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Rants and Raves

Note that this collection of rants dates back years. For a somewhat more recent blog, my livejournal is at:

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February 14th, 2004
Whoa, I've been gone...forever, it seems. Actually, I have just been nuts this past year with work and home life, etc. You know, a little bit of karoshi here and there adds variety, too. Of course, most of the visitors to my page are primarily interested in the extensive DDR section, so myself and a few select others have worked hard to keep it up to date. The only thing I wish now is that there wasn't so much "drama" in the DDR community; you know, people obsessed with "Well, who is the best?" and how a "good" player should play...or something.

In the past few months, I have also been able to see "Quidam", "Riverdance" and a "Flamenco" dance performace. I think I enjoyed Quidam the best, though maybe that was also due to the fact my wife and I got seats in the 5th row as opposed to the upper-nosebleed section.

In other news, Elijah Wood (and other members of the cast of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie adaptations of the classic J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy) is in Japan to celebrate the recent (as in, today) release of the third and final movie, "Return of the King"...funny, Japan always seems to be the last place to get non-asian movies...oh well, it got here, but then again, considering the lineups, I probably won't be able to get in to see it for weeks at the local Movil. Well, I could be evil and find a bit torrent file of the movie from some fruitcake with a handycam in the theater, but that wouldn't be the same.

Oh yes, as you may have guessed, today is Valentine's day, which carries a different meaning in Japan. On this day, women give chocolate to the men in their life (or so the tradition holds), and the men return the favour one month later, March 14th (White Day), though for some reason I don't hear as many men giving chocolate back as those whom received it. Oh well.

And to confuse you, the reader, here is what one native Japanese has to say on the subject of "White Day":

The White Day presents have some meanings. If a man gives a woman handkerchiefs, it means "I don't love you, so dry tears with the handkerchief by yourself." If a man gives a woman a cookies, it means "Let's remain friends." If a man gives a woman marshmallows, it means "I love you." If a man gives a woman candies, it means "I have a sweetheart." Some people say these presents have different meanings. If a man gives a woman cookies, it means "I can't love you." If a man gives a woman marshmallows, it means "Let's remain friends." If a man gives a woman candies, it means "Let's associate with me." These meanings are quite opposite to the first ones. I don't know which meanings are true. Generally, men spend as much as or more money on White Day presents than women do on St. Valentine's Day presents.

On the health front, my office has elected a "No Smoking" policy in the office. That is, no smoking 6 packs a day at your desk...thank god. Although I never *really* had a serious disdain for smokers before working in this office, the vast amount of people that smoke, and how much they smoke would put any normal being off smoking forever. Seriously, it is that disgusting (imaging a perfectly clean, empty ashtray at 8:30AM completely overflowing with cigarette butts onto the table and floor by 10:30AM). Adding to the stress was my recent progress report presentation every employee has to do after working 2 or so years in the company...pity I had to do it in Japanese. It's one thing carrying a conversation with one of my Japanese gaming buddies; it's another to put on a formal business presentation (Power Point files, suits, and all) for a bunch of company executives. I got through it...that's about all I can say.

Finally, I have been playing around with a nifty little program for my Gameboy Advance SP called "Pogoshell". It is basically an OS to allow booting of multiple programs of different formats, and not just games; I can play music (Midi, MP3, WAV), video (AVI, MPG), view pictures (BMP, JPG), text files, and play games from many vintage systems (Nintendo, Gameboy, Gameboy Advance, etc.). I even designed a little Star Wars background image for my desktop from some source image I found a long time ago.

And on a random note, I finally solved that puzzle you sent me for my birthday, mom. And also, if you can find it over there in Vancouver, I recommend trying this sweet/sour/spicy sauce by Allied Thai (3rd from the top) I have had this past year.

February 27th, 2003

A brief venture into international fame

I know I have been gone long enough to walk to Osaka and back...multiple times, but this is a very unique update, so bear with me.

First off, I was contacted a few weeks ago by one of the editors at one of New Zealand's business (weekly) newspapers known as "The Independent" (yes, they have a web site, too). For the Feb. 5th, 2003 issue, they wrote up a report on "International Concerns" and such, and supposedly, one of the editors stumbled across a few of my pictures of Japan (the one with my old vice-principal bowing at a graduation ceremony). In retrospect, I believe she was looking for any pictures of formal bowing, and when she typed in "bowing" or "formal bowing" or "Japanese formal bowing", etc., in the Google.com image search, she found it. Anyways, to make a long story short, after I sent the original full-size image to her via email, it appeared on Page 16 of the Feb. 5th, 2003 issue, along with my name under it as a photographer's credit. Some have already joked with me about becoming a professional photographer, but I am hesitant considering my portfolio consists of pictures of things I find funny/strange/cool, or pics of sweaty and/or scary people doing very well at Dance Dance Revolution.

