April 13, 2011

I am back!

This is full circle sort of thing. The aforementioned business in Shonan is closed and maybe I will tell that story some time, but not yet.

Sadly, I have also left the comforts of the beach for the hustle and bustle of Tokyo again. That is just temporary however, as I will be moving to London soon.

So, a short summary of momentous events. In the middle of all that, you may have noticed there was a major earthquake, tsunamis and a nuclear scare to deal with. No one said life is easy!

Posted by Kirk at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2009

April Fool's Day or something like that

I am always caught out by April Fool's Day, so it is a good thing I live in Japan, where the tradition for playing practical jokes on your friends, colleagues or family is not really celebrated.

In fact, this is a very serious day as it is the beginning of the fiscal year. That means that many people are starting fresh, maybe in new jobs (well, probably not this year) and classes. In addition, there are always changes in various rules/regulations etc/ For example, from today smoking has been completely banned in railway stations in the Tokyo area (which apparentrly extends all the way to Zushi). The newspapers also publish a big roundup of what to expect, but I haven't looked so I really can't tell you anything else. In any case, I am not starting a new job or going to school, so this is a fairly typical day for me. Having said that, I have been doing a bit of spring cleaning and upgrading some of the things at home. I am quite pleased how things turned out.

The weather has slowly been getting warmer and I have been spending a lot of time outside. I have been surfing a few times, which is good as I REALLY need the practice. I feel like I am getting worse as time goes by. Then again, I do like being in the water even if it is because I can't stay up on my board. Oh, did I mention I bought a board and wet suit?

One thing I have not been doing is taking pictures, as you may have noticed. This is prime cherry blossom season, but I think I will take a break from taking photos of that this year. There are 127 million people already out there snapping away and I dount one more person will make a difference.

Ha! The one other major thing I did was lose my mobile phone. I know I lost it on the train: as usual, I was on a late train from Tokyo and fell asleep. When I realised I had missed my stop, I got off as soon as I could. Without my phone. The annoying thing is that I knew right away and went straight to lost and found to see what they could do.Which was nothing...in case you were wondering. I also went three times the next day, but they said no one had turned it in, so I was pretty much out of luck. I ended up shelling out 40,000 yen for a new one. The hardest part was losing nine years of phone numbers/addresses stored in the phone. The good news is that it has been found after all and I can pick it up if I go to Atami Police Station. I always wanted to go to Atami and I can think of very few things nicer than spending a few hours on the train to visit a police station. Of course, I will probably oversleep on another train and end up there anyway, so no need to make special plans!

Posted by Kirk at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2009

Back to normal!

Anyone working in the financial markets is excused for thinking this is just another in the long list of blogs declaring an end to the financial mayhem we have witnessed over the last twelve months; that falling asset values have finally bottomed and a return to the credit-fueled good times is on hand.

I wish that were true, but what I really wanted to say is that my sprained ankle is substantially healed and I am feeling better. By popular request, I also wanted to knock that ugly picture of my foot of the front of the blog.

Last week, I started running again and I even tempted fate by returning to the softball field last Saturday. Happily, I survived the experience intact and am ready to get back to what I was doing before. Which is...a good question. Because I am not really sure what I should be doing. I will think on it and get back to you.

Posted by Kirk at 08:01 AM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2009

Inauspicious beginning

Today is the first "business" day of the new year. Not that it matters to me, heh heh, but does mark a return to normalcy after the long new year's holiday.

I prepared for today by doing something nasty to my ankle while playing softball yesterday. Besides being extremely painful at first, it was incredibly frustrating because I had been looking forward to playing all weekend and we had reserved the field for SIX hours. I made it through two and spent the rest of the time with my foot up on a bench watching everyone else have fun. Anyway, the ankle is bruised and swollen up like a balloon, but it does not hurt so much anymore and I think a couple of days on the couch with it elevated, iced and wrapped should put me back on track.

My ugly foot
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And if not, well, I noticed this morning that the slow, stumbling pace (kind of a hopping, foot-dragging walking style) while taking my garbage to the bins is STILL faster than some of my neighbours'.

Which illustrates just how clever I was to leave big, busy Tokyo for the countryside. Living on your savings and needing an hour to walk the 500m to the grocery store is normal here.

Posted by Kirk at 08:45 AM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2009

Hello 2009

Happy new year!

First off, when I said that a million Zushi Beach sunset pictures was enough, I was wrong. So, I went out this afternoon and took this one.

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The beach was super crowded again. They should sell tickets! Wait...that is a bad idea. Never mind.

Anyway, I went up to Tokyo for New Year's Eve and like last year I watched the show at Alfie's. Unfortunately, this time I had much less patience for the after midnight set (compared to last year when I could walk home as opposed to the one and a half hours it takes to get home from Roppongi now), so I left before they finished. Despite that, I didn't get back here until 4:30am...not exactly the way I wanted to start the new year off. Then again, I only had one drink after midnight, so I more tired than anything and there is not much to do in Japan on New Years Day. So, maybe I should have stayed?

Well, here's hoping that 2009 is a good year!

Posted by Kirk at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

December 31, 2008

Bye bye 2008

It is almost 5pm and the sun is setting on 2008 in Japan in spectacular fashion. The sky is orange-red, providing a vivid contrast with the dark outline of the mountains across the bay.

I thought about going out to get a picture for the blog, but I have about one million Zushi Beach sunset shots and one more probably won't matter. More importantly, it is really cold and I spent most of the day outside, so I think I have earned some quality indoor relaxation.

I went surfing this morning...that was really great. When I got to Shichirigahama, I did not know whether I would go in or not. Despite there being few rideable waves, it was super crowded. I am really not very good at surfing, and I need as few distractions as possible - trying to keep myself out of the way of more experienced surfers takes up all my time it seems.

But the surf shop owner said he would drop the rate from 5,000 yen to 2,000 today...and at that price I could go sit in the water for two hours and it would be money well spent, so I did. Even better, the waves picked up a bit and I actually could get a few rides in. Hopefully, I am getting better...

Anyway, I told you it was cold and while I was comfortable in the water, when I got out I was absolutely freezing, which made the walk back to the surf shop seem to take forever. Brrrr!

I also went running for the last time in 2008: five kilometres on the beach. It was really crowded, actually. Not with joggers! But sane people wearing jackets, hats and mittens. Some of them were taking pictures of the sunset. Clever...

I am off to Tokyo later...fortunately the trains run all night, so I can come back when I want after midnight. No difficult decisions on whether that next drink is worth trading a night at home for the dubious pleasure of a capsule hotel.

Posted by Kirk at 03:35 PM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2008

FIT for Charity 2008

While many of you in Japan took the opportunity of a three-day weekend to go leaf-peeping, I went and ran a 10K instead. No big deal? Yes it is...it was my first one!

The event was sponsored by FIT for Charity and included a 10K run, a 4K run, and a 2K walk. You can follow the link to learn more about the organization and who they are donating this year's proceeds to. As you may have read FIT is made up of financial companies in Tokyo and I am obviously not in that circle anymore, being unemployed and all, but I joined my former company's team so that was alright.

Anyway, I had to come up from Zushi in time to check-in before the 9am start. That meant getting on a train at 7am to commute for a 10K run, which seemed absurd at the time (sometimes I think that my life was a lot easier when I lived in Tokyo. This was one of those times.) In addition to the long commute, I did not sleep well the night before, so I was not exactly feeling my best. However, my goal was to not embarass myself and I still felt I could do that. Beyond that, I hoped that I would be able to run the entire 10K without stopping. And my absolute dream goal was to finish in less than an hour.

I have run 10K before on the beach, but I have never sure of the time or the actual distance (I have been told the beach is a kilometer long, but I have never measured it), so there was some questions in my mind. In addition, there has been a few times when I tried to do 10K and gave up, so I was thinking a little about that as well.

Happily, I did it in 56 minutes! I am not sure if that is a competitive time, but it was great for me and I am quite pleased.

Posted by Kirk at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2008

A reminder of warmer days

Well, it is starting to get cooler now. I had to put an extra blanket on the bed and I used the space heater for the first time. It wasn't that cold, actually, but I was sitting around indoors wearing my jacket when a t-shirt would have been more comfortable.

Anyway, here is a picture from when I was in San Diego last month. At that time, I really could not imagine cold weather. Funny, how that always seems to change so quickly. It is the same thing in March or April, when the idea of going out wearing shorts and a T-shirt seems impossible. Here's the picture:

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Posted by Kirk at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)

October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Since I have the website open...I thought I would mention it.

Posted by Kirk at 01:49 PM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2008

Happy New Year! あけましておめでとうございます!

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2008!

One of the things I hoped to do this year was watch the first sunrise of the year, which is supposed to bring you good luck. Although it seemed like a great idea beforehand, it was less appealing at 6am this morning. So, I slept some more instead. More bad luck for me!!!

I went with some friends to Alfie's in Roppongi for some live music and the New Year's countdown. This is in stark contrast to the temple visits and bell-ringling last year and certainly a lot of fun.

Posted by Kirk at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2007

I am lazy. It's great.

Well, we went back to the all-you-can-drink place at Tokyo Dome on Wednesday. It was OK...actually, there is a two-hour time limit, but when you are paying less than the cost of two drinks in Roppongi, it is still a fantastic deal.

