Sunday, July 31, 2005

Will Japan get an Empress?

Interesting article on the debate about whether Japan should have a female royal head. No men have been born into the royal family, so it looks like the rules may change. I think this is great, especially because the public loves Aiko who would become the first female heir.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


I went to the Sumidagawa Fireworks tonight. At first I wasn't all that enthusiastic about going because it is the biggest display in Tokyo - that means fifty million people go. Ok, maybe only forty;) I don't know the real numbers, but think jammed. As it turned out, it was much less crowded than I thought. Maybe because there was a 90% chance of thunderstorms (which never materialized) or because it was so hot.

We met up at Asakusabashi station and walked up the main road to Asakusa (two subway stops). All of the side streets going to the river were blocked off so we couldn't get an unobstructed view. I'm not sure if it was because of crowding or because of danger. I have been to many fireworks displays, but I have never had burning ash fall on me before. Yes, there were all kinds of pieces of paper from the fireworks falling, many of them still smoldering! By the end of the evening I had all kinds of black marks on my shirt, ash in my hair, and black marks on my skin down inside my shirt! I guess we were close!

We eventually found a decent view in front of the main gate to Asakusa shrine. The weather today was rather foggy, so the smoke wasn't dispersing. I have a great pic of this giant smoke plume obscuring the fireworks. I'll try to post it in the next few days.

After the fireworks finished, we bolted across the street to Denny's (same name but totally different menu) - we still ended up having to wait 45 minutes for a table. That was better than crowding into the trains though! We eventually left just after 11 and people were still cramming into the trains, so Denny's was a good idea I think.

Friday, July 29, 2005

fun optical illusions

Your Friday fun - check out these optical illusions based on colour.

Thursday, July 28, 2005


The past week or so I've been downloading podcasts. It is really enjoyable to listen to the radio again. I can even get a CBC broadcast! There are lots of radio broadcasts and stuff about science and politics - unfortunately, much of the politics is people yelling and screaming about Bush and his administration (discussion I like, screaming hurts my ears). You can pretty much find podcasts on any topic and the number seem to be growing daily.

Podcasts are broadcasts for your iPod (or other mp3 player), for those who haven't heard the term. You can download them for free thru iTunes.

So, in addition to radio talk shows, there are also a lot of podcasts produced by individuals. I've been thinking about doing a podcast and photoblog during our round the world trip rather than a regular blog. Describing the things we see or interesting things that happen that day, as well as possibly capturing some local sounds, seems like it would be much more interesting. Not to mention, I suspect it would be faster than typing something out. There would still have to be a blog with some minor commentary, but the detailed stuff would be via podcast. The blog could then mostly consist of pics from the day in questions.

What do you think?

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

the typhoon that wasn't

A typhoon was supposed to hit Tokyo last night or this morning. This is really unusual because normally typhoons come in from the ocean and cross between Honshu (the main island) and Fukuoka (the south island) on to the Japan Sea and Taiwan and Korea. Occassionally, they come up the east coast instead. This typhoon, however, came on a direct line for Tokyo from the ocean.

As it turned out, it was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it got here. It didn't even hit Tokyo really - it landed in Chiba, the next prefecture.

Of course everyone here panics with the thought of a typhoon. It always amuses me, because they turn out to be nothing more than what is considered a summer storm back home. The paranoia was actually a good thing for me because when I came home at 8 last night, the train station was deserted! Usually it is packed at that time, so it was rather bizarre.

Anyway, all safe and sound here. Last year there were tons of typhoons that hit Tokyo (record number I believe) so who knows what this season will bring.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Saturn's Eerie-Sounding Radio Emissions

This is just spooky. The first recording sounds like people screaming or something. It is really interesting though that the recordings, made by Cassini, sound like the space noises of your sci-fi imagination.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Eerie tsunami recording

This is an underground recording of the tsunami in December. The recording is cool (in the science way in case anyone mistakes this for being callous).

And - happy birthday to my sister today!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

mmmm sushi

I actually left my local area today and went to Shinjuku. Normally I don't leave my house, let alone go anywhere more than 1 station away on Sundays. This of course leads to just lazing around all day and getting nothing done. Today I wanted to go and look at a new pole for our closet (the current one is pushing the sides out of the closet and is falling down), so we wandered up to Shinjuku.