Speaking of which, two major items on that front: First, one of the my infamous friends was featured on a web site "fark.com". In amidst the regular multiple-updates-a-day news/cool items/things (maybe) worth mentioning, they have regular "Photoshop" contests in which a source image is used as a base for all sorts of digitally edited creations. Now, since there are bound to be readers of this page that have no idea about the sense of accomplishment in the game Dance Dance Revolution, one of my friends here, "Yasu" as he likes to be called, received a full perfect grade on one of the most intense stamina-draining songs in the series (555 steps in a minute and a half), of which only a handful of people in the world can claim to have done, and I was lucky enough to not only get a photo of it, but also some videos as well. As a result, he was noticably sweaty and looked death-warmed-over at the end, and was seen as suitable material for fark.com (by whomever originally stumbled across the photo). There were some good ones, some lame ones, but I managed to take some of the better ones and put them in their own section on my page...for your enjoyment.

Secondly, his brother "Take" has set the Twin Galaxies' World Record at DDR 7th mix. Actually, he set it back in October, but it took forever to get the thing officialized by them. The record page on that (Twin Galaxies') site is here, but I have documented his attempt in detail on my own here.

It should be noted that due to their skill, both "Take" and "Yasu" (brothers, even), are viewed in an almost god-like status in a notable number of DDR communities. Although this is a really cool thing in the sense that it has resulted (in combination with their presence on my web page) to draw other foreign tourists to Muthos to play with these guys, I am concerned about some possible backlash against this popularity (as in, "Hey, your 15 minutes are up"). I was once told "Wow, these people [that go to another country to watch someone play a video game] must have incredibly small lives or something", but if they are here anyways, I know the guys would love to have the company.

Okay apart from that, I have mostly been busy with tons upon tons of translation work. I'm pretty sure I'm getting sort-of-proficient at it, though vast quantities of work tend to noticably drag down the quality. I really can't comprehend why the engineers use the verb "capture" to mean "take", "get", "consult", "find", and the like, and they can't comprehend why "jitsugen-suru" doesn't translate to English, even though they use it a *lot* in Japanese. [Aaron's note: while there is in fact a translation, "Realize"/"Actualize", it makes no sense to say something is "realized" in the sense something becomes real, which is where the problem lies.] As far as translation goes, "We have no chance to survive make our time". At least I don't have to work with any more voice dictation software. It wasn't great at all, despite everyone's trials to show that the new version of such-and-such voice dictation software was "better than ever beef whore".

Oh yes, the weather has been more or less miserable the last while. While today was okay, for the most part it has been cold, rainy/cloudy, and everyone has been catching colds...or worse. Finally, on a more sad note, I only found out recently that my favourite professor from University had passed away a matter of months ago. Ron Scoins, who also happens to be the guarantor of my passport, was an amazing professor and friend (he was my professor for Calculus 137, on Mon/Wed/Fri, 9:30-10:30AM).

November 29th, 2002

Well, I'm back. Sorry for the massive delay. Work has had me all over Kanto trying to solve people's English problems (you know, make sure the Engineers understand the English instructions correctly so they don't blow any equipment up). I think they *can* handle it by themselves, but whenever a group gets to a big "important" section of the users manual, and they don't understand it immediately, the natural response for them is to hit *all* the buttons...not always a good idea, I would assume. Patience is a virtue, or so I have been told.
Recently, I got to visit Kyushu for the first time. It was very warm, and very peaceful. I was down around Saga prefecture with my wife to visit family. The rural surroundings of where we were seemed very calm to me. It was sort of like being in Kiso again...except it was warmer and a lot further south of Kiso. The locals, including my new relatives, were also wonderful! Hoorah for a good trip! Oh yes, I noticed a plane for local flights that was painted up with Pokemon characters on it. I wonder what was up with that?
To add to the experience, I must say that the experience of local flights in Japan are 24,769 times better than international flight experiences. Heck, I didn't even need my passport or foreign registration card. It was kind of like JR (Japan Rail) in the sky.
So, did you celebrate Pocky day? What's Pocky Day, you say? Well, Pocky Day is November 11th (a conflict of a different holiday, I know). "Pocky" is a chocolate/candy covered/coated this bread stick that has been in Japan... forever as far as I can tell. Since November 11th is written as 11/11, someone over at Glico or perhaps someone else altogether different came up with the idea to designate it an unofficial "Pocky Day"; a day on which you eat "Pocky" snacks I guess... For those who missed it, there is always next year.
Oh yes, I received an interesting mail at work regarding "Internet culture" and what can be done to make it more family-oriented, or something. Everytime I look around for "culture" on the internet, I end up getting directed to either a picture of Admiral Ackbar from Starwars (and his famous line "It's a Trap!"), people spelling "the" as "teh" on purpose because it is "l33t", the character "Cats" telling me how "All your base are belong to us!", or how I should "Vote 5 for pr0N". My view of the internet could simply be totally jaded, however.
Also, I received my yearly Golf insurance form. I don't have to sign up for it, which is probably a smart idea since I can't golf worth beans. Anyways, I am still highly intrigued by the things I can claim, such as if I get a hole-in-one, I can get several tens of thousands of yen just because it is culture/tradition (I'm not sure which) for the person in question who gets a hole-in-one to throw a huge party/feast for his/her fellow golfers. Considering that I will most likely never do that in my lifetime, I'm pretty sure the insurance company would consider me a "safe bet". It's not like I am Tiger Woods or someone...of course, even if I can't be as good as Tiger Woods, that doesn't mean I can't drink the same coffee that he advertises.
Semi-lastly, in the canned coffee world, we have the semi-recent introduction of "Fire Heart" coffee, which suppliments "Super Fire" coffee, as seen in the ad to the left.