When I say "we", I mean Max and two of his newly-arrived-in-Tokyo housemates. It is always interesting to get people's perspectives on Japan when everything is new and different. I have no idea what I told people when I got here, needless to say it probably didn't make much sense. This is a picture of Tokyo Dome from where I sat in the beer garden.

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After our two hours were up, we headed over to the Hub in LaQua for a few more drinks. Max's housemates wandered off and I am still wondering what happened to them. It was a pretty lively atmosphere, helped in part by the Tokyo Giants having clinched a playoff spot. Actually, I am only guessing on that last part, but the Giants ARE in first place and there were lots of drunk people waving orange scarves, so I feel it is a safe assumption.

On Thursday, I went with a friend for a long walk through old Tokyo. We started by taking the river cruise from Hinode Pier to Asakusa, and in my organizational brilliance I had us at the pier an hour before the first boat. We had a coffee and watched all the old people get in line in front of us. Well, I love being on the water, even if it is a silly tourist boat, and we got the prime bench seats at the back, so it was that much better.

Once we arrived, we walked through Asakusa, Kappabashi, Ueno and eventually arrived in Yanaka. Unfortunately for you, I did not take any pictures. You will have to take my word for it when I say it was a really lovely day.

Yesterday, I went for a long ride around Tokyo. I went to one of my favourite places in Tokyo for a coffee. It is at the the entrance to Meiji Shrine. I am not sure why I like it so much as the coffee is ordinary and there are tons of mosquitoes flapping around. Then again, it is quiet and the people watching is pretty good. There is a mix of Japanese going to pray and tourists going to gawk and all of them stop at the entrance to take pictures, so you get a good look at them. Anyway, this is the front of the coffee shop.

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After that, I spent some time in Yoyogi Park. This picture looks peaceful, but in reality it wasn't.

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First of all, there were two pasty white sunbathers on the benches to my left. I say pasty, but I really mean they were painful to look at. On the other side there was an angry salaryman. Well, I assume he was angry because he looked like he wanted to throw his empty genki drink container at me. Maybe I woke him up. To fill things out, there was some kid who thought tap dancing on wooden planks with metal-soled shoes was really, really cool. Needless to say, I took my picture and left.

After that, I rode by a shop that I have been meaning to go to, so I stopped. The nicest woman in all of Tokyo helped me out while I looked at some furniture for the Zushi place. She was so eager for me to find exactly what I wanted. I felt bad that I left the shop without buying everything. I felt worse when she chased me down as I tried to get away, I mean ride away, to give me a catalog.

As for the title...there are three things I should be doing now: getting the Zushi place furnished, studying Japanese, and/or finding a job. Well, there is always next week.

Posted by Kirk at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)

May 27, 2007

My new apartment

I finally bought a place down by the ocean. It is in Zushi and less than 100m from the beach. I signed the contract last week and the deal should close by the end of the month. Of course...this is very exciting!!

Here is a picture from the rooftop of the building. Lovely, right?

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The apartment itself needs a lot of work. It is a 60-square meter 3LDK and the previous tenant lived there for 20 years and had a unusual affinity for the color pink. I will change it to a two-bedroom and completely renovate the place. That should be interesting. I am hoping to have it done by July 20th...that is when the Zushi Fireworks are.

Posted by Kirk at 12:05 AM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2007

Still looking for a place to buy

I went down to Zushi again this morning to look at apartments. I saw two, both of which were on the beach, well, as close as you could get in an apartment in Zushi. I would rather get something in Hayama, but either of these would do if I decided on Zushi.

The first one I saw was the most expensive, but it was a little dark and there was a wall and trees between the beach view and the living room. On the plus side, there is room to build a deck and it is a stone's throw from a barbecue area on the beach. Great location, OK apartment.

The second was in a super old building, and when we walked up I was tempted to tell the agent this one would not fly. BUT...the interior was amazing and there was an excellent panorama of Zushi Beach. The view was lovely. But no balcony or nearby barbecue spot. What a dilemma, right?

Anyway, I have to add something about the first apartment because the bathroom was incredible. First of all, there was a small television built into the wall in front of the bath tub. REALLY! If that is not enough, there was also a panel with a call button that rang a bell inside the living room/kitchen area. The agent said it was for older people, but my first thought was more along the lines of not having to get out of the bath for another beer while watching TV. I may not buy that apaprtment, but it gave me some great ideas for when I do own a place.

Posted by Kirk at 04:54 PM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2007

I can drive (almost)!!!

One of the things I have been meaning to write about is driving school. At the end of January I signed up to take driving lessons at Koyama Driving School in Futako-Tamagawa. Like most things, I put off writing something, but I can't anymore.

Because...today, I graduated!

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I still have to go to the driving license center and take the written test, which is more than a formality, so I am not a legal driver in Japan yet. But, I did finish almost 60 hours of classes/lessons AND passed the driving test today. I am very pleased.

On one hand, it was a breeze: I have been driving for over 20 years, but the US is one of the countries that does not have a reciprocal driving license program with Japan. So I can't just pop in with a translation of my license and a pair of photographs. On the other hand, the Japanese drive on the left-hand side of the road. It is probably a good idea that I get as used to that as possible!

Anyway, Koyama is notable for being the only driving school in Japan that offers classes in English. If you are thinking of getting a license, definitely give them a shout. They are super friendly and helpful - I miss going there already and I only left eight hours ago.

Posted by Kirk at 08:20 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2007

Rain Man

I really have to accept the idea that I am weather-impaired (weather-challenged? unlucky?).

What you need to know is that I agreed to meet Kaz at 8pm tonight for dinner and a few drinks. There was a terrific storm, so I was a bit wary about going out, but weather is not really a good reason to cancel your plans, so off I went.

As I left the apartment it did not seem so bad, but before I had walked the 100 metres to a place I could grab a taxi the rain was coming down so hard that I could hardly see. You know those sudden downpours where the raindrops bouncing up off the road make it look like you are walking through a series of fountains? Where the rain is so thick that you can SEE the wind as it blows towards you? It was just like that.

Needless to say, I was absolutely soaked by the time I got into a taxi (and the rest of the night for that matter!) Can I find comofrt in knowing that all of Tokyo suffered with me. Well, no. By the time I got to the restaurant (ten minutes later) it had stopped raining. And you wonder why I think I have a personal rain problem.

I know this because it is not the first time.

I lived in New York before moving to Tokyo and one night I had a similar experience. At that time, a rare hurricane was forecast to hit the city. This was really exciting and I made plans to meet a friend at a bar with big windows so that we could watch it all unfold.

The storm was forecast to hit around 10pm or so, so I set off around 7:30pm even though the rain had already started. It was a good twenty minute walk with heavy rain and a wind so strong that the it felt like someone was standing in front of me with a fire house. But, I spent every second fighting my way through, comforting myself with the knowledge that it would only get worse and therefore be much more spectacular later, from the inside, with a drink in my hand.

It stopped raining before I could even finish my first beer.

Posted by Kirk at 10:25 PM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2007

JLPT - I passed!

Did I mention I took the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (Level 3) in December last year? Well, I did. And, yesterday, I finally got the results.

I am quite pleased.

After the test, I felt confident about my score, but it is nice to be sure. Actually, I was super confident just after the test, but I started to worry more and more as time went on. But, I got 346 out of 400 points, which is 87%! That is even better than the results from the practice tests I took beforehand.

Of course, I have probably forgot about half of the Japanese I knew since then. I did not re-enroll this term because of various things I had to take care of. I told myself I could motivate myself to study at home by myself, but without the urgency of deadlines for homework etc, I am really not pushing myself. Well, there is always tomorrow.

Posted by Kirk at 09:04 AM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2007

Almost, but not quite

So, the place I had been thinking about buying in Hayama was bought.

Unfortunately, by someone else.

I am a bit disappointed - there were some definite drawbacks (old building, just off the main road, parking), but it was relatively cheap, spacious and almost perfectly located. Looks like it is back to square one - well, maybe square two or three, as I have a better idea of what to expect in the whole process. The agent told me that this might happen, but I really expected it would be available. Arrgghhh.

Anyway, I am going down next week to look at some more.

Also, my sister Terri has booked her ticket to come out and visit at the end of the month. This is really a milestone as I have lived here for over six years and this is the first time someone from the family is making the trip out. Woo

Posted by Kirk at 06:56 PM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2007

Busy as a bee?

This entry is not about you Christine, despite the title.

Anyway, I noticed again that it has been a few weeks since I updated the blog. I have been doing lots of things and my first reaction to seeing how long it took was to think that I have been busy lately. And I have, but not nearly as busy as I was when I was working.

It reminds me of that old saying:

"If you want something done, give it to a busy man"

I used to spend almost five months every year travelling and I managed to get something posted most days, but now I am spending A LOT of time at home and not getting around to the blog very much.

I am not a busy man.

What can I say? Actually, maybe part of the problem is that I do not have anything to write about anymore. Well, not exactly true...