We browsed through Tokyu Hands which has a wide assortment of goods. It is kind of like a cross between a department and a craft store. Lots of consumer goods combined with some easy DIY stuff. Unfortunately, there aren't many options for poles in Japanese style closets. In fact they pretty much all consist of a pole that is held up by pressure against the side walls. So I don't know what I am going to do. We also looked at a shelving unit to put over the washing machine (and therefore clean all the junk off the top of it) but as the cost around 10,000 yen, the top of the washing machine will remain messy.

After browsing, because we didn't really do any shopping per se, we headed up to the top of the building to find a sushi shop my student had recommended to me. We eventually found it and had to wait in a queue that was about 30 minutes long. This is good because it means the restaurant is popular. The restaurant (on the 13th floor of Takashimaya Times Square for those in the area) is a bit expensive - 7000 yen for a couple - but it is tabe-hodai (all you can eat). So you just order whatever sushi you want to eat.

It was great actually! Normally we order delivery sushi so we are stuck with the set that most appeals to us. At the sushi restaurant we could get whatever we wanted, including otoro (fatty tuna belly). We tried a bunch of new things and ordered some repeats of the ones we enjoyed the most. Overall a very enjoyable experience. We sat at the counter, so we got to ask the sushi master for recommendations and watch as he made sushi for all the other customers. Watching him put the different sushi together was half the fun. Anyway, this place was great. So if you are looking for sushi in large quantities, this is an option I'd recommend.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

now, *that* was an earthquake

There was a big earthquake here yesterday afternoon. I would have to say it was the worst one I have ever experienced in Japan. Talking to Hiroshi later, even he was scared. It was pretty much underneath us, so that would explain why.

What was scary about the whole thing was that it started up as normal, and then started going around in circles. I thought it had finished and went to stand up and had to grab onto the desk to prevent myself from falling over. These slow cicles went on for a while and then suddenly it increased in intensity again and started "bumping". I have felt up and down movement before but never bumps. It was like going down a dirt road in a car. That was not good.

Anyway, it looks like no one was killed. Apparently there were a few injuries in the prefecture north of Tokyo (Saitama) and some minor damage. This is the first time I have seriously thought about jumping under the table!

Friday, July 22, 2005

shoot first, ask q's later?

Police in London chased after some guy getting on the subway today, threw him to the ground and then fired five (yes, five) shots into him at point blank range, killing him. Does this scare anyone else?

Imagine this - you travel abroad aand don't speak English. You have heard about muggers and gangs in western countries. Five guys suddenly start chasing and yelling at you (from the reports, these were all plainclothed officers). Would you stop? I'm not sure if I would.

What happens if it turns out this was the case? Can London just wipe away responsibility because they thought he might be dangerous? Where will that precedent take us?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Windsor Peace Fountain

Pics of the Peace Fountain and boats on the Detroit River.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

sunset pic

A beautiful sunset from my parents' balcony.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Harry Potter

I ordered the new Harry Potter book from Amazon and received it on Monday morning (they had tried to deliver it Saturday and Sunday but we weren't home). So, I've already finished reading it. Like the others, it is really good. However, I think I enjoyed the last book more. This one had too much of the stupid teenage fawning. Of course, she has captured this perfectly, but that doesn't mean I want to read about it.

So now that I have read it, I guess I have to wait another year for the next one. I'm willing to wait of course - don't want a crappy rushed job on the next installment - but I want the next one now too LOL.

If you haven't read them already, go and get them. Yes, they are children's books, but they are also really appealing to adults. It doesn't seem like you are reading a children's book.

Monday, July 18, 2005

world at the aquarium

Today was a holiday in Japan and Hiroshi and I went to Kasai Rinkaikoen which is a huge park near Disney Land. The park has a giant ferris wheel and an aquarium. The aquarium is actually surprisingly cheap - it is only 700 yen to enter.

Of course, being a holiday weekend, and a park, and I assume a cheap form of entertainment (only a couple hundred yen for kids), I swear, the entire population had the same idea as we did. It was absolutely nuts.

The aquarium itself is quite good. They have a fair-sized tank with sharks swimming around and a very large tank with tuna. The tuna are the main attraction. There are also feeding times, but we didn't stick around for those, so I don't know how exciting that would be. The mandatory penguins (Japanese people love penquins) were also present, but in an outside area and I felt rather sorry for them. I mean, I'm sure penguins are not used to 35C humid weather.

