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May 31, 2005

A relaxing day...I hope so

It is 830am and I am in the lobby of the hotel waiting for my family so we can go out and see more of Vienna. I had a good night sleep last night, so I am ready to have a full day of sitting around drinking coffee.

If you read my posts earlier, you know that it could be worse. I was without a fan in my room and the elevator was not working. As for the latter, the front desk staff told me not to worry as there was nothing wrong with the elevators. They were not working because the FIRE ALARM went off. WHEW...I felt better. And the hotel is still here today, so I guess there was no problem.

And my fan was working...it was only that electric outlet that had failed.

Posted by Kirk at 03:24 PM | Comments (0)

OK, so where are we?

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I took this picture in Prague. This is in the Old Town quarter on the pedestrian street between the main square and Old Town Square. I like the colors. And the two guys checking out the map make me feel better that I am not the only person who kept getting lost!

Posted by Kirk at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)

A must-see movie!

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I had to look twice when I saw this advertisement. It is for a Brasilian movie festival. It does not look like a good ending for the man pictured, although the dog may be happy enough. I am not very artistically minded, so I probably won't go to the festival. But I did like the sign.

Posted by Kirk at 03:16 PM | Comments (1)

Vienna Cafe Society

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My sister Sandy and I found this cafe today. It is only a three-minute walk from the main square in Vienna, but it is completely off the beaten path. I only took a picture today, but I am sure we will be back there tomorrow for an actual coffee.

Posted by Kirk at 05:47 AM | Comments (0)

It's cooling off...finally

Vienna is starting to look better. The heat wave (it was 32 degrees today!) is finally going away. And tomorrow it will be only 19! That is good because there is no air conditioning in the hotel. I think I got about four hours sleep last night because it was too hot...

Its not all good though - I borrowed a fan from the hotel to get some of this cool air from outside into my room. It workked for about 30 minutes before inexplicably stopping. Has that ever happened to anyone before? I didn't think so. I am down in the bar to cool off and may be here awhile. The elevator has stopped working too.

I told you it was a crap hotel.

Posted by Kirk at 05:32 AM | Comments (0)

May 30, 2005

Another reason to like Prague

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This is the entrance to a beer garden near our hotel in Prague. Its colorful. And look at the beer prices...35 krone/beer. That's $1.50 or less than a pound.

See why I am not so pleased to be in Vienna?

Posted by Kirk at 06:48 AM | Comments (0)

A holiday snapshot

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Here I am with my niece in the hills above Prague. Isn't she adorable? We had been walking around sightseeing for about four or five hours when this picture was taken. I was absolutely wiped out. Fortunately, it was all downhill from that point. And I could spend the rest of the afternoon in the bar outside the hotel.

Posted by Kirk at 06:43 AM | Comments (1)

Has it all gone pear-shaped?

Everyone seems to have good things to say about Vienna, but I think it is awful. Of course, I may just be tired after the train journey from Prague. It could be that it is amazingly hot in central Europe. Or it could be the crap hotel we are staying in.

Anyway, enough complaining for now. Tomorrow may be a better day as I have resolved to spend all my time in coffee shops while the family runs off to museums and churches etc.

Prague was generally excellent - it was amazingly crowded and a lot of the people that stayed out all night drinking were as enamored of the neighborhood we stayed in as we were. And they could sing to prove it. Interesting sight at 6am, trust me.

Anyway, I will post some pictures so you can see how cool it is.

Posted by Kirk at 06:33 AM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2005

Amazingly beautiful Prague picture of the day

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I took this from the tower at one end of the Charles Bridge. We had to climb to the top (five stories) on this winding staircase…I was very dizzy when we got to the top. But the views were amazing, as you can see. There are lots of red roofs. On the bottom left is part of a sign advertising Karlovy Lazne, the biggest nightclub in Prague. I do not know if that is true, but they have ads all over town claiming the same thing.


Posted by Kirk at 09:59 PM | Comments (0)

How many types of steak are there?

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At this restaurant, they claim up to 60! We had a look at the menu…there was rattlesnake, ostrich, buffalo etc – very impressive. We had pizza at the place across the street.

Posted by Kirk at 09:57 PM | Comments (0)

What an amazing comeback…

Unlikely Liverpool won the Champions League final with the most incredible comeback I have ever seen. Down 1-0 after 56 seconds and 3-0 after 50 minutes, Liverpool looked completely out of the match.

But they then scored three in eight minutes to equalize. Unfortunately, like the FA Cup Final, a penalty shoot-out was needed to finish the match. And in a very un-English fashion, they won the day.