I have finally bought a desktop computer to supplement the faithful laptop. I am still getting used to it, but I got a 21" monitor with it and that is very cool. I also decided to get a wireless keyboard to cut down in the spaghetti-like mess that comes with a deso decided to get a wireless keyboard to cut down in the spaghetti-like mess that comes with a desktop, but that is not so cool. It is huge because there seems to be a special button for almost any situation (My Favorites, My Documents, My Pictures etc.)...In fact, it seems to be twice as big as my laptop.

I have also signed up for driving lessons to get my Japanese license. This is such a scam - $3,000 and 60 hours of my time, but it will be worth it in the end. Many of you already know that you can get a license rather easily if you come from a country that has reciprocal licensing priveleges, like the UK or Australia. BUT...you are out of luck if you come from the US.

I have heard a lot of reasons for this...the one that makes the most sense is that reciprocal rights is based on the exchange of safety data with other countries' department of motor vehicles. In the US, licenses are issued at the state level, which means 50 seperate exchanges and that is apparently too much.

In any case, I went for the first time on Sunday. Not bad, except that I was at Kamiya Bar in Asakusa the night before with some of my Japanese language classmates. Oops.

Also, I made ANOTHER trip down to the beach to look at apartments to buy. I wanted to take a second look at one of the places, but the real estate agent tells that someone else could be going to contract on it today. I will wait and see what happens.

So, that is about it. I will go take some pictures so you do not have to read through my aimless chat next time.

Posted by Kirk at 05:16 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2007

Weather proofing the apartment

As some of you know, I moved to a new place late last year and I am still in the process of getting settled. I moved in October when the weather was just about perfect. One of the problems with that is I had no idea how cold the apartment could be (and I know...the worse is yet to come).

My last place was a high-rise tower and the apartment was always warm, probably because I was sharing the heat from the apartments above, below and on each side of me. Not to mention the front door opened on to an internal corridor. I usually had to run the AIR CON until November.

Now, however, my apartment stands alone on the top of a small buidling with an entrance directly to the outside. All four walls are exposed and there are LOTS of windows. Do not get me wrong...I love it, but it is not the best set up for keeping things cozy and warm. There is a heater for the apartment, which does an adequate job (cheap landlord? old building? maybe both), but only in some parts of the pad.

I won't freeze to death, but it is not very comfortable. (by the way, good lesson on cultural differences - my agent would never to think to tell me any of this unless I asked...which I did not). Even worse, my electric bill here is THREE times that of the old place.

Anyway, last night I bought an electric blanket for the bed and for the first time in a few months, when I went to sleep the bed was warm and cozy. No more freezing cold sheets for me. I tell you, this is the best thing that has happened to me this year. Granted, that means the last four days, but still, I am quite happy.

I also have two ceramic heaters now, one for the bedroom and one for the living room. Things are starting to shape up around here. I have a feeling, however, that I am going to be absolutely cooked next August when the temperatures are in the 30s and humidity is 90%. Woo hoo...one steo at a time.

Posted by Kirk at 09:50 AM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2006

How not to wake up in the morning

Coffee? Shower? Invigorating walk around the neighborhood?

No. No. No.

How about a bird flying into the living room window instead?

I was sitting in my couch when, all of the sudden, there is a tremendous BANG and a cloud of white feathers floating away from the window. Not a big deal unless you are two feet away.

As startled as I am, I imagine the bird is feeling worse.

Posted by Kirk at 06:38 AM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2006

Surprised??

OK, I am back! It has only been a month since I updated this...that is not so long, right? Anyway, I finally got my Internet connection at home a few weeks ago, so I really have no excuse for not updating this. Except that I had a ton of pictures on my camera and I did not want to take the time to upload them to my laptop. It is always something, right?

But I finally did that tonight.

So, here are a few pictures taken from the new place over the last three weeks. In this one, you can see Roppongi Hills on the right and Motoazabu Hills on the left.

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This next picture is a celebration at a restaurant behind my apartment. The grounds are absolutely beautiful, aren't they? The building in the background is Ebisu Garden Place.

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The last picture is sunset, looking in the same direction. One of the great things about the apartment is that the sun shines into the living room all afternoon. It is lovely.

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Posted by Kirk at 09:14 PM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2006

I have moved!

I am in the new place now. I underestimated how much of a change it would be after six years at the other place, but it is really nice and I am happy to be there.

I say "there" because I do not have broadband yet and it could be a while before that is taken care of. It is 9am on Sunday morning and I am at the Segafredo Cafe in Hiroo, sneaking on to someone's wi-fi connection to access the Internet. I went to Bic Camera yesterday and the guy there said it could take one month to get online, depending on which provider I used. I still do not know what I will do about that.

Anyway, the new pad is amazing. It is super big and bright and a nice breeze blows through when you open the windows. It is also deep into a residential neighbourhood and one side faces a temple and an embassy, so there are lots of trees and hardly any "city" noise at all. Lots of birds, however.

From one side, Hiroo is a ten minute walk and Azabu Juban is about 15 minutes in the other direction. I like both neighbourhoods, so I am really happy about that.

I have spent the last three days on moving, so today is the day I get back into my real life, which means spending a lot of time catching up on the Japanese homework I have been skipping. Woo hoo! If I am feeling ambitious, I will load some pics of the move onto the laptop to upload next time I am down here...

Posted by Kirk at 08:55 AM | Comments (1)

October 24, 2006

Almost to the other side

I have been very busy the last few months, mostly trying to find a new place to live. I am not going to get into the difficulties of doing that in Japan...maybe after I have moved and settled in. I didn't comment on it while it was going on, so no reason to start now!

Anyway, I am moving to a new place on Thursday after six years living where I am now. Suprisingly, that is the longest period I have ever spent in one place except for the house I grew up in (nine years) and that was a very long time ago.

So, I am really going to miss it here. Now that I am moving, I can tell you that I lived in Akasaka Tameike Tower in central Tokyo. It is (was) very convenient to everything and the front-desk staff here treated me so well, I do not know how I will live without them. Plus...six years! You can learn a lot about a neighbourhood when you spend that much time in it. I did not have a choice in the move, unfortunately, the landlord here only accepts corporate leases and I am unemployed.

By the way...I am staying in Tokyo. I really considering making a move to Hayama (see the previous one million entries), but I couldn't make it work. I am still feeling the pain, but it should be easy enough to keep going down by train and I have the agent down there on the lookout for any interesting places that come up for sale.

That is about it, really. I think I will be in a better position to update this once I have moved. There have been countless times since August when I sat here thinking of something to write and the frustration percolated and bubbled over, giving me writer's block, or tempting me to rant and rave about any number of ridiculous things. I opted for Spider Solitaire and a bit of TV instead.

On a more administrative note, I have to change ISPs, which means no home access or e-mail address for the next week or so (and, therefore no comments).

I will post some pics of the new place when I get up and running again - you will like it!

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

May 27, 2006

Sorry - long overdue

I have been lazy about the blog recently! Sorry. Here is a little bit aboutt what I have been doing over the last ten days.

Last weekend in Kamakura
It is a rainy Saturday today, so it is a good time to catch up on things. Last weekend, I went to Kamakura - this time on the temple side. It was a beautiful day (in stark contrast to today) and that made it very nice to be outside.

The picture on the left is me at one of the temples - I do not remember which one and I am too lazy to look it up! I am not extra shiny - there was some moisture on the lens and all my pictures had a distortion in that area. Well, almost...the one on the right is inside a small cave at the same temple.

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I really like Kamakura - it is always a bit cooler there and there are so many places to explore. It was a fun day.

Lots of sayonara parties
Last week, we took out Kaz to celebrate his last day at work. He is one of the first people I met in Japan and we have worked together for six years. It is kind of a shock to see him go, but he is moving on to better things, I think.

I did not take my camera, which is why there are no pictures. And that is probably a good thing. The party was on Thursday night and I had a hard time on Friday morning. I am getting out of practice, maybe?

And last night, we had a sayonara party for Aya. She is leaving the company because her husband is working in Fukuoaka for the next 18 months. She is another person who I have known for all of my time in Japan, and although I did not work with her directly for awhile, it is hard to imagine the office without her there. We stayed out until 1am to wish her well - we may have overdone it as she left around 1030pm.

There have been sayonara parties every week this year and every week there are fewer people in the office that I know. It is a bit creepy.

My baseball curse continues
What is it about me and baseball in Japan? Kaz and I decided we would go to a game on Wednesday, but that coincided with a fairly big storm and the game was cancelled. Something like this seems to happen whenever I make a plan.

We had planned to see the Yakult Swallows play Rakuten at Jingu Stadium, which is super close to my house. Our other plan is to go see Chiba Lotte Marines at Marino Stadium in Chiba. Considering the weather, maybe we should have tried to watch the Giants play at Tokyo Dome...

Posted by Kirk at 02:47 PM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2006

I broke my coffee pot...maybe all this is my fault?

You may remember that I went through a period when everything I touched seemed to break. It took a few months but I had finally sorted myself out, including finally purchasing a new coffeemaker.

I thought I did well, because it has one of those stainless steel pots that keeps the coffee hot. Stainless steel. Not fragile.

Anyway, I washed it after making coffee today and set it down to dry. But when I flipped the switch to turn off the light in the kitchen, I knocked it on to the floor. You know that split second before something happens? I was soooo not worried. Until that split second passed and the oh-so-fragile plastic handle shattered on impact.

