Reflecting on how cranky work made me today on my drive home (alone), i suddenly remembered how my day started this morning:
I carpooled to work today with Raj. He picked me up; we chatted, half-conscious. He has space in an artspace workspace in Bayshore - full of electronics artmaking gear, amongst other things. They meet on Monday nights. I asked how that went last night. He told me a bit about the projects he had worked on, culminating, as we drove onto 280, with the statement:
"...And some guys showed up after going dumpster diving behind Good Vibrations..."
It turns out that they managed to grab a bunch of half-functional vibrators (yikes!), and have since turned them into instruments of musical function.
Cool. I think if i can just remember the phrase "dumpster diving behind Good Vibes", i should be able to wear a smile any ol' time. Thanks, Raj.
Gracious. More laggardly posting behavior on my part. I am half-caught up over at gastronome, but i still owe a review of a dinner we had with my dad over at Limon. I'm a month behind updating litwank - naughty, naughty me. Hopefully i'll get all the October reviews up before the month is out.
While things have been hellishly (and oh, how i do mean hellishly) busy at work, i have still managed to find time to do some fun things.
anne & Dave's martinis toro wasabi hamachi black cod lobster butter sausages feast was fantastic. You can read about my first lobster-murder experience over at gastronome. Good conversation, good food, and good friends. Lychee martinis, tasty wine, lobsters with so much butter and smoke.
Andy gave a reading at Modern Times a few days before he left for a writer's colony. It was ostensibly to promote the paperback version of The Path of Minor Planets, but we cajoled him into reading from the book he just finished. So tasty! A reception at 16 Hill #3 afterwards; i caught up with Shola and met a few interesting folks. Socializing! Me! With strangers! A few days later, i loaded Andy down with so many books - since he's just finished a novel, he gets to read again. I look forward to hearing what he thinks of the books we loaned him.
Robert scored tickets to see David Sedaris read, which he kindly shared with us. On the 18th, we trek'd over to the Fox Theatre in Redwood City. The theatre is gorgeous - old & art deco & swank. David Sedaris is a bad, bad, man - in the best sort of way. I laughed until my throat hurt. Good medicine. (Thank you, Robert!) If you ever get the chance to hear Sedaris read, definitely go for it.
We were treated to another art deco theatre on the 25th - we went to the Paramount in Oakland to hear Ani sing and play. Utah Philips opened for her - and he was an amazing font of scathing wit and political commentary. Ani played on her own this time - just her and a guitar, alternating new songs with old favorites. As always, she's a pleasure to behold. (Now, the irritating girl behind us who was so excited about the political commentary/activism that she shouted through all of her favorite lyrics and lines, so noone around her could actually hear Ani? Less of a pleasure. It's a good thing i was too tired to smack her - so much for peace!)
Happy first anniversary to two of my favorite people and neighbors - you're so natural together that it seems like it's been much longer. May you be this happy for many, many years to come. I love you both, Beca & Tad. Take good care of one another.
Spotted in the garage: a bumper sticker on a car. The message?
Honk! if you understand punctuated equilibria.
What's worse: i thought it was really funny.
Home again, home again, jiggety jig.....
I brought back rice crackers, bath bubbles, candies, and a cold. Sure enough, as Tim said, i became the world's incubator. I'm starting to get better, and i realized that i owe you folks a final recap on the Tokyo jaunt.
I wrote a little bit about the food over at Gastronome - pop on over for the food review.
We arrived Monday evening, and took the not-so-swanky JR-greenline in from Narita. Looking out at small rice paddies, village-y houses with blue tile roofs and lovely architecture, which gave way to Chiba City and then Tokyo itself as we rode into the more urban areas was a fantastic introduction. Upon arrival at Shinjuku station, i quickly learned that all of my crowd memes are wrong - stand to the left of the escalator if you don't want to walk, walk on the left side of the street - so odd! I also started immediately observing the amazing array of uniforms, everywhere. We went to the hotel, which was very posh, with folks lining up to help you. I was gratefeul for the level of English spoken at the hotel, especially when i found i was in the wrong sort of room (smoking, ew, and no high-speed net connection). Later that evening, Hideyuki said that when he came back from English-school in the States, he took a job as a bellhop at the Century Hyatt to practice his English. Cool.
We rested and changed out of our plane-clothes, and met Hideyuki for our first meal. He ordered for us - Sapporo - bieru- draftu. I could have done that. ;) Afterwards, a little after 10PM local time, we were all too tired to go out and really do anything. I tried to take a walk, but mainly looked around the Metropolitan buildings next door, and then collapsed into my bed.
With a 10:30PM bedtime, i find that i get up quite early! I woke up around 5AM, did some work and drank some tea, and went out for a stroll around Shinjuku park, which was behind the hotel and the Metropolitan buildings. The foliage was lush, and gorgeous. The leaves are just starting to turn, so i saw a lovely mix of browns, oranges, and greens. There is a lage contingent of homeless in the park - they have little villages that are incredibly neat & organized. I visited the shrine and wee temple in the park - but didn't take any pictures as there were some people giving their morning worship.
