Archive for the 'Me' Category

Airline Math

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

I had booked a flight from San Jose to Lewiston, Idaho to visit my Dad & Stepmother on their vacation.

The flight cost $450.00

Then I decided to change the booking so I had 2 more days.

It would have cost me an additional $800 to change the flight; total $800+450 = $1,250.00

Instead, I canceled the flights and booked a new set of flights for $399.00

$399 + $450 Credit – $150 cancellation fee = $700.00 net.

On Japanese

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

One question everyone is asking me since I got back from Japan is “How well did you do with your two semesters of Japanese? Were you able to get by?”

The answer is yes and no… I have the vocabulary of your average three-year-old child, and grammatical structures to match. In English, I would be able to say “I would like to buy a ticket on the Shinkansen to Toyko,” in Japanese I could get the point across with “ときょに しんかんせんで いきます おねがいします”, which literally means “To Toyko using Shinkansen Go Please.”

In fact, “___ please” turned out to be quite a useful little phrase. Ordering in restaurants became a matter of looking around, seeing someone eating something that looked good, and saying “that please.” Of course, it didn’t always work out – Theoretically, if nobody was eating anything that I wanted to eat, I would have to leave, hang around outside for 10 minutes, then go back in and try again.

Another thing I wasn’t prepared for was all the kanji. You see, Japanese is written in a combination of two alphabets and thousands of Chinese characters called kanji. And my courses don’t teach any kanji.

Because of this, you find yourself left in situations such as arriving at the train station and wondering when the next train to your destination is leaving…


Then you have to find the station on a map and figure out how much the ticket will cost…


And, of course, once you figure it out and buy a ticket, you have to try and discover (a) which track the train is departing from, (b) which car you should be in (because sometimes the trains end up splitting and going in two directions), and (c) which seat you have to sit in.


By the way, awesome bokeh in the background on that picture!

Sometimes it didn’t matter that I couldn’t read kanji, because the meaning was completely obvious:


And other times, my lack of kanji-ability didn’t matter, because I doubt it would have helped me figure out what some things were:


The English on the box says “Flash Over: Here is the thing I have been longing for. Transformation of extra quality is now completed. Experience yourself with this satisfaction.” Given that this was on a shelf near the boob cream, my theory is that it’s either a herbal anti-depressant or a vibrator.

I had brought my Japanese textbook with me, and I decided to go back to the beginning and start looking up all the Kanji for words that I didn’t know. Of course, studying isn’t exactly barrels of fun while you’re on vacation, so I decided to force myself to learn – I decided I would only order things in restaurants if I could read the name of it (with the help of a dictionary, of course) off the menu. Of course, I was buying most of my meals at convenience or grocery stores – this was to save money, not an unintended consequence of not ordering food I couldn’t read. (yeah right, says the peanut gallery.)

I had some success and some failures. For example, I decided to have coffee and cake in Shibuya, and managed to figure out how to say the name of the one at the bottom right of this picture:


Of course, when the waitress came and asked for my order, I opened the menu and immediately mental-blocked on whether the ショート at the end was pronounced “shouto” or “tsuuto”, so I just said the first part. Which, of course, is the name of the dessert at the top of the menu. Incidently, it’s “shouto” for “shortcake.”

I also discovered that riding the train or bus became a free game of kanji-flash-cards, as they both would display on a screen the same of the next stop in both kanji and english. Sometimes I had no clue – Sometimes I had almost one part. And this was my great triumph; three weeks in, I successfully read the name of this bus stop.


Obviously, I’m easy to please – “His great transformation occurred when he read the name of the bus stop.” If my life was a novel and that was the back-cover copy, I don’t think I’d buy it.

On watches and agony

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

Last year, I bought myself a really nice watch; it had the two features I consider essential: a countdown timer to tell me when the laundry is done, and charging by sunlight so I never have to replace the battery.

However, it’s a resonably expensive watch, which I didn’t feel went with my style of budget travel (ignore the $8000 of camera gear I’m carrying, of course)

Long story short, I bought a cheap $20 watch for the trip.
When I arrived in japan I spun the hands foreward 14 hours to make up the difference from crossing the international date line.

And tonight, when I arrived at the hostel, they told me I had already checked out. “ummm, I’m leaving on the 25th for Nikko.”

“it is the 25th.”

Turns out spinning the hands doesn’t change the date – you have to pull the stem out to a different position to change the date.

Fortunately, they still had a bed available for me. I emailed the hostel in Nikko and told them to charge me for tonight (aka for my stupidity) and asked if I could still show up tomorrow.

Finally, a good hair day…

Saturday, March 14th, 2009
That's not me - that's the girl.

That's not me - that's the girl.

I’ve never liked my hair. And I think it knows it – it’s not receding, it’s trying to get away.

My earliest memory about my hair specifically was in grade 7. There was a girl in my class, and I thought she was great – she was the prettiest girl in the whole school.

And I thought “Wow, I wish I could hang out with her – We’d, um, go somewhere, um, not sure where, and then we’d um, do something, um, not quite sure what, and er, um… um.”

But before I had a chance to make my move, we had a new student transfer in – he was Italian and he had hair like out of a shampoo ad.

And of course, she fell for him.

And I was convinced it was because he had straight hair, and because I had curly, unmanageable hair. It had to be the hair. It couldn’t be that I was shy and could barely talk to a girl, whereas he was confident and had that whole “foreign-person” vibe going. No, it was because of the hair.

Also not me - my hair isn't that red.

Also not me - my hair isn't that red.

Fast forward to the future. My hair, what’s left of it, is even more unmanageable. If I let it grow longer than about two inches, it starts bunching up at the side of my head like clown hair; I know this because one of my girlfriends once said to me “I think it’s time for a haircut, Binky the Clown.”

And, what with going to Japan for a month-long vacation, I didn’t want to have to deal with trying to control my uncontrollable hair when I didn’t have 40 lbs of glue to try and make it stick down.

The way I solved this problem before I went to Europe for a two-month trip was to shave it all off. But I wasn’t really in the mood for that. So it was time for the internet…


And I didn’t really find anything useful, other than lots of information about flattening irons (wouldn’t work well on my 2.5 inch hair,) thousand-dollar spa treatments to straighten hair (a bit out of my budget), and, of course, lots of pr0n. Nothing for me here. Yep, ignored the pr0n… yep.

Later, I went to the drug store to pick up some things for the trip, and I took a wrong turn down the haircare aisle and found myself in the “Ethnic Hair Products” section. I didn’t really know such a thing existed, but I was quite pleased it does, because there were tons and tons (metric tons) of hair straightening products.

So, it was me, a Saturday afternoon, and a full-blown chemical warfare assault on my hair …

It’s been a week now, and I’m quite pleased with how my hair behaves. Out of the shower, it just lies there or spikes up. It brushes with no trouble. It needs no product. The only downside is that anytime it gets wet, it smells like sulfur. Apparently I needed to harness the forces of darkness to make my hair straight.

So, grade 7 fantasy crush girl, where are you now?

Before (left) and After (right)

Before (left) and After (right)

Better Eye Shot

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

This morning I got a much better shot… Click for fullsize.

Macro photo of my own eye

Everything’s a learning experience. Last night, I learnt a pillow is not an accurate distance reference. This morning, I learnt that a light stand is also not an accurate distance reference, but it’s a whole lot more accurate than a pillow ;)

This is the full setup…

Setup for eye shot