I can still use it, but I think this proves I am clumsy. Ugh. Well, at least it lasted a month.

Posted by Kirk at 03:43 PM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2006

I finally have an iPod

It is awesome...how did I live without it?

I have converted seven CDs so far, and that only fills 25% of the capacity (I got the 2GB Nano)...the hard part will be clearing out the songs on those albums that I do not like.

Posted by Kirk at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2006

Hmmm...trying to get back into this whole blogging thing

I have been somewhat lax in updating this recently. There are a number of reasons - general fatigue after months of traveling around, winter, and some personal issues pretty much covers it.

Suprisingly, the travel issue is the easiest to resolve. When I am not at home, any picture and comments seems interesting to me, and therefore blog-worthy. Fortunately, I am off to London again on Thursday and Barcelona soon after that - so that is easily resolved.

Winter is a bit harder to deal with, but that is my own fault. I just feel less motivated, for one. In summertime, it seems like more people are out and less inhibited by the camera. And I seem to take my camera out with me more often. (Also, I live in a (usually) snow-less city, so there are not lots of cute winter scenes to snap pictures of and discuss.)

As for the personal issues, I have struggled with this and decided not to put anything here about it. If you know me, then you understand and please be reassured I am dealing with things in my own plodding way. If you don't...you do not need to worry about it.

I am hoping this entry is a turning point and that I will start to write more often. And, yes Kaz, I might even try to be funny and entertaining from now on.

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

January 01, 2006

Year of the Dog

Happy new year!

I thought I would try something different and stay in this year. No parties, bars, or even champagne at home. Of course, it was not that much of a change, because I did the same last year. It did not help that the tentative plan I had fell through at the last minute.

Anyway, the real holiday started last night as over the next three days over 100 million Japanese will go to their local shrines and pray for good luck in the new year. I will go to Hie Jinja, which is five minutes away, at some point. I really like shrines at this time of year, so that should be good.

I also have a few days to turn the vague thoughts of self improvement over the last twelve months into specific goals (actions). I am not a big believer in resolutions for the new year - usually by February, these good intentions have fallen by the wayside. But maybe a month of eating better, drinking less and exercising is better than none at all!

This is the year of the dog...and I have always liked dogs, so maybe this will be a good year for me. As always, you can read all about it here. Happy new year and best wishes for 2006

今年もよろしくお願いします!

Posted by Kirk at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2005

A long overdue entry

This is for everyone that told me over the last few days that I need to write something.

Important things first: it is good to be home again. I am on my couch, listening to a CD...finally.

A(NOTHER) DOMESTIC CRISIS
Unfortunately, all is not rosy on the home front as things continue to break down. First it was the laptop, then the coffeemaker (I still have to replace that!) and now...my washing machine. Well, technically it still works, but it took four hours to do a load of laundry on Sunday night and the lack of a spin cycle meant they needed two hours to dry!

I reported it to building maintenance and they came in on Monday to inspect the machine. Apparently this means they turn it on (empty) and time how long it takes to finish. Which they did three times. On that basis, they said it worked fine and, indeed, when I tried again last night it was much quicker. I am not sure what the whistling/grinding sounds were all about, but what do I know?

Which brings up an interesting point - I had lunch with Tokiko today and she thinks that people who are familiar with Akasaka could be able to figure out where I live from this blog. Combined with the fact I am always traveling, that could be a risk! I think she is right. In fact, it would explain why everything I own needs to be replaced. Someone is obviously coming in here when I am gone and breaking things. WHOEVER YOU ARE, PLEASE STOP IT. And if you can't, at least be kind of enough to take the trash out and water the tree. Sometimes I forget, you see.

A STRANGE WEEK FOR FOREIGNERS IN JAPAN?
I do not often spend the week between Christmas and New Years Day in Japan. There is not much to do at work and most expats use the opportunity to get back home. With my holiday plans in flux and having spent a month on the road, however, I was more than happy to get back here.

But the lack of foreigners is tangible. I went to watch the football on TV at the pub near my apartment (Hobgoblin Akasaka) last night and I was the only foreigner there. And it was crowded. Not only had the expats de-camped, but the Japanese took the opportunity to check out what they have been missing the other 51 weeks of the year. They seemed happy enough so that is OK.

SO, WHAT IS YOUR NAME AGAIN?
And they were friendly enough. One of the waitresses at Hobgoblin also works at the Roppongi location. When I ordered my drink, we did the whole "oh yes, I know you from..." routine. When I last saw her two months ago at the other bar, she said she worked in Akasaka, so it wasn't a big surprise to see her there.

Actually it is funny, because the first time I met her I had confused her with another waitress that she works with. I was with Kaz and when we ordered dinner from her I said "Hello Hana", but she set me straight "No...my name is Tomo, not Hana. That is another waitress that works here." I introduced myself and have seen and spoken to her a few times since.

On that basis, I was very surprised when she asked me my name again. So I told her and said "and you are Tomo, right?"

And she said...(come on, you know what happens here)..."No, I am Hana, Tomo is the name of another waitress at the bar in Roppongi".

I do not know which one I will run into next, but I have learned my lesson on names. A simple "hello" should be enough.

Posted by Kirk at 05:45 PM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2005

My last normal day of the year?

There is one month left in 2005 and I will spend most of it traveling. That is good for you! In the next two weeks, I will be off to Asia: Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong and Beijing. I will come back to Tokyo for a day and then head off to London to close out the year (this is all work, mind you, not a bit of holiday to speak of).

Anyway, that means this will be my last normal working day in the Tokyo office, unless I come in the week between Christmas and New Year, which is not the same anyway as all the expats will have fled home and it will be empty.

I have no meetings planned for the day, not even a lunch plan. So,it should be relatively quiet. Maybe I will take the time to write something interesting here...guess, you will have to come back to find out!

Posted by Kirk at 08:18 AM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving Day

Today is Thanksgiving Day...well, in America at least. Some people thing this is a time for reflection...to think of everything you have to be thankful for. Which makes sense when you think that the first "thanksgiving" was all about a bunch of unskilled Europeans who could not feed themselves being treated to a feast by the natives. You would say thank you too.

Of course, these days the holiday is more about turkey, mashed potatoes and American football. As a result, it still does not travel well. There is no holiday in Japan today. In fact, there is not even much turkey around once you get away from the expat grocery stores, although I suppose I could find mashed potatoes if I looked hard enough.

Anyway, I just wanted to say hello to everyone back in the US. And do not forget to say thank you for all the turkey you have as not everyone (that would be me) can have it today! If you are feeling bad about that, you can always make up fot it tomorrow, which happens to be the biggest shopping day of the year! Happy thanksgiving!

Posted by Kirk at 10:05 PM | Comments (0)

Hey...nice morning!

Like most mornings, the first thought on my mind upon waking up was finding myself a cup of coffee. That's right...the coffeemaker has not been replaced yet.

I was pleasantly surprised when I walked outside at just how nice it was. The temperature was cold, but not too much. Just enough to put a little color in your cheeks. And the air seemed so clean - maybe because it was a holiday yesterday and there was much less traffic to foul the air. In any case, it was a pleasure to be outside.

I found my coffee (Tully's this time, not the usual Cafe de Crie...why would a coffee shop not be open at 7am???) and am getting ready to go to work. Without the latter, it would be a GREAT morning, instead of just a nice one.

Posted by Kirk at 07:43 AM | Comments (1)

November 16, 2005

Ugh...that was too much

I do not usually talk about work on this blog, but this has been a long day and I need to vent.

WHAT AN UNBELIEVABLY CRAP DAY (terrible...horrible)

OK...finished venting.

Actually, I spent about 10 minutes writing and deleting entries before I realised I could not go into any detail without breaking my #1 and only blog rule of not mentioning the office.

Since most of you work with me, you are probably better off that way.

Posted by Kirk at 12:40 AM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2005

Silly me...did I say the day could get better?

940pm...still at work and there does not appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel. That's what I get for being optimistic!

Posted by Kirk at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2005

I am cursed...

You won't believe this...my coffee maker blew up this morning. I am being a little dramatic, but not by much because I have one of those ones that is pressurized for making cappucino etc. And something must have broken or come unstuck.

As I am puttering around the apartment, looking for things I need to take to work, I hear this weird wet whooshing sound. Not being fully awake, I am completely at a loss at what it could be. I poke my head into the kitchen and see a fountain of brown sludge erupting out of my machine onto the counter and floor. It took 20 minutes just to clean it up.

So, my computer on Saturday and my coffee maker today. In both cases, I can see how older things run out and you have to get new ones (I have had the coffeemaker for six-seven years, so it has done its duty!). But why did both have to break in the same week!? I am afraid to turn anything else on now.

Posted by Kirk at 08:39 AM | Comments (3)

November 06, 2005

Disaster strikes

I woke up Saturday morning to a dead computer...well, sort of. There was an endless cycle of Windows booting up, error messages, etc. I took it in to to get it checked and the verdict came back last night - the hard drive is physically damaged and unretreivable.

That seemed pretty strange to me since the laptop had been sitting on a shelf for the past 24 hours and it did not look like it had got up to much on its own. After a few questions back and forth, the technician figures that it was age. In his words, most hard drives live about three years. Well, that's brilliant. And Y200K later, I am starting to understand the business rationale behind it.