I went with a friend from the office who happened to be in Prague (!) and his mates to watch it. I am not a Liverpool fan, but I preferred them to Milan. And everyone in the bar we went to supported Liverpool, which made their comeback even more exciting.

My sister woke me up at 8am this morning. UGH

Posted by Kirk at 09:53 PM | Comments (0)

May 25, 2005

Slipping into holiday mode

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This is a view into the Little Quarter from the Charles Bridge. Prague Castle is on the top right. I took this as I was walking away from my hotel on my way to explore the city. I have a lot of pictures already, but it takes time to upload them, so I plan on doing that later.

Prague is such a beautiful city. That is such a cliche, but I am rapidly sliding into holiday mode and cannot think of anything more clever to say.

Posted by Kirk at 08:11 PM | Comments (2)

Prague...I am here

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This is the view from my hotel room. Lovely, isn't it? I took this at 6am...so you can assume my jet lag is still hanging around. Anyway, this is one end of the Charles Bridge, one of Prague's more famous landmarks.

As I write this, I am sitting across the street from the hotel at a beer garden. (Brian - I am having that first Budvar for you).

I like Prague.

Posted by Kirk at 08:05 PM | Comments (1)

The weather you ordered has arrived

Just in case you were wondering, here is the weather forecast for Prague. It does not get any better than that!

Posted by Kirk at 01:14 AM | Comments (0)

ha ha - I am on vacation

I have been waiting for days to use that title on this page, and now I can:I am in the lounge at Heathrow waiting for my flight to Prague. Unfortunately, I will be waiting longer than I thought because my flight has been delayed for thirty minutes.

When I am on a business trip, this kind of thing stresses me out, because the last place I want to spend my free time is at the airport. But, considering I have 10 days of free time in front of me, I am not going to worry about half an hour.

And it feels like a holiday already. I was baffled by this for a minute, but realised it is not the usual crowd in the lounge. Instead, there are a lot of people here waiting for the flight to Istanbul. Football fans will understand. AND it seems like every one of them has four or five empty beer cans in front of them. Yep - like a holiday.

It reminds me of traveling around Japan during the 2002 World Cup. That was great fun. I wish I was going to Istanbul. I'll do the second best thing and have a beer. Or four.

Posted by Kirk at 01:01 AM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2005

An easy Monday?

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This is the Red Lion pub off of Jermyn Street in the West End. My colleague Sarah and I headed here after our last meeting of the day. We finished at 430pm, and it would take at least 30 minutes to get back to the office. As that would have been a waste of the firm's time and money, we bit the bullet and came here instead.

There are probably five thousand pubs named the Red Lion in England. This one stands out for being closest to our last meeting. Having said that, it was a worthwhile destination and we would have walked twice as far to get there. It has that 'old' pub feeling - mismatched furniture, a very old bar man and dirty glasses that make the head on your beer foam up rather impressively.

Fashion-sensible readers: Jermyn Street is THE destination in London if you need to buy shirts, especially if they are made to measure. I had my eye on a fancy black t-shirt on the wall of the pub that advertised the Westminster-to-Picadilly pub crawl. Of course, my tastes are a little more pedestrian.

Posted by Kirk at 05:56 AM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2005

More earthquake news for Tokyo...

See what I mean about constant news flow? Here is another 'reassuring' article on earthquakes in Tokyo... I do not know what this quote is all about:

If Toda's findings are confirmed, Japan "may need to review its earthquake-related policies around Tokyo" since such polices are made on the assumption the Philippine plate is a single tectonic plate, Kyodo said.

Since Tokyo is already overdue for a big quake, how (or why) would earthquake-related policies change?

Posted by Kirk at 07:58 PM | Comments (0)

Arsenal steals the FA Cup

I think Manchester United fans are waking up today wondering how things could ever have gone so wrong (if they are also English, then the feeling is probably a familiar one).

Man U outplayed Arsenal for 120 minutes, but could not find the back of the net. So, it went down to penalties. And Arsenal closed the deal. I think Arsene Wenger was playing for a penalty shootout after the first half. He had to fancy his chances with Jens Lehmann on his side and Roy Carroll in the United goal.

Wayne Rooney was named Man of the Match, and he did have a fantastic game. But as much as I hate to admit it, Lehmann deserved it more: he ended with a clean sheet against a relentless attack and saved the crucial penalty at the end.