After walking through the park, i meandered through the Metropolitan buildings, and admired the architecture and sculpture. I walked down a few blocks, and then back to the hotel to meet Tim and Frank for breakfast. We ate, and then embarked on a group walk around Shinjuku and through a bit of Shibuya. The buildings, lights, decorations, and endless video screens are mindblowing - i felt as though i was in the middle of Bladerunner. We went into Tokyu Hands and procured some postcards and a few cell phone fobs (the selection was HUGE - the strangest things mocked up as fobs). We went into a large department store, and descended to the bottom floor - the food market. This is like the Dean and Deluca of Japanese grocery shopping - gorgeous mushrooms, huge piles of fish, barrels upon barrels of miso, thinly sliced beef, 15$ canteloupes & pomegranites, and beautifully wrapped pastries and rice crackers. And that's not even a beginning of what we saw. ;)
We had to scoot back to the hotel to head out to Apple Japan for our 11am meeting - we were lost enough and time-constrained that we hopped in a cab.
Apple Japan is pretty cool - it's on the 51st floor of the Tokyo Opera Plaza. Some view, i tell you. And an original Andy Warhol in the lobby! We spent the rest of the day (until 7:30PM, oog!) in business meetings, went to dinner with the same folks, and returned to our hotel at 11:30. I really, really, really wanted to check out the sake bar Kaz had found for me, but i couldn't muster the energy to step outside my door. After falling asleep in the lovely deep tub, i decided i had best go to bed.
Wednesday (#1) morning we got up, packed, had brekky, and headed to our meetings. We had just enough time after the meetings to pick up our bags from the bell captian's station, get to Shinjuku station and pick up some bento boxes, and take the Narita Express back to the airport. And then after a wee bit of shopping in the duty free, we were on our way home! So fast!
I'll post a proper photo-log later this weekend with all the pics, and higher-resolution views.
I think you're likely to get a lot of short entries while i'm here. 8)
Last night we actually had dinner in the hotel - Hideyuki picked, and it was a fantastic chinese restaurant. Course after course of deliciousness. I went out for a quick walk (10 minutes, maybe) afterwards, but then i succumbed to bed - it being fiveAM body time finally caught up with me. (I went to bed around 10pm local time.)
I woke up at 5am local time here. It was clear i was going to sleep no more - i could have gotten up to go to the fish market, but given the day i have ahead, i'm glad i knew i could sleep as long as i wanted. So i got up, put on the house yukata, and brewed a cup of tea. When i'm done writing, i will shower and head out for a walk before meeting Tim and Frank for breakfast at 8am local time. I really want to eat some noodles, one way or another, today.
Wow. Just Wow.
Where to start? I don't have long; i have to get ready to go out to dinner with nice japanese-speaking folks from Apple Japan shortly.
But the blue-roofed buildings and the rural-ish towns and going through Chiba-city on the train and the nutsiness that is the Shinjuku train station and the Green Toothbrush and the White Toothbrush in the bathroom, and the taxis where you don't touch the doors with your filthy filthy hands....
So much to take in. Pictures when i'm back from dinner, probably.
I can't believe i'm halfway around the world, in Tokyo. But i am.
So, on the going-to-Japan front, i thought it might be useful to learn at least a little Japanese (uh, a VERY little Japanese) before i head out. I don't expect wonders, and i don't expect to really understand others that much, but i would like to be able to at least greet people, use vaguely the correct form of thank you, ask if people speak English (or say i don't really understand Japanese), and ask people how to get somewhere. It seems polite. I might BE a crappy gaijin, but at least i'm one who made a wee effort to respect the place i'm visiting.
To that end, i picked up the quickie Pimsleur set of Japanese I. (We have the full set of French I, and are about 15 lessons in. I need to start working through those again, when i'm through with the Japanese lessons.) They arrived yesterday, and today i made my way through the first lesson twice, and am three-quarters of the way through the second lesson. (That commute is good for something!)
The Pimsleur system is all about teaching you spoken language - there's little-to-no written work and accompianament - they walk you through the rules of language as you get to them when learning basic interactions, all out loud, with lots of repetition and aural/spoken interaction. When i was working on the French lessons, i knew i was relying on Russell a lot to spell things out for me - i always wanted to know how something was spelled when i was hearing a new word for the first time, and i knew it drove me crazy not to know, but i'm not sure i quite understood how crazy. Today, i was going nuts for a mnemonic. I'm terrible with aural mnemonics. TERRIBLE. I had to do the first lesson twice - unless i can see something written down (even phantom-written, in my head), i have a hard time matching the word to both its sound and meaning. I'm a little familiar with some Japanese phrasing (when romanized), so the few words i recognized (desu, ka, arigato, etc) were a lot easier than things like 'you', or 'understand' (anata-wa, wakarimasu,), and the 'thanks-to-you' (i can't even remember it) that comes after 'i'm fine' (genki desu), and so-on. I struggle to remember strings of sounds that don't make sense, and even when i can SAY them, i can't remember them a moment later.
Another odd observation - i also find it easier to remember how to pronounce a sound that's a little odd to me (un, bon, vin, blanc? desu?) if i can see how they're spelled in my head - EVEN IF I SWALLOW THE LETTERS AND NEVER QUITE SAY THEM.
I wonder if i'm visual because i grew up voraciously reading, or if i'm a dedicated reading machine because i'm visual?
How do you learn?