest holiday in Japan. To put it in perspective, all of the stores were open on Christmas Day, but even the big department stores were closed on New Year's. The only thing open was the convenience stores and the train stations.

Lyani and I passed the day by watching some more Ally, then when we had exhausted that, some "The O.C.", which despite a penchant for melodrama, is pretty entertaining.

Ota called around 15:00, and we decided to meet him and Sarah at Sakuragi-cho Station at 17:00 for a little tour of みなとみらい (Minato Mirai, which you have heard me talk about more than once--it just looks so cool in hiragana!). I am pretty good at talking about how much Minato Mirai rules (which is a lot, by the way). I have a book on it and everything! Which reminds me, the Wikipedia entry (which I just linked to; clicky clicky if you missed it) sucketh, and most gratuitously thus! I wonder if the entry in the Japanese Wikipedia is any better... oh yeah! Well, I just figured out what I will be doing on the plane tomorrow: translating that into English so I can update the crappy English article!

And why will I be on the plane tomorrow, you may ask? Well, for

My Sister's Wedding!

But that hasn't happened yet, so it doesn't belong in this entry. I will blog about it, I promise, but later. And after I get Rachel's permission to do so! :)

So anyway, we walked around Minato Mirai, then went back to Ota's uncle's place for some much-needed 晩御飯 (ban-gohan, supper). Which was delicious. If you have never tried wasabi roast beef, I would recommend that you get up on some of that. Word.

And I'm out.