Mostly, I feel terrible for Preyash, because he probably stayed up until 2am watching and hoping. Not like London, where the match ended at 6pm, giving us time to watch Dr. Who before heading off for a nice dinner. And Preyash - we were not having a good laugh at your expense. We were outraged like everyone else who watched it...heh heh.

Posted by Kirk at 07:36 PM | Comments (0)

St. James Park

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I took this picture in St. James Park near Buckingham Palace. You would think you were in the countryside and not in the middle of one of the world's biggest cities. That sense of isolation was magnified because I was out at 730 this morning. If you have ever been in London on a Sunday morning, you will understand.

Because there is NOTHING open. In fact, the only people I did see were obviously from out of town: true Londoners were still asleep. But I have jet lag and woke up at 6am. And the sun was shining, so I thought I would get out to take advantage of it.

I did not get many pictures. I think I have mentioned before I have no eye for pictures...this becomes glaringly obvious when you try to snap photos of famous places, because the pictures never look as good as post cards. So, what's the point?

But I kept myself busy enough until the coffee shops opened and I could really start my day. Because one of the really cool things about coming to London is the newpapers. I love reading the Sunday paper, but I'm lucky to spend 20 minutes on that in Tokyo. There is just not much available. In contrast, London has lots of papers. It is paradise.

Posted by Kirk at 07:00 PM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2005

Not so sunny London

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This is a picture of Oxford Circus. As you can see, the (briefly) sunny weather that we had yesterday when I arrived is no longer here. But that does not stop anyone from getting out for a bit of shopping on the weekend. Oxford Street on a Saturday is almost always insanely crowded and you tend to shuffle along rather than walk.

In fact, most people who live here recommend you avoid it all costs. I had my wallet stolen around here once, so I can agree with that. But my hotel is about 100 metres up the street, so I do not have much choice.

I took some other pictures and I will put it all on line later. Right now I am off to see my friends Leigh and Nicky. They used to live in Japan, but have moved to London within the last year. Leigh could be the one person I know who travels more than I do. In fact, he is off to Tokyo tomorrow (for some reason, he only goes there when I am here...)

Anyway, we are watching the FA Cup final and I expect I will have something to say about that later. It is Manchester United v Arsenal and it is a game loaded with significance as this is the only chance for either team to win a trophy this year. I would like to see them both lose, but I may have to give my reluctant support to MU for Preyash's sake (and if they lose, I am sure he will blame me for mentioning it here).

Posted by Kirk at 09:39 PM | Comments (0)

Sunny London

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I am here! This is taken from the car on the way to the hotel. Thought it would be a typical London picture with the red doubledecker bus and the old buildings in the background (and the traffic), but the blue sky ruins the effect!

Posted by Kirk at 01:33 AM | Comments (2)

Traveling is fun

If the journey over here is any indication, this trip will be a nightmare. For one, the trains were not running in Tokyo (this never happens!) and there were only vague hints from the station manager on what to do. To be fair, it does happen so rarely they were probably shocked as well. In any case, I ditched the train option and took a taxi instead.

Now, some of you may be wondering why I didn’t do this in the first place. If that’s so, you have never been to Tokyo. The airport is about 100km outside the city and the taxi fare from Tokyo is ¥20,000, or about $200. In fact, after five years in Tokyo, this was my first taxi ride to the airport. Compared to standing on a crowded train platform wondering if I would catch my flight, I can’t complain, but other than that it was a bit of a letdown. And I think it was the first time for the driver as well, who seemed better-suited to city driving and did not ever exceed 100km/hr despite the steady stream of cars, trucks, buses (and horse-drawn carts and pedestrians) passing to our left. But I reached the airport with time to spare, so that was OK.

I mostly fly British Airways. They go a lot of the places I need to go and the service is generally good. In the big scheme of things, European airlines are average. Asian-based airlines are much (much) better, while US airlines are often the worst (except Continental! I like them!). In the case of BA, the staff is polite and usually helpful. The lounges are good (depends where you are, to be honest), and their schedules are accommodating. The only real problem is the flights themselves.

So, here come my complaints: the plane was full…of muppets. It seems like everyone on the plane was flying for the first time. There is one guy who has left his overhead light on so it shines directly into my face when I try to lie down. He is sleeping, and even if he wasn’t, there is another light one row up that is also strangely aimed right at me. Meanwhile, the guy next to me keeps opening the shutters on the window and looking out (does he think everything outside has ‘gone away’? or is he making sure we are not lost?). I tried to sleep, but that wasn’t working out.