I spent the day in Akihabara and Bic Camera Yurakucho before making my purchase. I even took a few pictures that I will eventually download once I have re-installed all the software necessary.

In the meantime, if any of you can help me find a place that will salvage some of the data (as in 500-600 pictures) from my previous computer, I would be grateful!

Posted by Kirk at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

October 31, 2005

Happy halloween

I was at work all day today. That is scary enough for me.

Posted by Kirk at 08:36 PM | Comments (1)

October 28, 2005

Is it Friday?

I think this is the adult equivalent of a child in a car continually asking "are we there yet?" ... it pretty much says the same thing. I have had a longer week than I would like at work, and I am in shock that this work week actually has an end, let alone that it is hours away (am I an optimist or what?). In my free time, I have been thinking of all the fun things to do in the Autumn and Winter.

This is what I could come up with (granted, I am not at my best)
* ski weekend in January
* day hike in the mountains to see leaves changing colour
* go to kasama and but some pottery/ceramics
* onsens in hakone or izu peninsula
* any day spent on the water - asakusa-odaiba water taxi, for example
* sleep (actually this should be first on the list)

It is a pretty poor list...I will have to work on it some more. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

Posted by Kirk at 08:15 AM | Comments (1)

October 26, 2005

James Dean update

Live_Fast_Die_Young_Rebel_Without_A_Cause.jpgSo, how is this for cool? I am not the only one that noticed the monkey connection in "Rebel Withour A Cause"...in fact, I missed most of the monkey references. But Al Weisel and Lawrence Frascella not only noticed, they have written a book about the making of the movie and they talk about much more than monkeys. You can find their website here.

Check out the section "Rebel Mysteries" to see what questions they answer...it looks like there is lots of interesting things behind the movie worth reading about. While you are there, look out for a little monkey on the page that will take you to the most important part of their website. If you have trouble, you can go to the comments section of the last post where Al refers to it directly.

I will be ordering my copy today. Thanks for the referral Al...I am looking forward to it.

Posted by Kirk at 08:00 AM | Comments (0)

October 23, 2005

Tokyo Film Festival and one of the greatest movie lines ever

The Tokyo International Film Festival is in full swing this weekend. One of the features is a James Dean 50th Anniversary tribute, so all of the classic films he was in are being shown. I opted for "Rebel Without A Cause"...as you will see, it was an inspired choice.

James Dean has a special place in American film history - he died young, which always helps - and he was considered the cool up-and-coming presence. One of his co-stars was a young Dennis Hopper, looking much different in his pre-Easy Rider days. Another co-star in "Rebel..." was Natalie Wood, who also died young and in questionable circumstances. Because of this, the films they were in take on a whole new significance...they become bigger than they otherwise would have.

I won't bore you with the details of the movie. It was good, but not great, and there was some holes in the plot you could drive a truck through. But I will forgive all of this after hearing one of the best movie lines ever...

In the scene, Natalie Wood is walking away from James Dean. There is some tension between them as they obviously care for each other, but earlier in the day her boyfriend had died in a car race that James Dean had won. You can imagine it is a bit awkward.

As she leaves, he takes out a makeup compact that she had lost the first time they met and moves to return it to her. He opens it, holds up the mirror and says "Judy...would you like to see a monkey?". . There was even a blurred camera shot of her reflection in the mirror. I am still laughing.

I only wish I had said it first. NOW I know why people like him so much.

Posted by Kirk at 09:22 PM | Comments (4)

October 20, 2005

Another birthday!! Stop it!

Happy birthday to me! I am at the age now where this is not always something to celebrate, so I have mixed feelings. I would be much more positive if I had the day off and it felt like a real holiday!

And this year, I have no plans. Last year, I invited a bunch of people from the office out for drinks after work at a bar near our office. Great idea and a pretty good turnout, but there also happened to be a typhoon (advertised as possibly "worst to hit Tokyo in fifty years"), which ensured an early end to the evening. On that basis, I decided that planning your own parties was fraught with peril and it might be better to let someone else do it, or do nothing at all.

The emphasis should be on the latter.

Anyway, some people use their birthday as a time to reflect on what they are doing with their life and how they can improve themselves or the world. Not me...that is what you do on New Years' Eve!

So, no party, no resolutions and no plans. But I have received lots of congratulatory e-mails and my wonderful sisters sent me gifts even though I forget their birthdays every year. Thank you!

Actually, I am pretty happy. I just hope there isn't a major earthquake today. Sometimes it is the little things that make you the happiest.

Posted by Kirk at 09:23 AM | Comments (2)

October 11, 2005

Back in Tokyo

Well, that business trip is in the bag. I got back yesterday afternoon and have been hanging around in the apartment...did a bit of grocery shopping, launndry and the like. As expected, I feel like I have missed out on my weekend. It is Tuesday already and I am just getting started. The jet lag is manageable...but I will try to limit my comments on that, so that is the last you will hear on that.

Should be a good week - no meetings (that I know of!) and Glenn's going-away do is on the schedule for Friday. He is going back to England next week, which is sad. Then again, that is probably good for my liver and should bring my Tokyo hangover ratio to a more rational level. And I go to London all the time - simply means a change in drinking venues, right?

Glenn is on the left...there will be less of this in Tokyo, more in London. And the picture on the right should have been posted months ago. That is Howie and Fred at the latter's stag party. How I missed posting that before is a good question.

0908 007.jpg 0910 008.jpg

Posted by Kirk at 10:47 AM | Comments (2)

September 28, 2005

What am I doing? Nothing really

I have spent a lot of time on this business trip in the London office. Usually I am traveling around for meetings, so I have plenty of opportunity to take pictures and write about them. But there is only so much I can say about going to work and then back to the hotel at the end of the day. So, now you know.

Anyway, I went to watch the football after work (at the pub) with a guy that I used to work with. Actually, we had planned to get a bunch of people out, but in the end it was only the two of us.

Unfortunately, he is not a big football fan, which kind of defeats the purpose of going out to watch it and I had to divide my attention between him and the TV. The end result is that I did neither thing well: I did not really see the game and I did not really keep up my end of the conversation. So, sorry about that David.

There is more football tonight and this time I will go with an actual fan. Well, sort of...he supports Liverpool, but you can't really hold that against him as he is a nice guy in all other respects.

Posted by Kirk at 04:43 PM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2005

Boredom, cold weather and horses

So, what do these things have in common? Nothing, really except that they are all mentioned here.

I decided not to take the camera with me today, not that it mattered as I was in the office the whole time. The days are getting noticeably shorter, so there was not much of a chance to get any pictures after I left. I think work is starting to take its toll. I could barely drag myself back to the hotel afterwards, and I made it mostly because this is where my bed is.

You could really feel the chill today - I think it was 17-18 degrees, but with the wind chill it seemed much colder. I cannot believe that I was moaning about how hot it was earlier this month. I miss it now (except the humidity - I will never miss that).

Anyway, since nothing happened, I thought I would go through the 150 pictures I have taken since leaving Japan so you have something to look at. The theme of the day is apparently horses...the one on the left was taken in Villeneuve-sur-Lot at the market, while the other has mounted police keeping the peace at the Chelsea match.

a 099.jpg c 002.jpg

Posted by Kirk at 04:43 AM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2005

Media bias? You be the judge

I picked this up from the Football365 website's Mediawatch feature...

Non-Football Compare And Contrast Job Of The Day The following are two pictures detailing events in New Orleans.

http://news.yahoo.com/photo/050830/photos_ts_afp/050830071810_shxwaoma_photo1
http://news.yahoo.com/photo/050830/480/ladm10208301530>

Now read the captions for both pictures and note the difference in the description of how the white couple obtained their goods and how the black boy did...

Posted by Kirk at 01:15 AM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2005

More on New Orleans

I should know better...I got home from work and switched on CNN. I do not know what it pissing me off more:

1) social breakdown in New Orleans...never mind the looting, police and national guardsman are being shot!
2) Soledad O'Brien/Miles O'Brien at American Morning...they are asking (I mean telling) everyone they interview who they think is to blame. It's the Federal Government! It's FEMA!

Silly me - I thought it was a natural disaster. Guess that is why I am not a news anchor.

Posted by Kirk at 09:25 PM | Comments (2)

What a disaster

It looks like I spoke too soon about things turning out OK for New Orleans. Instead, things keep getting worse. This is really sad.

I could have went to New Orleans earlier this year on a work-related trip. My first reaction was "New Orleans?! I can do that...wait, what I am supposed to do there?". In the end, I did not go, it was too far from Japan for me to be worthwhile, but I wish I had gone now.

When I first started working in the US, it was one of the first places I went on a business trip and I loved it (did not get much work done, however). As for what I remember about it, I will stop there: there are probably millions of better blog entries by people recounting their favourite stories of the city - you should go read those. Anyway, New Orleans will be back, but it looks like it will take a long time to recover/rebuild. That is a tragedy.

Posted by Kirk at 07:42 AM | Comments (0)

August 29, 2005

Come on Big Easy!