At all of the tanks, there were crowds of people at least 4 deep. It was nuts. Half of them were screaming or pushy children with no manners too. I now know where all the misbehaved children are in Japan - Kasai Rinkai! (You never see bad children here. I think I have seen 2 in 6 and a half years.) I don't deal well in crowds, so this was not such a good thing. I even tried to take a de-stress time-out, but there was no where to sit down! All the seats were taken. We did make it into a big auditorium-like area though and found the last couple of seats and just watched the tuna swim around for a bit.

The tank has several kinds of tuna in it. My favourite were the yellow fins. There fins really do have bright yellow tips. Very pretty. It was also interesting to see how many of the fins (on the tuna as well as some of the other fish) were not fully attached to the body, and they moved, flopping to one side of the body, as the fish navigated through the water. Kind of hard to explain, but for some reason I also thought a triangular fin, top pointing upward, would be completely joined to the fish's body along the base. This is not so. Very pretty to watch the fins move.

Eventually we just skipped a lot of exhibits and got the heck out of there. When you get out of the aquarium itself, you walk along nice pathways and can look at the fresh water environment. We just high-tailed it to the exit. And there, just before we exited back into the park was a vending machine delivered from God... Hagen Daaz. (sp?) Let me tell you, that ice cream was so darn good! We sat in the shade under some trees and ate it.

Then we jumped back on the train and went out to CostCo. Got lots of stuff as always, but things that weren't too heavy! This is good, because we didn't kill ourselves carrying it back home.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

first class again

We took the shinkansen back to Tokyo tonight... and were stuck again in first class. I was surprised because tomorrow is a holiday, so I figured we wouldn't have any problem today. As it was we had to wait for an hour before we could even get a seat in first class (the trains go every 20 minutes or so). It was a nice relaxing ride home though.

Oh, funny story of the day. Hiroshi was helping clean up the yard at his mom's and was mowing the lawn. (Well, actually scything the lawn since that is essentially what they use here, considering the "lawn" isn't that big!). Anyway, you know you are a city boy when you chop down a fair number of your mom's vegetable plants thinking they are weeds. LOL So, before lettign him near your garden, make sure you point out what is good and what isn't ;) Of course, now he'll be mad at me for telling this, but I thought it was hilarious.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

the bullet train is busy!

This is a long weekend so I figured the shinkansen (bullet train) would be busy, but I didn't realize how busy. We left early this morning and the only thing available was first class (what they call Green Car here). The seats were much nicer and you had more space, but I don't think it is worth the extra 3500 yen they charge! We didn't have any choice though. We had to be in Hamamatsu by noon, because today is Hiroshi's dad's 1 year memorial service.

Hiroshi's uncle came to the service and I was able to talk to him for a bit. We had a conversation despite the fact that I only understood about 25% of what he said. Of course, that is 20% more than I understood when Hiroshi's mom was speaking. I spoke to her the other day on the phone and it was good, but for some reason she was mumbling and talking in circles today.

After we went to the cemetary to wash the family headstone and pray, we went to Hiroshi's ancestral grave yard. (Mom - you would have been in heaven - lots of great tombstones for you to run around and look at) All of the tombstones bore his family name, and even the family seal. I didn't know his family had a seal. It looks kind of like a trillium actually, with three stems at the bottom and two leaves going diagonally towards the top "corners" (the seal is round so there aren't really corners). Anyway, it was interesting to see all the old stones.

Friday, July 15, 2005

time sucking office

I went into my office today to put some materials together for a seminar I'm teaching next week. I swear, why does it always take twice as long to do anything in the office than you plan? I think there is a time vortex there or something. I rushed home afterwards because I wasn't sure if we were going to Hamamatsu (Hiroshi's home town) tonight or tomorrow. As it was I crashed out again around 8pm. Am I getting old? Why do I keep falling asleep at 8 o'clock in the evening LOL

Thursday, July 14, 2005

doing well on my diet

I'm back on my diet again after a long hiatus. Time to get serious. The last couple days have been really good. I've been following my eating plan. I just need to get myself to the gym. I'm not beating myself up too much about it though because I think the eating is the most important part. So here's to a new thinner me!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

the make-up debate

Hiroshi doesn't like that I am wearing make-up recently. What I found really amusing is that he said I looked weird tonight and went into the "don't wear make-up rant" when I wasn't even wearing any LOL. Must be the amazing moisturizer I got when I was in Canada - that is the only thing I put on my face today!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I hate rainy season

It is still rainy season in Japan. I had hoped it would be finished by the time I got home. So basically it is humid and disgusting here. I went up to Saitama (the prefecture north of Tokyo) today and it was noticeably cooler there. Geesh.