Not sleeping on a 13-hour flight can be a crisis…there is not much to do. You can read or you can watch movies. According to the BA Magazine, the lineup of the latter is excellent…if you are flying the other way. And I had only one book, so I had to ‘ration’ it to make sure it lasted the whole trip. Of course, there is one other thing you can do…complain about all of it and post it to your website.

I have saved the best for last. Inevitably, the pilot will come on the PA and let everyone know we are “making good time” and that we should “arrive early”. This, of course, is good news because it is a 13-hour flight. And it happens EVERY flight. Usually, the next time we hear from him is when we have been put into a holding pattern (those English sure love to queue), delaying our “early” arrival. Sometimes, we skip that only to find our gate is still being used. Or that we need to park off-stand and take a bus in. I have flown BA from Tokyo to London maybe twenty or thirty times and I have been early once. We were one hour late this time.

Posted by Kirk at 01:31 AM | Comments (1)

May 19, 2005

Hey, what's all that shaking?

One facet of living in Tokyo is the idea that it could all end in 90 seconds. I am talking about earthquakes and they happen much too often here for my comfort. These kind of news stories are fairly common.

I should be used to it...I grew up in California, which has its fair share of quakes. But I am not. If I was, I might not work and live in high rise buildings (15th floor for both).

The building I live in is supposedly built to withstand earthquakes, so I should rest assured I will survive when the "big one" comes (more on that in a minute). So far, it is still standing, which is a good sign. But it groans and creaks as it shakes - that could be the worst part. And it continues to rock back and forth for a good 30 seconds afterwards (that's the second worst part).

Anyway, a major earthquake strikes Tokyo every 65-70 years and the last one was in 1923...you do the math: we are overdue. So, everytime the earth starts shaking, you have to wonder if our time is up. The government says a major quake in Tokyo would kill 13,000 people. I hope that's the worst case, but I think most people assume it would be more. As you can see, every day is an adventure here.

Posted by Kirk at 06:42 PM | Comments (0)

Baseball fever...

How is this for cool: the San Diego Padres have won seven straight games against some of the best teams in the league. And they are in first place. I am happy about that. In fact, I am spending so much of my time at the Major League Baseball website, they are going to give me frequent flier miles.

Anyway, this weekend, the Padres will play the Seattle Mariners. In Japan, the Mariners are very popular thanks to star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who last year broke the record for most hits in a major league season (262). Thanks to him, there is plenty of Amercian baseball on TV here. And there is no doubt the Padres-Mariners games will be on. Too bad I won't be here.

Posted by Kirk at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)

I thought I was special

I am behind the times. When I set this blog up, I thought I was on the cutting edge...doing something different. But today, I read that there are now over THREE MILLION bloggers in Japan. That means one out of every 40 people here have their own web site. And that number is expected to double in the next two years! So, I am not special...I am late!

It also means that Kaz's comments earlier this week are right...I am going to have to be funny...there is too much competition.

If I needed any proof, the article also reports that 16.5 million people in Japan read blogs. Considering my new visitor counter (>>>>) says there have been 39 this week, I am not doing so well in comparison. Might have to take that down. Then again, when I installed it, I had the option of setting the first number, so I could have put "100" or "1,000" and made it look like this was a popular site. Maybe I could go back and put "16.5 million"...I could pretend everyone in Japan is reading this.

From tomorrow, I should have plenty of entertaining things for you to see and read. I will fly to London for the weekend and then I am off to Europe for holiday. Stay tuned...

Posted by Kirk at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2005

And here he is...

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As you can see, Kaz is in fine form. I like to have a few drinks with Kaz because I always get a fresh perspective and good ideas for my job. Unfortunately, I can never remember any of these in the morning. But at least I know I have them.

Kaz has also agreed to go with me to see a Chiba Lotte Marines game sometime after I get back to Japan. In return, I promised to try to write something funny. I do not know if I can keep up my end of the bargain by writing, but I am hoping the picture is worth a few laughs!


Posted by Kirk at 11:47 PM | Comments (0)

Time for a drink!

It is 8pm and I am still in the office. That is horrible! But there is a silver lining: I will meet my friend and colleague Kaz for a drink after work. He is the one working late, which is why I am leaving in 30 minutes and not 10 minutes ago like I wanted.

He reads this website ao I can't gossip about him, but I am pretty sure he won't check this out before meeting me downstairs. So, I should be able to surprise him with my camera and take a few photos for the next entry.

