Sunday, January 29, 2006

Han-dou-tai means "Semiconductor"

I finally got mustered up my courage and got a haircut in a Japanese salon. It was scary!! Mostly because I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to communicate what I wanted and would come out of the parlor bald.
Me and my scruffy hair were finally driven to the barber by Takeshi's endless offers of cutting my hair himself. "I have experience!" he said. "I once used an electric buzz razor on my friend in junior high!" I think my right eyebrow managed to riase itself a good inch above my left. "Oh really, and how did that turn out." "Well, it turns out I forgot to use the attatchment, so I shaved him completely bald. But he looked great!"
Needless to say I wasn't exactly enticed by that offer.. ^^ Anyways, my barber (excuse me, I mean stylist! not so good with the girly lingo..) was friendly and competent and gave me a nice haircut. thank goodness!!

In other news, my contracting company is placing me at NEC, where I will merrily be working on a quality control program for semiconductors.
Geez, just when you think you're safe from Electrical Engineering, it comes from nowhere and bites you in the butt. I'm suddenly very glad I took the 3 semesters of EE at school, even if the class average was a D+. (<- true!) My senpai working at the company sent me a page to study up on the intricacies of semiconductors - luckily NEC's site is bilingual, so with a little bit of hunting I found the english version of the page. On the japanese version there is a cute little 'factory tour' shown with animated characters, but the english version is much more business-like.

Random stuff:

*nearly done with Kingdom Hearts 2. That's right, you can't play it in America yet. Take that, you movie watchers! This country is good for something!
This is the sequel to the video game featuring Disney characters and worlds, but a Final-fantasy type storyline. Very fun!
Note for those who plan to play the game: you can't see the hidden movie at the end on beginner's mode, you can only see it in standard mode if you do about a million side-quests, but you can see it with 'proud mode' (the hardest setting) if you just play through it. The side quests are a pain, so I recommend proud mode!
Its so weird hearing japanese voices for my old disney friends. Imagine Ariel singing (instead of 'look at this stuff, isn't it neat' singing 'kore mitte, sutekki ne?' .. its so weird!!)

*went to karaoke with takeshi and sang disney songs in english. hee hee. So dorky and fun! ^^

*It snowed last weekend! A lot! All day on saturday!... that's a big deal to this california girl. And it hasn't snowed in Tokyo in about 5 years, so I wasn't the only surprised one...

*It's my birthday soon! ^_^ I am slowly but surely making the progression to Old Fart. Actually I'm kind of looking forward to it, I have a whole list of things I'd like to do when I'm old and can blame my horrid behavior on senility... like setting off fire alarms, poking people with umbrellas, and saying "whipper-snapper". (admit it, you know you've always wanted to call people that!) I have some more, but I've already started losing my memory. ^^

*Got a lunch set of sauteed pork on rice with a side of soup and salad for $3. This was at a major chain restaurant called 'suki-ya' very close to my office. It had free tea refills and fast service. I don't see why everyone thinks Tokyo is so expensive, it can be positively cheap! (happy and full)

*Thinking of getting a real domain name for my comic, probably or something. Any bright ideas?

*Hooray!! I can read at a 3rd grade level!! Haha, in Japanese. I've been reading "Fairy Realms-the charm bracelet" by Emily Rodda in Japanese. Its got a lot of words I have to look up, but a fairly interesting (although a bit predictable) story. I tried reading Harry Potter but lost interest because 1)Its too hard and 2) I already read the books in english so I knew what would happen next : thus, I wasn't as compelled to look up the words I didn't know. Anyways, if you're looking for books for your 9 year old girl cousin, this is a fun series.

And all you guys who haven't been updating your blogs, shame on you. I need them to stay up to date on what's happening on the other side of the pond! I swear, sometimes this blog is just for me to stay sane and say 'this is weird, right?? I'm not insane, right??' ^^ For instance, the other day I saw a cafe with a small red sign on the door that reads: "EAT IN SPACE." I stood there, scratching my head. Do they really want you to eat in space? like an astronaut?...Until I realized they had a couple of chairs in the tiny nook they ran the shope from, making it the "Eat in" space. AAh!! It suddenly all makes sense, and I am at peace with the universe once again.
... at least, until the next crazy sign...


Tuesday, January 17, 2006

ice skating downhill


Skiing was certainly exciting. And by "exciting" I mean extreme and hazardous health risk.
You see, although it is mid-january and an exceptionally cold winter in japan, (many prefectures are reporting record amounts of snow), up in the middle of the mountains, the weather decided to play a little joke on us and... rain. At 6000 feet above sea level. In mid-winter.