Tonight I also had an appointment (that I can't say too much about here). For those of you who know what it was about, it went well. I'll have more info in the next couple weeks.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Learned From Mom

I thought that this link on Things Learned From Mom was cute.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

another sleepy Sunday

I had great plans to do stuff today, but just couldn't be bothered. I just hung out and read and watched some tv. So now I'm kicking myself because I could have gone to the gym and picked up groceries. Instead, I didn't even get out of my pyjamas all day long. Sundays are turning out to be pretty unproductive.

Saturday, July 09, 2005


Went out to dinner tonight with Hiroshi and Cal. We went to Grand Central Oyster Bar. We all shared an assortment of oysters on the half shell. I find it so amazing that they all taste completely different. This time I liked the American one best. Last time the American ones tasted dirty, but the one we tried tonight was very clean and fresh tasting.

Of course, this totally ignores the adage to only eat oysters in a month that has an 'R' in it. Who knows if we actually had a higher chance of getting sick from them or not. I figure if the horseradish or chili vinegar probably do a lot to kill bacteria. Of course, I could just be convincing myself of that fact!

Friday, July 08, 2005

hair stuff

I went to Bic Camera tonight to buy a hair dryer and curling iron so I can do my hair properly. I have a dryer but it sucks, so I figured I should get a new one. I was actually really surprised, because they are much cheaper than I remembered. I also got an awesome curling iron. It is a curling iron and it blows hot air. Mom has this air brush that she uses on her hair that makes it soft and takes out some of the frizz... well, my curling iron does the same thing! And it curls! So we'll see how well they both work tomorrow morning.

I crashed again tonight. I made it to 8:30 and then fell asleep... and was up at 3 again. I hope this ends soon! I have things to do in the evening!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I think I have jetlag

I never get jetlag coming back to Japan, but my flight usually gets in around 5. I got in around 1:30 and completely crashed around 6 pm last night. I woke up when Hiroshi got home around 9 and was in bed just before midnight; however, I woke up at 4am this morning and couldn't really get back to sleep. I was tossing and turning most of the night, so am completely exhausted today!

I took melatonin last night before bed, so I'm surprised I didn't sleep well. It worked great when I went to Canada. Hopefully, I'll be able to sleep better tonight!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

back in Japan

The plane touched down in Tokyo on time. I slept a bit on the plane, but woke up for the last four hours. The flight back to Tokyo is two hours longer, so that might be why (on the way there, I woke up two hours before landing). I just read some of my magazines to while away the time.

The plane landed at 1:15 and we were at the gate around 1:20. I cleared customs and had my luggage by 1:45! Such a difference from going thru the US. Makes you wonder. I think I believe the people who say that all the security measures in the US aren't doing anything except creating longer wait times and making travellers frustrated.

I went and bought my bus ticket, but had to wait until 2:30 for the bus to leave. I took the bus because I wouldn't have to struggle with my luggage. I just cart it up to the curb in a cart, they put it on the bus, and I get dropped off in front of a hotel near my house which I just take a taxi too. As it turned out, the bus ended up being faster than the train! I also saw the Narita Express train stopped on the tracks when we were landing, so if the line was down it may have been a lot longer.

When I got home I unpacked everything. I don't know where to put it all! I think I need to reorganize things. I was so tired though, I conked out in the middle of the floor in the bedroom. Hiroshi finally came home around 9 - it took a bit for me to wake up because I was so groggy, but it is good to be home again.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

going back home!

I was up bright and early today. I checked out of the hotel using the tv and then got the shuttle back to the airport. I checked in without problems and this time I remembered to take out my computer and video camera from my carry on for the luggage check. I still had to carry my own bags to be scanned after check-in. That system is really dumb. Scan the bags *before* people check in.

After I cleared the security line, I went to the business lounge. It wasn't that thrilling, but they had coffee, juice and magazines. They didn't have internet unfortunately. I had wanted to surf the net for a bit.

At one point I went out to duty free and asked the desk girl to watch my carryon bag. I looked and looked and they didn't have the cleanser! Shoot! I should have bought it back in Windsor. Oh well. When I got back to the lounge, the woman was waiting for me - they had made the boarding call for my plane, so that meant she could close the lounge.