Kaz is one of the people who keeps me humble. For example, he tells everyone that when he met me he thought I was gay (because I didn't immediately want to marry the women he suggested I date). And he calls me "baka-ku" instead of "ka-ku". In Japanese, 'baka' means 'stupid', so you can see this is not very flattering. The funny thing is he keeps doing it, even though I reply by calling him "baka-zu". Entertaining, right?

Anyway, I better go downstairs and get some suitably embarassing pictures to entertain you with.

Posted by Kirk at 07:59 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2005

I am stuck on my couch...help

On the weekends, I spend a lot of time on my couch. I think most people have a favorite place in their home to relax, and this is the place for me. I say 'this', because that is where I am now. And I am not moving for awhile.

This has a substantial impact on my life. For example, it is not very easy to go shopping, do laundry, cook, clean or shower from my couch. In fact, the only things I can do are watch TV or use my laptop. Because I have cable and a wi-fi set up, however, this can take up a lot of time. I also take naps.

Anyway, I am on my couch now. You are catching me at a busy time as I am writing this and watching The West Wing at the same time. I never really liked that show when I lived in the US, but its really grown on me. Of course, there is not much else on right now.

Posted by Kirk at 10:53 PM | Comments (1)

May 14, 2005

Long-suffering baseball fan

Now that the football season is almost over, it is time for me to turn my attention to baseball. When I was growing up, I loved this sport and I cannot imagine summer without it.

And of course, there is plenty of baseball in Japan, although I have not really paid much attention to it until this year. The closest team to my home is the Yakult Swallows, and I am going to make every effort to go to a game this year. Let me know if you want to go! This weekend, the Swallows played the Chiba Lotte Marines, which are managed by Bobby Valentine. If I was going to have a second favorite team in Japan, maybe that would be it.

But my TRUE favorite team is the one I grew up with, the San Diego Padres. Being a Padres fan is like being a Cubs or Red Sox fan, but at least most people recognise how difficult it can be one to be of their fans. Not so with San Diego. Maybe this year is different. I hope so!

Posted by Kirk at 10:42 PM | Comments (1)

I had fun yesterday - thanks

I do not think it is a good policy to write about parties the morning after. For one, if I have a hangover I am usually asking myself why it seemed like a good idea to have that last drink at 2am (or 3am...4am, depends on which night we are talking about!).

But last night I saw a lot of friends that I had not seen in awhile (Chihiro, Eliya, Alex, Glenn, Miyuki, Shiho, Kuniko: that means you!) and people that I see more often, but do not have a chance to talk with as much as I would like. So, I am glad to have had the opportunity, especially as I will be away for the next six weeks. I am sorry I did not take any pictures...then again, cameras and alcohol really do not mix, so maybe it is better that way.

Hopefully, I can make up for it in July when I am back in Tokyo. Maybe we could all go to Monkey Island and I can introduce you to the relatives...oh wait, i keep forgeting there are no monkeys on Monkey Island. (hey - that should be a famous quote!)

Posted by Kirk at 11:02 AM | Comments (0)

Have a patriotic beer with your navy curry

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Are you a patriotic Japanese? If you are, then you should probably be drinking this beer...it commemorates the 100-yr anniversary of winning the war against Russia. I have a can in my refrigerator, which I will save for a special occassion. If I had more, I could find some of the right-wing protestors and share with them.

In Japan, there is a VERY vocal minority on the far right of the political spectrum. As opposed to the US, where they get elected president and cause all sorts of international mayhem, the right wingers here simply drive around in big black vans with loudspeakers on the top. I have been thinking about them recently because they drive around near my neighborhood on Saturday mornings. EARLY saturday mornings.

Anyway, even if I do not drink with them, I hope to get some pictures of them soon. Maybe we can pose with my Monkey Island shirt. Or, maybe we will go down to Yokosuka and have some "Mr. Navy Curry" with our patriotic beer.

Posted by Kirk at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

猿島人

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This is me at Monkey Island near Yokosuka. The island itself is not much...for one there are no monkeys! And it is very small. But, it is also the place where I got the coolest T-shirt I have. It says "猿島人" on the front, which means Monkey Island Person. The only thing cooler would be to find a shirt that says "Sarukoen Person". Wait! I have an idea: maybe i should make those t-shirts and sell them to you???


Posted by Kirk at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

I've been neglecting this recently

I think my job is standing in the way of the important things in life, like updating this web site. Would anyone out there like to volunteer to pay me for writing this?