One of the largest hurricanes to hit the US has just made landfall near New Orleans. Throughout the day in Asia, we were treated to endless replays on the news of doomsday scenarios for the city, but so far (fortunately!) it looks like the worst case won't play out.

I am hoping that New Orleans rides through the storm. It is the most genteel and fun of American cities and you will not find any other place like it. On a basic level, they really know how to throw parties down there.

Whenever I want to get my New Orleans fix in Japan, I go to one of my favourite coffee places, Cafe du Monde Japan. This is the same chain that is located in the French Quarter, known for its chicory coffee and pastries called beignets. I was lucky enough to have one near my apartment for awhile, but it did not catch on in Akasaka. But there are a number of them down in Yokohama and Kanagawa. If you ever down that way, you should stop by sometime.

I was foolish enough to turn on CNN to watch their coverage (we do not have much choice out here in Tokyo). If you want to really know what is happening, I would stick to the Internet. Unless you like to see news anchors dressed up in rain slickers, holding wind gauges, and commenting on how the hurricane is impacting what they can see 20 metres around their cameras. Their reporting is so bad...they should be ashamed of themselves.

Posted by Kirk at 09:47 PM | Comments (1)

August 09, 2005

Quiet week!

There is not too much to blog about this week. After the Hayama hijinks of last Saturday, everything seems so boring. My sister is having the Manson family reunion this week at her place. Since we are actually "half-siblings", I am not related to any of that branch, but all the same, I wish everyone the best.

It could have been a much busier week for her as we had planned to meet in San Diego from 10 August for a week, but the airfare at this time of year is ridiculously expensive and I thought it better to put it off for another time. I have some small regrets now as I feel like I would pay anything to not have to go to work this week. To be eating proper Mexican food and watching some baseball instead would be awesome. Oh well...Hokkaido is just a week away.

I will probably post more later...

Posted by Kirk at 07:57 AM | Comments (2)

August 06, 2005

A big Saturday

This should be an exciting day! Usually, my Saturdays are very low key with variations on 1) going to the grocery store; 2) sitting on the couch; 3) reading and; 4)trying to motivate myself to leave the apartment. The latter, especially, is difficult when it is 30 degrees and humid (mushi atsui man).

But today, I have already been out (grocery store) and will be going out again soon. Because today is Hayama Day. This is one of the major "must-do" things I had hoped to do this summer, so I am really excited. We will spend the afternoon down there and stay for the sunset. Anytime on the beach is good for me - it should also be much more comfortable than central Tokyo. (Are you reading this Glenn?)

After that, we will head back to Tokyo and find a place to watch the rugby (SA v NZ). That is less exciting for me, but it is good training for the start of the football-watching season next week. I say "watching" because today is already the first day for the lower leagues, but it is probably too much to hope for to have it on TV here.

As you may remember, Yeovil kicks off its League One season at Oldham today. The match starts at 11pm here...by the time I hit the sack tonight, the results should be in.

I made sure to have a relatively quiet night last night and was half successful. I ran into Tomoko as I was leaving the office and we decided to have a drink. I almost convinced her we should catch the cricket at Paddy Foley's, but it was extremely crowded with foreign men...for some reason, she did not like that. Instead, we went to Heartland in Roppongi Hills. We ran into Howie there (how convenient is it to have one of the most crowded bars in Roppongi in the basement of the building you work in?) and Leigh joined us soon after.

This was also the first time in my five years here that I ran into someone who went to the same graduate school that I did (Monterey Institute of International Studies). There are only 600 (700 now apparently) students at any one time, so the chances should be low. One of Howie's colleagues, Michael, went there from '97-'99...I graduated in '95, so we did not attend at the same time. Still, it is very surprising!

Eventually, everyone drifted away...Leigh and I grabbed a late dinner at Ten. I will have to write more about that place at some point. The food is much better than you would expect. It is also the best place to go in Tokyo for a Lemon Sour and, therefore, a necessary stop during the Tokyo summer. I was back home by 1230am. I thought I would give everyone a break and leave my camera in the bag. There will be plenty of pictures here tomorrow anyway.

Posted by Kirk at 09:49 AM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2005

Surprisingly good weekend so far

And it is only Saturday afternoon! I had an early night yesterday. I was so knackered when I finished working that I just came home, telling myself that I would get a good start on Saturday (actually, I did not have any plans).

So, I was asleep before midnight and up at 8am today. I have went grocery shopping, tidied up the apartment, made blueberry muffins and even re-started studying Japanese. Well, actually, the latter is not going so well, which is why I am posting pictures of beetle advertisements and telling you everything I have accomplished in the last five hours. Maybe I should stop here and study some more.

Posted by Kirk at 01:51 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2005

Earthquakes, typhoons - what next?

Typhoon #7 of the season is due to arrive in Tokyo sometime tonight. In fact, we have been given a "get out of jail free" card from the company - due to adverse weather conditions we can go home early.

japan_sat_440x297.jpg I am not sure how I feel about the typhoons. I always thought they were like hurricanes, but they do not pack nearly that much power by the time they get up here. You get a lot of rain and its windy, but not enough that cars or trees are being blown around.

My birthday last year coincided with what was being described as the worst typhoon to hit Tokyo in years. We went out for celebratory drinks after work, but people kept going home as the rain got worse. Around 10pm, the rain slackened and the core group of people that remained figured we should make a break for it as this must be the "eye" of the typhoon and if we hurried we could get home relatively dry.

That was the alcohol talking. The typhoon had finished. So everyone that had left early had went out during the worst of the storm and the ones that remained got off easy (I am sure there is a lesson there!). The point is, when I get a typhoon warning, I am a bit skeptical. Then again, I live on a hill (no flooding) and do not have to take the subway (no drowning or being stuck underground), so I might not be the best person to ask.

Regardless, the best thing about typhoons is that they really clear out all the pollution. So, tomorrow should be sunny and very clear. Sounds like I will be taking pictures!

UPDATE: The typhoon has passed and as expected there was not much to it: it was kind of windy for awhile and there was some rain...just like rainy season. Wasn't that over last week. Pretty disappointing, but it has cooled off and that is good.

Posted by Kirk at 06:09 PM | Comments (2)

Want to be popular? Break a leg!

A friend of mine recently broke her foot. Not very nice, I am told, and it took two weeks before a doctor here told her she might need a cast. So, the downside is some pain, hobbling around for six weeks and a lot of itching. But apparently, some people think it is sexy. Well, maybe some very odd people.

She was searching the Internet looking for some cast-related things and found this site. I thought I had seen it all, but this is a whole new level. Probably, there is even worse - but I am not about to go looking for it.

Posted by Kirk at 09:34 AM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2005

What a boring day

I did very little on Sunday...no goodbye parties for Preyash, no bars/restaurants, and most importantly...no earthquakes.

I did go to Hie Jinja to snap some photos and try to get back into that groove - but for some reason there was no magic in the camera and the 20 or so pictures I did take were pretty lame. But I like Hie Jinja - it is so peaceful there. The mosquitos like it too - I got bit twice.

After that, I did spend some time installing new photo album software - once I transfer all the photos over, I will link into it. It is much easier to use than my original program (for both me and you) so that should not take too long.

I had this mild epiphany last night as I was trying to get through that..."i do not need to do this". Fortunately, I got past that and finished the process. And just in time.

Did I tell you I have become a fan of Sunday night TV? It is pathetic, but I must watch Third Watch and West Wing every Sunday night. It does not matter that the episodes are four-five years old because I have been here longer than that. My sister used to send me video tapes of West Wing and I am dreading the time the broadcasts here catch up. What will I do between 11-12pm?

Posted by Kirk at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2005

Hey Thomas! What's that word again? Dumbkopf?

A friend of mine asked me today why i have not started learning German yet. Ominous, right? Do you think he is missing something?

I just laughed because the thought never crossed my mind, but he seemed to be put off by that. So, I told him I would put some German words in the blog.

Wunderbar, bitte, danke, guten tag, kartoffelsalat, kartoffelkopf

So...how is that? By the way, you may remember Thomas from my discussion on the Ex-Bar. He was the aggressive German attacking my little friend. Oops. I forgot - he told me not to call him that, or else.

Posted by Kirk at 06:08 PM | Comments (1)

July 20, 2005

One day down...

Yikes! 10pm and I am finally settled on the couch at home. You see, the long days I mentioned a few posts back have finally arrived. Actually 10pm is pretty good as I expected much worse and will get that over the next few days.

But enough about that. I have my book (The Yokota Officers Club by Sarah Bird), a glass of wine, and a CD playing. That should calm me down a bit. I was almost ambitious enough to whip up a small dinner for myself, but I opened the wine first. Oh well, I had a big lunch.

When I was in the office earlier, the building was making a big fuss -lots of creaking etc. A few minutes later, my earthquake watching buddy Nuala e-mailed to ask if I had felt the earthquake...and I hadn't. I knew if I stayed late enough there would be a good reason to be at work!

Posted by Kirk at 10:10 PM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2005

Busy two weeks ahead....

Rainy season may be over, but the financial reporting season is just beginning...and that means late nights at work for me. Considering I have been out almost every night since I returned to Tokyo, this may be a blessing in disguise.