After boarding the plane, I realized that I had lucked out. Only 5 of like 70 seats in business class were open, and one of them was next to me. Granted the seats are molded so you can't stretch out across two seats, but it meant that I could move over to the window seat to lean against the plane when sleeping, and have easy access to the aisle when I had to go to the washroom. I also had a place to put my bag and stretch out, so it was good.

Monday, July 04, 2005

leg 1 of journey back home

Dad and I left for the airport today around 2. When we got to the tunnel, it was all backed up. We got through fairly quickly though. We made a quick stop at the duty free shop so that I could claim my GST back. Despite having all the documentation from the gov't's website saying I could claim it, they wouldn't let me! Total pain in the butt. I have to mail it from Japan now, and then they'll mail me a check. While I was in duty free I found really cheap Dior cleanser and tone but figured I could get it later... at that point I was too frustrated with the GST people to spend any more time there.

At the airport, I checked in easily and luckily I had no problem with my luggage being a bit overweight. That was good. I went all the way down to my gate but the lounge in that area was closed. So, I hiked back to the central area to the main lounge and was told that the lounge is only for international passengers. What? The Northwest terminal in Detroit, which is a hub!, does not have a lounge for first class passengers. I couldn't believe it. So I had to hike all the way back down to my gate again (which was at the far end of the terminal).

By the time I got back to my gate, they were announcing that my flight was delayed due to mechanical problems. As long as it left sometime tonight, I wasn't too concerned The FA's were really funny with the announcements though. The one guy said things like, "Please only come up to board when your row is called. This will make boarding go much faster, and I promise you, we will all arrive in LA at the same time". In the end we ended up being 1.5 hours late.

The flight was uneventful and we landed at LAX. We flew south and then west to avoid some thunderstorms, but the ride was still a bit bumpy. I got to the luggage area quickly but had to wait a bit for my bags to come out. Then I grabbed a cart and waited for the airport shuttle to come by. I was quite lucky as it came by about 5 minutes later.

I checked into the hotel and had to change rooms. I was in a non-smoking room, but my bathroom smelled like a wet ashtray. It was aweful. The new room had an ashtray on the bathroom counter, but didn't smell, so that was fine. The decor at the Westin basically sucked. It seemed a bit run-down. Maybe I'm just spoiled from Thailand. The bed, however, was awesome! It was so comfortable! So I just hung out in bed and watched tv. I fell asleep watching the Nathan's hotdog eating competition (the Japanese guy won again).

Sunday, July 03, 2005

packing all my stuff

I went to Walmart today to pick up some protein bars and ended up buying a new suitcase while I was there. I figure there is no way I'm going to fit everything into the one I have. Just the stuff I brought back from my mom's was totally squashed in there and I still have stuff at dad's to put in!

The entire world was at Walmart today. It was an absolute zoo! I had wanted to go to the bookstore as well, but by the time I got all my stuff and browsed thru the aisles, it was time to pick dad up.

So everything now fits into my two suitcases. The only problem being that I also have a carry on, all three of which are heavy. It is going to be fun trying to move these around by myself! Maybe this is an indication that I shopped too much!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

back to Windsor

Mel's sister Ethel arrived today from Rochester, NY so she joined mom and Mel driving me down to London. We got to the train station in good time and I went to check my baggage... only to find that it was overweight! Apparently Via has a 50 lb limit. I had to open up my suitcases in the middle of the lobby and shift some things around!

I went first class on the train because it included a meal and has nicer seats. Well, it used to. The meal was like the epitome of airline food (aweful) and the seats were the same as in regular class! Should have gone coach I think.

The trip home was rather bumpy. The tracks have become really uneven. I don't remember them being that bad. I had a glass of water and it was sloshing all over the place - even when it was half full! Two inches of clearance between the lip and the waterline and it was going all over the place.

Despite being jostled all over the place it was still a nice trip because I got to stare out the window at all the farms and read one of the magazines that I had bought.

Friday, July 01, 2005

giving money back to the casino

We went to the casino again for hours and I gave tons of money back to them. Geesh. I did get a free t-shirt because they had special things on for Canada day. Early this morning the casino wasn't too bad, but then it got absolutely nuts! Every machine was taken and people were lined up waiting for people to leave them! I have never seen a casino that busy.

Of course, since we spent the day at the casino we didn't make it to Niagara on the Lake, so that will have to be a trip to take next time. I can't believe that my visit with mom is almost over. I leave for Windsor tomorrow.