Actually, I hear some bloggers have been fairly successful using Google advertisements and the like to generate income from their web sites. The very first e-mail I received in relation to this blog was someone in California who said he could help me 'make massive money' on the Internet. Maybe I should have taken him up on his offer!

I will make up for not writing earlier by posting some pictures from last weekend. Thanks for being patient with me!


Posted by Kirk at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2005

They're everywhere

gordon 001.jpg I have an abundance of former colleagues. I do not know if that is because I work in Asia, or for an investment bank, or both. It just is.

I was reminded of that twice this week. THe first time was last night, when a couple of the guys from the office invited me out to meet a guy we had worked with in my early days in Tokyo. (he's the relaxed guy in the blue shirt).

I did not know him that well, but he always seemed like a good bloke, so I was happy to go along. He went to London almost four years ago, intending to leave Asia and banking behind him. Inevitably, his plans have changed and he is back in Asia (HK this time) working for a broker. Anyway, to close the circle he made the trip up to Tokyo, hence the night out.

We did the usual thing - a few drinks in the pub (Hobgoblin), a quick ramen, and more drinks at Geronimo's. The operative word is "usual" because this is the blessing and curse of former colleagues: they are always around and seemingly always thirsty. It was a quiet night for me, home by midnight etc. The others were out until 4am...someone has to do it.

The second reminder came earlier today as I was in the office trying to think of something to write here. Another former colleague turned up, this one from my time in NY, in Tokyo to meet with clients. Maybe this does not count as we still work for the same company, but I had not seen him in five years so I am assuming it does. We had a quick chat about people we had in common and it was good to see him again. Just as important, it gave me something to write about.

Posted by Kirk at 10:30 PM | Comments (1)

May 08, 2005

Mr. Naval Forces Curry

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The panel on the left is is an advertisement for the very popular Mr. Navy Curry, which I am sure you have already heard of. I have included the link to the website so you can order some today.

Yokosuka is a naval base about one hour south of Tokyo. Right now, the city is celebrating the 100-year anniversary of Japan's victory over the Russian Navy (25 May 1905). That has to rank as one of the most embarassing incidents in foreign affairs for Russia ever. Japan started things off by smashing the Russian fleet stationed in the Pacific. In response, the Russians sent their Baltic Fleet halfway across the world so that the Japanese could sink that one too.

US President Teddy Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize for getting Japan and Russia to stop fighting. And, Ensign Isoroku Yamamoto was seriously injured while serving aboard the Nisshin. He is better known as Admiral Yamamoto of World War II fame.

One of the battleships from that fight, the Mikasa, is permanently on display in the aptly-named Mikasa Park. Unfortunately, we opted to skip the battleship tour and go to Monkey Island instead.

What are you doing on May 25th? Maybe you should be celebrating with some 100-yr old curry. Or something like that.

By the way, you could wash that fine curry down with a special beer commemorating the victory 100 years ago. The can says it has a "European Taste" and you will be able to see it in the picture gallery when I get around to updating that later.

Posted by Kirk at 04:50 PM | Comments (0)

Yokosuka Cactus Club

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We were lucky enough to see these people in the park next to the boat to Sarushima (more on that bit later!). The sign says this is the Yokosuka Cactus Club and they are having a sale for charity (I think that's what it says!)

Anyway - this is good news for cactus fans as there is finally a place to go for your cactus needs. And if Yokosuka has a cactus club, there must be hundreds of others around Japan!

Posted by Kirk at 04:44 PM | Comments (0)

They did it!

Whew! Yeovil comfortably topped Lincoln to win League Two and automatic promotion to League One in the final match of the year. And Manchester United drew with sure-to-be-relegated West Brom to end the curse of Preyash. I am already excited about next year!

Posted by Kirk at 08:42 AM | Comments (1)

May 07, 2005

Did I mention I was a Yeovil fan?

I have adopted Yeovil as my football team. They are League Two and have a long tradition of being 'giant killers' in cup play. Tonight is the last game of the season for them, and they need only one point to win promotion to League One.

The reality is they should have won promotion already, but they were cursed by my friend Preyash, who told me a few months ago they looked sure to go up. At which point they lost four of their next five matches. He is a United fan and I am quite happy to see them struggle after what he did to Yeovil.

So - we should know in a few hours...go Glovers!

Posted by Kirk at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)

You can run, but you cannot hide

Tonight, I went to the Hobgoblin in Akasaka to watch the second half of the Chelsea/Charlton match. Usually, a trip down to the pub to watch football is a guarantee that you will not run into any Americans (not that there is anything wrong with that). And I am sure that you can imagine where I am going with this already.