Speaking of which, my one night of freedom from the office is also the night that we take my lazy colleague Preyash out for a farewell dinner. I would say nicer things about him because he really does work hard, but if you read the comments to various posts here, you will notice that he is always giving me a hard time. I have to make sure and get some pictures of him after he has had a few drinks. Just so you see he is not credible.

Posted by Kirk at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2005

Yum!

Chicken, pesto, green chili, mushrooms, mozzarella cheese...

Mix it all together and what do you get? Pizza! I made it and it was absolutely delicious. I should have taken a picture, but I was so hungry I did not even think about it.

Whenever I make a successful dinner I get more excited about cooking again. So, the question is what do I make next? Maybe something with shrimp.

Posted by Kirk at 10:18 PM | Comments (1)

July 15, 2005

You gotta love this

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Someone is using this graphic as their thumbnail picture on a Japanese weblog ranking. I nicked it because it is very cool.

Posted by Kirk at 02:49 PM | Comments (1)

July 14, 2005

It's Bastille Day - time to celebrate

I completely forgot that today is Bastille Day. Must have slipped my mind when I was toiling in the fields for wages barely sufficient to feed myself. Anyway, lets go grab some torches. It is time to burn some nobles, loot their estates, and eat cake. If you happen to be stuck in the office and can't join in, you should go to this website and try this instead. After all, it is important to treat history with the respect it deserves.

UPDATE...my best score was 690!

Posted by Kirk at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2005

Whew...OK now

I was feeling a bit peculiar when I got back from Ex-Bar tonight. I think Tokyo can be a touch overbearing at times. So I popped Madness in the CD player. All better now.

Posted by Kirk at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2005

Who would notice?

So, this story seems to be getting a lot of play. Apparently, cellular service is being blocked in the tunnels going into NYC to prevent terrorist bombs from being set off remotely. The logic is sound, but I am wondering...did they ever have it on? I mean cellular coverage is not exactly one of the high points in the US, is it?

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

Hey! what's going on here?

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Yesterday, I was all geared up to write about the return of hot/humid weather, but I was too fatigued. There was even a conversation or two in the office on how miserable the summers could be here. On that basis, I figured I would have a week or so to moan and complain about it, so why rush? It felt like 30 degrees and humid as can be.

But look at this...today, it is a cool 19 degrees (66 for the celsius challenged). I mean, call me crazy, but this is Tokyo in July. I don't feel right unless I am sweaty and uncomfortable.

It must be global warming. Or I have finally got the knack of this prayer thing. Hmmmm...what else should I be wishing for?

Posted by Kirk at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2005

Wow these pictures look so much better

10july 002.jpg 10july 004.jpg
So, check that out. The new camera works like a dream. On the left, is my kitchen...on the right, my bookcases and the old kitchen table that I have not got around to doing something with.

Maybe I should have gone outside to take some pictures. As good as these look, it is a bit boring.

Posted by Kirk at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

Excellent show of support

I ran across a very cool site today as I was aimlessly clicking my way through the Internet. You should check it out.

Posted by Kirk at 04:08 PM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2005

More pictures!

I added some pictures to the Prague photo album...check them out if you have time. Click on the link "Go to pictures" and look for Prague.

I still have to put some up from Vienna, and I should add some from the rest of Europe at some point.

I am hesitant because I really think I need to get better software for the photo albums. I just do not like what I am using and I do not thinkit looks very good. Of course, maybe I just do not know how to use it!

Posted by Kirk at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

London's voice

It seems fitting that the man who has the most inspiring things to say in the aftermath of the London terrorist attacks is the mayor of London himself, Ken Livingstone.

”In the days that follow look at our airports, look at our sea ports and look at our railway stations and, even after your cowardly attack, you will see that people from the rest of Britain, people from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners and to fulfil their dreams and achieve their potential. “They choose to come to London, as so many have come before because they come to be free, they come to live the life they choose, they come to be able to be themselves.”

Spoken from the heart - clear, concise. No ruminating about the G8 summit or drawing parallels (no matter how worthy or relevant) with aid to Africa or global warming. He spoke to the people of his city about their values and their concerns. Echoes of Churchill? Yep


Posted by Kirk at 02:08 AM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2005

On a lighter note...shopping tomorrow

Usually Saturday means sleeping for me, but this weekend will be different...I will go shopping for duvets! I know that sounds strange...why would I do that? why would I mention it?

Both questions have a simple answer...I am going on behalf of my sister. And I am mentioning it because her e-mail provider thinks I am a spammer and never lets my messages through, so I cannot tell her directly that I have a plan. But I know she reads this (Hi Sandy!) and she can rest assured that I am on the case.

And thanks for the e-mail yesterday - I am indeed in Tokyo now.

Posted by Kirk at 02:25 PM | Comments (1)

Terrible

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This picture seems like something from a movie...Avoid London Area Closed. It is a stark contrast to the shots of tangled buses or emergency crews at tube stops. But it is stronger too - how can LONDON be closed?

I had an earlier entry that I deleted. It was angry (and I still am!) But when I woke up this morning, I thought it better to focus on the positives like the admirable calm and resolve of the people of London and that casualties are less than initially feared.

This article brings up some good points - you should read it.

Posted by Kirk at 09:35 AM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2005

Happy Independence Day!

Actually, I wanted to write about this last week when my sister told me she was gearing up for her three-day weekend, but I was not inspired. And don't think I am going to ramble on and on about America's 219th birthday, because it does not feel like a holiday to me.

You see, holiday dissonance is one of the disorders that most expats are inflicted with. I see july 4th and think "barbecue", "park/beach" and "day off", but I am at work. Other examples include palm trees with Christmas decorations, or fireworks in January. Oh, and ask me about White Day sometime...it is not a holiday per se, but worth a rant or two.

I am not complaining about the lost holiday (that comes below), but rather the timing: most Americans are working on 18 July, but we have the day off in Japan. It is Marine Day! As an American, it is pretty hard to get worked up for that.

As for losing holidays, that has nothing to do with being an expat and everything to do with traveling. Invariably, I will be in London for Japanese holidays and Japan for UK holidays. If it was the other way around, I would be quite happy - but it never is. I can't explain it. Some might say it is karma, but then I would have had to have taken someone else's holidays from them, or taken more than my share earlier in my life - I have done neither.

Anyway, happy July 4th to all those in the US. Of course, you won't read this because you will be at the beach.

Posted by Kirk at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2005

Saturday at home...awesome

So, this is my first weekend at home in months. I like it.

I am off to watch the rugby in a few minutes. There is a very tricky 4pm start time. I say tricky because it seems to early to have a pint, but I cannot imagine watching without one. And yes, I did spend most of the day on the couch.

Meanwhile, I have a colleague over from London for the weekend and I am playing host. It is his first time here, and he is keen to get out and do things. Last night, we were out until all hours as we did a tour of Roppongi. All things considered, I am not feeling bad today (no hangover!), but staying up half the night is not the best way to get past jet lag.

I had my camera with me, which is always dangerous - haven't checked out the photos yet...not ready to face the reality.

Posted by Kirk at 03:10 PM | Comments (2)

June 30, 2005

I need a pick me up

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This is Vienna, but ignore the buildings etc. Instead focus on that clear blue sky. That's more like it.

Posted by Kirk at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

What do you think about today's weather now?

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Ha! I knew I could come up with something. The picture on the left was taken from my balcony in May...see how bright and sunny it is. I snapped the one on the right just a few minutes ago.

Let's see...it is dark and dreary. And wet. Hey...it could be London! No wonder I am having a hard time re-adjusting to Tokyo.

>>>> someone tell me what they think about this new side-by-side picture format. I like the idea, but I am wondering whether the picture are too small.

Posted by Kirk at 09:52 AM | Comments (1)

If you are wondering why I am cranky...

Wide awake until 3am...this jet lag is awful. I always forget just how bad it is. It is like any sort of pain, you remember having it, but you cannot remember the pain itself.

Last night was especially frustrating because I was so tired already. And as the minutes ticked by, I started worrying about whether I would get enough sleep and/or wake up in time etc. Of course, that just makes things worse.

Anyway, on a more positive note, the temperature has cooled down a bit although it is still pretty muggy. Rain is forecast for the next few days.

I have a few interesting things I want to write about, but it will have to wait until I have a clear head. No telling when that will be...hopefully later. Maybe I should have tried last night instead of staring at the ceiling/alarm clock for three hours!

Posted by Kirk at 09:33 AM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2005

Back in the swing of things? Not quite

I hate jet lag. Repetition does not make it easier...at best you learn how to deal with it better. And eastbound jet lag is the most difficult. Another rule is that the second night is worse than the first.

So, that is where I find myself now. I 'slept' from midnight to 7am (alright...730am), but it was a superficial sleep, where the slightest noise wakes you up. As a result, any decisions you have to make take an extraordinary amount of time and effort. Having such a nice couch in my apartment makes it worse (should I put milk in my coffee...better go sit on the couch and think about it...).

This is the situation I am facing. That mind set also makes it difficult to write anything, like a blog entry. And THAT is why you get this rambling complaint to start off your day.

Having said all that, I feel much better. Now, what should I have for breakfast...

Posted by Kirk at 09:21 AM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2005

I am back...now what?

I am back in Tokyo...