Not bad by any means, but I really can't tell the difference between them. I'm sure I'm not the only one, though.

There is a new "Single Bean" canned coffee as well (as it is known), but there is something strange about the taste. Very bitter... and why am I so fixated on coffee all of a sudden!?

October 9th, 2002

Aaron in Japan in Canada
[Advance notice: many of the links on this page go to photo images for you to enjoy]

There, how's that for a confusing title? Anyways, I got to see the western part of Canada on my honeymoon this recent past. Once we got to Narita Airport (we had to take the Narita Express train, or "NEX" as it is known), we had problems getting our tickets because the travel company we used didn't send the money (that I paid) to the airport for the tickets until the night before the flight, and they couldn't confirm the money transfer at the airport, and we had to pay *again* if we wanted to go. (Note: we did get our money back afterwards; I don't remember the name of the travel company in question; I let my wife take care of the details).

At first, it was hard to tell I had left Japan, since there was a rather sizeable tourist group on the same flights all the way through Seattle (where I stopped over) right to Calgary, through the pink morning sky...while eating typical airline food. Once we got over the mountains and out from Calgary Airport, though, it was clear we were in a different place altogether. Oh, for those interested, the 747 I was on had 66 rows (in business/economy at least). How do I know? Because I was in row 66.

From there, we took the "Brewster Tour" through the mountains from Calgary to Banff to Lake Louise to Kamloops to Whistler to Vancouver. The tour was a three-day bus tour through various attractions and sites. The weather was on-and-off good and bad, with "rainy/cloudy" being the predominant pattern. My wife was able to sleep pretty well in this weather, though. On the first night, I got to have a delicious meal at "The Keg" in Banff. My wife found hers a bit too tough to chew, but I found the whole meal wonderful, if not slightly overpriced...not so much, though.

I saw various scenery which was a welcome change from the comparingly crowded scenerey of the Kanto region in Japan; hills, fields, trees, and mountains aplenty. I even got a picture of a bear in the fields staring at me (You might want to do a zoom on the center of that pic...that was as close as I wanted to be). Later on, we also got to see the salmon run which only happens once every four years. They salmon were red with green heads. Some of the other tourists commented on their (the fishes') apperance. Me, having seen fish in many ways before, was not too shocked at the appearance other than being red and green; some of the other tourists didn't stomach the idea so well, though.

On the last leg of the tour, we got to Whistler, which is a wonderful place. We were pretty worn out by the time we arrived, so after a good rest, we had some nice dinner at the "Mongolie Grill" (one of many fine restaurants in the area), which consisted of grabbing plates of ingredients and having the chef grill it up. They even had "Miso soup" (soybean paste soup), which made my wife happy, since I think that was the first time she had it since we arrived in Canada. I had the sweet and sour soup instead...yeah, sacrelige, I know; I should have had miso soup, too.

The next day, we took the final tour bus through via Tim Hortons to Vancouver, where my relatives picked me up. The next 4 days were a trip though only a few parts of the vast city of Vancouver.

Once there, we got to see all sorts of city living, and was a relatively peaceful place, despite a few of the things I saw/heard of. I was around the Langley area for the most part, but got to see things such as White Rock, Metro Town, the Sky Train, Granville Market, etc. In short, I saw a lot of stuff, and spoiled myself on North American food again (poutine, anyone?). But alas, I had to leave so soon and head back to work, so it looks like I have to go back another time.

Oh, to the DDR players/fans out there, yes, I did squeeze in a game at the "Command H.Q." game center in the Willowbrook Mall, and was in fact at "Playdium" in Metro Town. However, remember that I went to Canada on my honeymoon, not as a DDR world tour (though I'm sure that idea sparks a few of your imaginations).

And on a last note, why oh why is there both an "Ashita ga aru sa" canned coffee *AND* sembei cracker snack? "Ashita ga aru sa" (roughly "There as always tomorrow") was both a very old song (remixed recently), and a really lousy TV series (I'd be surprised if anyone actually admitted to watching more than one episode of it). Anyways, there is a movie coming out with this title as well, apparantely about launching a rocket or something, starring the same actors/actresses that can be seen on dozens of other TV shows (in Japan, it is very common for one TV personality to do many different shows, though this is frowned upon in some other cultures). Now, the drink and snack are used solely to push the movie I'm sure, and now we have these glorious "Ashita ga aru sa: The Movie: The Coffee" and "Ashita ga aru sa: The Movie: The Senbei Cracker" products. I'm sure that in the creator's mind, people are going in droves to get it.

Comments or Suggestions? Then contact me at: admin@aaroninjapan.com
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