Before I can even take the first sip of my pint, the guy next to me asks "do you follow any of this soccer stuff?" uh oh...what followed was a rambling 45 minute conversation, including the merits of american football over baseball, how soccer is really neat, and how it was really 'great' to see Chelsea lose to Liverpool since they tried to buy their way to greatness.

There was nothing wrong with any of those ideas really, and it was nice to talk to another American that likes football. But I had to wonder if he really does understand - all the chat meant I never had a chance to get into the flow of the match. Probably, he was used to having more time to get his views across without missing anything - after all, the average American football/baseball game lasts closer to three hours than two, with plenty of breaks in the action.

Pundits will tell you it is the commercialisation of the game and that they need that time for advertisements. I disagree - that extra hour ensures you can prattle on to your heart's content and still not miss any of the action.

As for the match itself, Chelsea were awarded a dubious penalty in the 90th minute and converted to give the home fans the win they wanted before they handed out the trophies. It was an awful way to end the game, and I left the pub ¥2,000 poorer and in no way more relaxed. Of course, the next match starts in thirty minutes and if I go to Hobgoblin Roppongi, I should be safe...

Posted by Kirk at 11:05 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2005

Back to work...sort of

Today was the first day back in the office after Golden Week. Actually, it was not much of a workday because a lot of people took today off to extend the holiday through the weekend. But it was enough to remind me that I will be traveling a lot again soon. I spend about five months of the year outside Japan, mostly in Europe. My next trip starts on 20 May and I will not get back to Japan until late June or early July. I always have a long trip in the Summer, so this is usual. And this year, I will take 10 days of vacation to help my sister Terri celebrate her birthday. One day for every ten years (ha ha ha - just checking to see if she has read this).

We will go to Prague, Vienna and Budapest. Apparently, there is a lot to do there as Terri keeps sending me itineraries. That is a good thing - I need something to do between my coffee in the morning and beers in the evening. If it was up to me, there would be some vague plans to go later and "see a castle" or "go by the museum". That is a necessary attitude if you are going to the beach for a holiday, but has no place in Europe. Unless you are going to France ("winery", "Auchan")

I am getting a little ahead of myself here, as I have a lot to do in Tokyo between now and then. Unfortunately, most of it is work related and not worth mentioning here.

Posted by Kirk at 11:59 PM | Comments (3)

I am not a spy...or am I?

Talking about my crazy schedule reminds me of something funny. My family thinks that I could be a spy. It started with my mother, who was convinced that I went to "Spy School" in Monterey (I was close; my graduate school, the Monterey Institute of International Studies), is just down the hill from the military language school). Granted, I did study Russian for six years and there was a time, when there was not a lot of other things to do with Russian, but that has all changed. However, it is really all the travelling that I do which has kept my family guessing. They cannot believe that I would leave home for four-six weeks at a time to go see 'clients'. What's ironic is any denial is expected. And the better the denial, the more impressed the family is: "he must be a really good spy. I was convinced for a minute that he really DID work for an investment bank." So, this is my latest (and most public) denial - I am not a spy. I really do work for an investment bank (yes, er, a German investment bank...in Japan...and I travel five months of the year on business to London...really).

As for spy denial, I have a long way to go. One of my colleagues has harbored suspicions for years that I am a Russian spy. He thinks this because he found a powerful radio transmitter in my apartment next to my gun case and poison-tipped umbrella. And I always cry at the end of No Way Out.

Posted by Kirk at 11:55 PM | Comments (4)

May 05, 2005

An afternoon in Asakusa

I did get out after all. I went up to Asakusa for the afternoon. This is also part of shitamachi, which I wrote about earlier in the week, and is about a 30-minute subway ride from my home.

The temple here, Senso-ji, is very famous and people come from all over Japan to see it. And foreigners come because all the guidebooks say this is a must-see. And it really is. There are shopping streets all around the temple, which are good fun to browse through. There are more pictures in the photo album if you want to have a look (The album is Tokyo 5 May 2005).

After Asakusa, I took the Sumida River Cruise down to Hinode pier, which is relatively close to where I live. I did not take any pictures worth saving, however. But this is a good way to spend a hot day...and it only costs ¥660!

After today, I think I have reached my limit on taking pictures of Tokyo (at least for the time being!). I am pleased with the results and hope you are too.

And Terri (that's my sister)...no more rude comments in the photo gallery!