When I stepped off the plane today, it was 30 degrees. I intended to take a picture of the sign that told me this, but my camera was more knackered then I was (battery died).

The downside to this: the weekend is already over. You lose a day traveling East so I left Saturday morning and arrived back Sunday at noon. I keep thinking it is Saturday and that I have another day to hang out. But that is not quite right. Damn'

The good news is that I made my own lunch, my own coffee, had a nap on the couch and did absoultely nothing beyond that. I really like being back home.

As for the weather, this is going to be a difficult week. But I did buy a bottle of rose today, which I plan to take out to the balcony as I begin the fight against jet lag. It is absolutely necessary that I get to sleep by midnight and (hopefully...please) get a full night of sleep. The sooner I get back on local time, the better. Alcohol does have its uses.

I have also been wondering what I am going to be writing about on the blog now that I am back. Let's face it - taking pictures and loading them up on the website with a few pithy comments was easy work. And there is no way I will be taking long walks around Tokyo with this humidity!

Posted by Kirk at 07:52 PM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2005

Good weather? Bad weather? Someone help me with this

I spoke to Kaz in Tokyo today (ironically, I was having lunch with his former boss at that time) and he told me to expect good weather on my return to Japan.

Naturally, I was quite excited about that. Until I saw this article, which highlights the fact that temperatures have reached 30 degrees for the first time this year.

It also says that next week will be hot and muggy. There is a term for this in Japanese, "mushi atsui", which basically means "miserably humid". Japanese like this weather...it is good for the skin etc., but i cannot stand humidity and that means next weeks' weather is going to be wonderful for a significant majority of people, but terrible for me. Thank God for air conditioning.

Posted by Kirk at 12:22 AM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2005

I want to go HERE

I have done a little Internet research on Ravello. Click here (Hotel Caruso) to see the nicest hotel in Ravello. See why I want to go there? It looks awesome: 1,150ft above sea level, but right on the coast.

And if you look at the history of this hotel, you realise that the going to Ravello/Amalfi Coast is not exactly a new idea. But it is STILL a brilliant idea. I wonder when I am going...

Posted by Kirk at 09:44 PM | Comments (2)

I am coming home

After five weeks away, I am coming home!!!! I had my last meeting today and will work a bit in the office tomorrow before flying Saturday. Coincidentally, the fantastic weather of the last week or so is also expected to end tomorrow, so I am getting out of here just in time. It was a good trip, but I need to see my plant and couch.

Posted by Kirk at 08:19 AM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2005

London is nice...France would be nicer. Or Italy.

The weather remains fantastic...I have not taken many pictures because I have spent most of my time working. And I am sure that you do not need to see what the office here looks like!

Anyway, I was hoping to take Friday off with the intention of going to France. But I am a loser...I could not make up my mind and in the end did not request any holiday. So, no Paris trip for me. What was I thinking?

I LOVE going to France - it is one my favourite places to be. And my French is as good as my Japanese, so I am just as lost (I mean comfortable) there as I am at home. See why I like it?

Meanwhile, my other dream European holiday destination is Ravello, Italy on the Amalfi Coast. I have never been there, but it sounds wonderful. The history ofandulture of Rome, but set in a dramatic coastal location.

Maybe I should get back to work before I depress myself even further.

Posted by Kirk at 09:01 PM | Comments (0)

Aaarrrgghhh - I am getting punchy

I know that I will be home one week from now. I am just not sure which day it will be. I should be able to finalise my schedule tomorrow. I can hardly wait.

I hope my plant is still alive. The building staff said they would water it, but you know how it is with plants...you always worry when you are apart.

The number one thing I want to do is eat a home-cooked meal instead of going out. After that, I want to lay on my couch and watch TV.

One thing I should do is upload vacation pictures onto my web site. I think I will pick the best five-ten from each city so that it is a managable task.

Posted by Kirk at 01:31 AM | Comments (2)

June 18, 2005

Unbelievable...

I am back in London, which I am generally happy about. But the hotel fire alarm went off at 650am this morning and it rang for two-three minutes, followed by an announcement to evacuate.

After all that, when I am fully awake, one of the hotel employees gets on the PA system to say that it not a "real" fire alarm. What an idiot. This follows on last night, when the hotel did not have my room ready when I checked in (at 6pm).

Maybe they are hoping I will leave??

Posted by Kirk at 03:34 PM | Comments (1)

June 17, 2005

What's this? free time...

We are getting a later start today - 10am. This is usually a good thing as the constant travel really makes me tired.

But I get antsy when I have free time so close to the end of a trip. I keep thinking that I could be at home instead.

Oh well, guess I will have a long breakfast and read the paper. That should get me through it.

Posted by Kirk at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2005

This brings back memories

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This is a sign advertising a local beer. I know it is not very exciting for most people, but it does have some significance for me.

You see, I used to drink Jever at the bar near my apartment. It was called David Copperfield's (74th and York) and for awhile, they were pushing this brand as the beer of choice.

I would go there with my friend Ev and a few others. We were regulars there. It was mostly fun. There was a fight in the bar once where another semi-regular hit someone with a beer glass. But all he did was spill beer - he was too weedy to do much else.

And the owners were very odd (Ev - what were their names again...i keep thinking BIll and Ted, but that can't be right). Anyway, they did have one of the widest selections of beer on tap in NYC. That works in their favor.

Posted by Kirk at 03:33 AM | Comments (1)

June 09, 2005

The Gold of Lapland

Finland is the home to one of my favorite beers, Lapin Kulta, which translates as the "Gold of Lapland". I hear that the company actually had to buy a gold mine in order to use that name and for a long time they described their business as "gold mining and brewing".

I am not going to argue that Finland has some special process for making lager beer that makes this a fantastic drink, but I do have personal reasons for liking it.

In 1990, I took my first real trip abroad, spending six weeks in Scandinavia and Russia. When our group was leaving Russia, we discovered that we had tickets for the train, but no reservations, and we could not board the train. As a result, we had to find an alternative way to leave the country.

This was actually a serious problem. At that time, Russia was the USSR and visa violations were a crime. And the last thing one wanted to do was be American and over-staying one's welcome.

Anyway, we ended up renting a bus to take us from Leningrad to the border with Finland. And to prepare, we went to the hard currency store to stock up on food and drink. I bought a six pack of Lapin Kulta beer. That was sufficient to keep me pleasantly buzzed through out the trip and I arrived in Finland feeling pretty good about things.

I saw an advertisement for the beer today. It made me realise it is more fun to dodge Russian border guards than to go to client meetings. Obviously, I have made some poor career choices.

Posted by Kirk at 05:36 AM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2005

Unicum - a drink for the young and old

Tonight, I was introduced to Unicum. It is one of the cough syrup-like drinks that seems to be favoured in Central Europe. I have had Jagermeister and Unterberg in the past, so I had some idea what to expect. The bottle itself is very cool, styled as some sort of anarchist's bomb (if you like that sort of thing).

Apparently, it received its name when one of the Hungarian kings drank it at the advice of his physician (like all of these particular drinks, it also doubles as medicine for old people) and said that it was "curious" (unicum).

Even so, this one is particularly foul. It is obviously an acquired taste. They say that drinking three is enough to give you a hangover. The only cure is another one (see "hair of the dog"). After one, I had no desire to test the theory further.

Make sure you check out the website I link to above. Here is an example:

Enjoying a juicy orange is sure more pleasurable than just popping a Vitamin C tablet. In Unicum only the finest herbs are used. There is the same variety in quality with herbs and there is with flowers or vegetables or grapes, because herbs, too, are living things and are affected by type of soil and climate, drying methods, storage conditions etc.

The herbs used in Unicum are carefully blended to the last gram. This digestive liqueur is not unlike a house of cards, in that if just one card is less than skillfully positioned, the whole pack will come tumbling down.

There are many digestive liqueurs on the market, but none of them rival Unicum in the number or variety of herbs and spices used and few, if any, are both macerated and distilled. Distilling eliminates all the impurities in a liqueur and makes it lighter in body and taste.

Maybe so, but it is the alcohol content that attracts most people.

I have bought four small bottles to bring home - three for the hangover and one to cure it.

Posted by Kirk at 05:14 AM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2005

Hungary and the EU

So, what is happening to Hungary now that it has joined the EU? It is getting more expensive.

There is actually a very simple test for this. When we were walking around Budapest today, we went to a t-shirt shop to look around. I think it had the best selection in Budapest. They had shirts for the Hard Rock Cafe, the Budapest Drinking Team, "I love Budapest", Ancient Hungarian dog breeds...you get the idea.

And all these shirts cost about 8-10 euros. But the best one was a blue polo shirt with the European Union logo on it. And how much did it cost? About twice as much. No wonder the French and Dutch voted down the proposed constitution this week.

Anyway, I wanted to buy one for my friend Leigh. He is English and the only thing he likes more than a united Europe is America. But I think he needs to earn the right to wear EU blue, so he will have to wait.

Posted by Kirk at 05:10 AM | Comments (1)

May 16, 2005

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

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)

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 07, 2005

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

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 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)

April 29, 2005

Hello

Please come back soon...I am still trying to think of something to write. The first time is always the most difficult!

Posted by Kirk at 09:50 AM | Comments (0)