This was saturday in the afternoon. Saturday morning the snow was nice, the sky was cloudy, but all in all we were enjoying ourselves immensely. Just as I had predicted, Takeshi started skiing like a pro after one round on the bunny slopes, even though he hasn't skiied in 8 years. Figures. He IS a very fast learner, as Viet and Vy will attest to. (tangent story alert!)

Down in Huntington Beach, where it is now a frigid 68 degrees F, the Mais were having a Halo (video game) party by hooking up 2 X-boxes, so 8 people could play at once. The scores went like so: first game: Kyra& Takeshi, tied for 8th. Second game: I was 8th, Takeshi was seventh place. Skip forward about 3 games later: Takeshi:1st place!! Over some hardcore Halo gamers! He had never played before!! Me?... um. Still 8th. ^_^;;
Alright, the point of that side story was not to illustrate my suckiness inferior aptitude at this particular game, but my lovely hubby's learning speed. itsa bery fast. >_<;

Saturday afternoon, the rain clouds set in, pouring freezing rain across our faces, since it was 2 degrees celcius at the peak. After a couple of runs, we were forced to admit defeat and run for shelter and take a nice hour and a half break/ nap / thaw. The rain did lighten up a bit by about 3 giving us an hour of remaining ski time before we called it quits and tried to navigate the slosh and find the hotel.

The next day, the heavens were a brilliant blue, the view was perfect and crystal-clear, and the mountains were gleaming white. We also found out our hotel lended (for FREE) skis to its customers. Dang, if only we had known that saturday as well, we coulda saved seventy bucks! rats. Anyways, basically, we were FORCED to go again, obviously. Except the rain had frozen overnight, leaving the mountains a slick, 10% grade ice skating rink.
The picture to the left (sorry, more computer art, folks ^^) is a visual of how it felt. I suddenly lost all confidence and slipped on a high slope, but instead of the cushy soft snow to break my fall, I landed on what my bottom would report to me later as feeling remarkably like CONCRETE. OWW!! So, the brave warrior of yesterday's black diamonds retired to the bunny slopes. And yes, Takeshi was much braver than I and went down the highest slopes, on the ice. Did I mention he hasn't skiied in eight years?!

In other news, I think I am gaining weight. I got a huge bruise in Judo and decided to take it easy for awhile, so I haven't gotten much excercise in the last month or so. (besides the 20 minute walk to the train station, which I usually turn into a 10 minute run ^_^;) That plus holidays (ie CHOCOLATE!! THE LOVE OF MY LIFE!!) means the normal winter weight gain. "Oh well", you might think, "I'll lose it in the summer, no big deal". Right?
This is a country where facist anorexic diet magazines rule all.

Try reading this real newspaper article, from the reputable "Mainichi Shinbun news", ladies and gentlemen, and tell me if you can read it once through, seriously, without becoming indignant, or prone to fits of scoffing. Fans fret over figure skater's ever bigger figure Here is a painful exerpt: "Now, if Ando's put on 5 kilograms, that'd be critical for her. She's really gotten fat since she started living in America."

Ok, 5 kilos?! Is that enough to write a scathing 'skater is a giant ball of lard' article about? that's 12 pounds, folks. All I gotta say is I'm glad I'm not famous, I can see the headlines now:
"Foreign girl balloons into round, cowlike figure"
or possibly a follow up article as well: 'rumors of NASA plotting orbit path for American immigrant'.

I think that it's mostly Tokyo that's like this, other parts of japan have much more normal waistlines. Every time I walk past some girls I scratch my head wondering why I am suddenly thinking of toothpicks.

Ah well. Anyways, I think I'd better find another way to work out besides Judo. I'm thinking of a sports club where I can try out basketball (I'd be the world's shortest basketball player, but oh well ^_^). Judo is fun but it's not very team oriented, and is very potentially painful. How are you guys coping with the after-holidays exra blubber?

Yours until Ivory soap sinks,

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Nerdy charm

Dang its cold! Rats. These days it's been frosty on the ground, puddles have been freezing over, and I can see my breath in the middle of the day. I tell anyone who will listen: "is this NORMAL? it's freaking cold out here!" to which my friends and colleauges respond with a wan smile and a 'yeah, what can you do' expression that I find annoying. It's times like these that I wish I had a pocket instant thermometer on my keychain. I could whip it out in nerdy glory, push a little button, and "BEEP!" and the cute little digital face would read: -4million degrees! My colleagues would be forced to admit "wow, I guess it really is cold out here!"... or, much more possibly: "wow, you're a big nerd!" But either way they would be impressed.