Posted by Kirk at 07:57 PM | Comments (1)

Spend your holiday at the dentist

Oops. I was all set to get out of Tokyo when I realised I had a dentist appointment. It is at 1030am, so I may still get away, but I am trying to remember the logic of scheduling a visit on a holiday. I should not be complaining - I am not going to get cavities filled or have a root canal. Instead, my dentist wants to see me to see how my orthodontic work is going.

Last year, I decided I would fix the gap between my two front teeth, and I finally had braces put in. The device is more like a retainer. It is clear plastic and not obvious at all, unless you point it out to people or take it and show them. The latter does not always go over well, by the way. You are supposed to always keep it in, except when you eat or drink.

Because of this, it is starting to rule my life. It is good for discipline. It has cut my between meals snacking down to zero and I brush my teeth at least three/four times a day and usually more.

I started in early April and I should be finished by December. I will be happy it is over and hopefully, I will keep up with the new good habits I am learning.

I can't waste any more holiday time with writing - I have a dentist appointment to keep!

Posted by Kirk at 09:42 AM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2005

More pictures are in the archives

I have uploaded some more pictures into the archives, including more of Tokyo and some from cherry blossom season. I will have to organise these better at some point, but there are only 5-15 pictures in each section so it should be manageable.

I am trying to figure out the theme of my pictures - it seems to be something like "I had my camera out when i saw that". It is certainly not artistic...good photographers will talk about having an eye for pictures. i am more of the 'keeping snapping photos until you get one you like' type. In any case, you can leave comments on each picture - please do when you have time.

Posted by Kirk at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2005

The coolest island ever?

This is where I am going on Sunday: the coolest island ever! Maybe, it is the coolest island for me ever...In any case, I cannot wait!

Posted by Kirk at 07:23 PM | Comments (0)

Shitamachi

Well, I actually did something today. I spent the afternoon in shitamachi, which is the neighborhoods making up the old part of Tokyo. It is a nice change from the city I am usually exposed to.

My original plan was to pick up some senbei (rice crackers) at a shop near Sendagi Station (If you live in Japan, you need to go here - they are very good!), but I did not even get 20 meteres from the station before seeing it was closed. Needless to say i was disappointed. As I had no plan, I walked around a bit making my way towards Ueno. The back streets can be full of surprises, which you will see if you check out the pictures I took today (go to the directory Nezu). The surprise is not Winnie the Pooh (did you look at all the pictures?), but the festival at Nezu Shrine. It was very crowded, but everyone seemed to be having a good time.

While I was in the neighborhood, I also bought a wood block print (of an old house) and some postcards that the artist signed (actually he signed the envelope they came in), but I am happy because they look very cool. Before you think I went off and got artistically sensible, I can tell you the print was 500 yen and the postcards were 1,000 yen.

After that, I made a side trip to Marunouchi, where I met my friend Aiko for a lemonade. She works for Bloomberg and writes about telecom stocks. I am glad that she was the one who had to work today and not me. She gave me a "Docomodake" and bought me a green tea/white choco muffin. (thanks Aiko - docomodake will be up on this site soon!).

I finished my trip with a visit to the Maruzen in the Oazo Building. It probably has the largest selection of English language books in Japan. I love that place.

Posted by Kirk at 05:41 PM | Comments (0)

Thirsty?

nezu 071.jpg
One of the best things about Japan is the amazing number and variety of vending machines. I know this is a cliche, but everytime I see one like this, I am reminded again. But I have to wonder whether anyone has actually purchased a bottle of wine this way.

I have been told the reason there are so many is that it is a much more efficient use of retail space (rents are high, etc). That sounds good to me, but it is probably not that simple. All I know for sure is that they are convenient and reliable. ...and before the questions comes up, this is about the dodgiest I have seen.

Posted by Kirk at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2005

Lazy Sunday

I have been spending a lot of time on this site without actually doing anything. Actually, I have been trying to change the layout and add some extra pages (about this site, about me etc), and have not had much success. I do not know why I expected it to be easy - I have no idea how to do it.

I did add some pictures, however, which you can find here or using the link to the right.

I have been trying to get out and know Tokyo better, so a lot of the pictures that you will see were taken as I was exploring. I tried to capture images that were a bit quirky - things that I can look up when I want to remind myself how strange and exciting Tokyo can be.

I still have more to upload, and I will get to that. Unfortunately, I have to do this one picture at a time and I could not be bothered to spend quality time on this when I could be doing nothing instead.
Hopefully, with new pictures I will be more diligent and more excited about going through the process.

Posted by Kirk at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)