unfortunately that idea doesn't involve actually making me warmer in any way, just a bit more smug about it. Luckily the miracles of chemistry have allowed the invention of a pocket heater! I don't know if these are around in America (besides the japanese supermarkets), but here there are some awesome little packets of chemicals that when exposed to air start reacting exothermically and heat up, for about 3 hours, your pockets. Or socks. They probably are around in the colder climes, but japan's the first place I have seen them, they're called 'Hokkairo' packets. Whenever I feel their delightful warmth I am invariably reminded of my chemistry class that I loved because our chem teacher demonstrated the angles between molecules by twisting together those long skinny clown baloons. Even though I got a C, I will never forget that lecture. "If you try hard enough, it's even possible to make a molecule that looks like THIS!" said our professor Chip, flourishing a little weenie dog balloon. Now THAT was a good lecture. ^_^ Anyways, I think you can see why I can't explain the chemical reaction that makes them work, but let me find a link for you chem nerds out there:

Hm. .... hmmmmmm. come on, google, wikipedia? really? nothing??

Sorry folks, I can't seem find to find a page that explains the exothermic reaction of pocket heaters (at least in english). But! Fret not, I happened to stumble across an extremely amusing page: How to destroy the earth It seems to be pretty hard to do ^_~. Here is the preamble of the page:

Destroying the Earth is harder than you may have been led to believe.
You've seen the action movies where the bad guy threatens to destroy the Earth.
You've heard people on the news claiming that the next nuclear war or cutting down rainforests or persisting in releasing hideous quantities of pollution into the atmosphere threatens to end the world.


The Earth is built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron. It has taken more devastating asteroid hits in its lifetime than you've had hot dinners, and lo, it still orbits merrily. So my first piece of advice to you, dear would-be Earth-destroyer, is: do NOT think this will be easy.

Ah, good stuff.

On a lighter note, I tried on wedding dresses on monday! It was fun and good for the ego, checking myself out looking charming in a number of fabulous, gem and lace encrusted gowns. I'm going to be renting mine. The Best Bridal wedding planners have a nice setup where they have the exact same dresses in the Tokyo branch as they do in hawaii, so you pick out a dress here, and it will be waiting for you at hawaii on wedding day. I'm rather relieved, as those dresses are HUGE and would get all wrinkly if I brought one over on the plane, not to mention take up lots of luggage room and rot in the closet for years afterwards. Nice and easy-peasy.
Interesting Japan Wedding Fact:
Here the groom pays for the wedding (ouch! poor guys), so they want to have a large voice in the wedding planning. This means when the girls go and pick the dress, the groom comes too and they choose together, which is noticably different from the American standard opinion of 'bad luck for the groom to see the dress before the day!'. I didn't know that, so I went by myself to try on dresses. The sweet lady who helped me try on about 5 different ones asked me 'I see the groom isn't with you today. Is the dress a secret?' When I nodded yes, she looked knowingly at another girl at the salon, and said 'sasuga...'

Short tangent for a japanese lesson: If you're gonna learn a cool word in japanese, learn 'sasuga': pronounced SAH(soo)GAH. It means, in one word, "that's (name) for you". or "she's a (noun), alright". If someone is known for something, like John known for being late, and John comes in 20 minutes behind schedule all out of breath, people will almost always say 'sasuga ni John-san!' (that's John for ya!)
So what those girls were saying, in one word, was: "so our textbooks were right! They DO keep the dress a secret from the groom in america!"
Not bad for one lil word. ^_^

anyways, I have a dress! It fits and looks amazing (in my humble opinion ^_~), and is white with a small beaded pattern on the bust and flowing down the train. *swoons with girlish glee*. I'd post a picture, but that's probably bad luck too, so here's a picture of the salon where I tried on dresses. If you squint, you can just make out my figure in the mirror.

Here are two more pictures I took recently that may be of interest:

yeah, um, this is a guy in shinjuku forced to wear a cell phone suit. Did I say cell phone? Make that a 'santa' cell phone. I .. don't..!!! I told you it was cold, right? So we went to the Shinkai Shrine in nagano, and it was nice, I got a good luck charm. but check out the water you're supposed to purify yourself with! Even the *running water* froze!

At least cold weather means it's a good time to ski! I'm going on a ski trip this weekend in the first time in 3 years! hooray! ^_^ Takeshi admits he's not very good with skiing, but he's a really fast learner. Maybe by the end of the day I can convincehim to go down a black diamond with me. muahaha, MUahahahHAHAHAaaa! (oh dear, I should really learn how to control my outbursts of evil laughter! ^^)

Hope your winter is lovely! your faithfully blogging friend,