imperial palace

Back to Japan

Monday I head to Japan for work. First a conference where our new product is being highlighted, and then some sales training.

It will be my first trip to Japan since 2008, the longest I have gone since the mid 1990s without visiting (for reference, I once traveled there 3 times in one month). Will be based in Tokyo, with a few days in Chiba prefecture, and then back to the office near Tokyo station.

Since I don’t have a work sponsored cell phone, I will not have data access while there, so no goofing around. Sigh.

Reflecting back, I have been to Japan at least 40 times, and been north, south, east and west. This trip I will have an applications engineer with me who has never been in country, so I will be the gracious host. We do have a weekend on our own, so will probably do the Imperial Palace, the Ginza district, visit a Buddhist temple, take a scenic train tour, or maybe just drink in a beer garden.

I am looking forward to good Soba noodles, yakitori, maybe a ton katsu, and some sushi.

Being the end of summer, the temperatures will be coming down, but it will still be South Florida humid. I will remember to bring my brollie.

We are staying near Shinjuku station, a good transit hub, and I know that there is a good Ex-Pat bar nearby that serves a good draught Guinness. Yummy.

I am flying ANA out of San Jose airport direct. My first time on a 787 Dreamliner. Should be cool

Feeling Human Again – Finally

Last Sunday, I set out on what was supposed to be a modest hike. Almost 3.5 hours later, and a ton of climbing and descending, I was back at home. Tired, sore, miserable and with crippling blisters rising on my feet. Ugh, I had gotten out of shape.

After rehydrating, and a fitful sleep (you know, where you are too tired to actually rest and sleep), the lactic acid monster set in. AKA Delayed onset muscle soreness. Bad. Really really bad. Climbing the stairs at work was about 5 minutes of agony. Getting in and out of my car was an ordeal. My blisters on my little toes made putting shoes on agonizing.

Even 3 ibuprofen, 4x a day barely took the edge off.

Today, Thursday, I finally feel human again. The blisters are less tender. The muscles have some residual soreness, but it is tolerable, and I did the first walk around the campus at lunch (2.4 miles, two loops).

Just in time to bicycle this coming weekend. Woo hoo!

Hiking – Almaden Quicksilver Park

Since I blew out my legs riding yesterday, I decided to take it easy, and go for a hike.

Ha ha ha.

I printed a map for Almaden Quicksilver Park, and hit the trails.

Not really sure where I was going, I just started up New Almaden trail, and then turned onto the Hacienda trail. Holy shit, it was a butt kicker. Large, wide trail, but very very steep. The first leg of the Hacienda trail is marked for hiking only, and it is now wonder why.

Got to the juncture with Mine Hill trail, and found a lot of cyclists. Got some guidance, so I took Mine Hill trail, avoided the turn to Castillero Trail (it appears to be an extra 0.3 miles).

There is a great view of Mt. Umunhum and a little rest area, with a couple of benches, a horse watering trough, and some much appreciated shade.

From there, I continued on Mine Hill trail, a meandering (and much welcome) downhill along a ridge. Of course after about two tenths of a mile of shade, the sun was baking.

The turn south on Prospect Trail #3, a hiking only trail, was steep, switchback laden, and difficult to hike. Of course, there was evidence of some douche-y mountain bikers riding (boo) on these trails.

By the time I got to the intersection of Prospect and the New Almaden trail, I was at the 6 mile mark, and I just wanted the hike to be over. The downhill was doing damage to my feet. Not accustomed to the boots, I could feel the blisters forming. Crap.

About 2.1 more miles, and I was finally back at the parking area.

Total damage: 8.1 miles, 1776 calories, 1575 feet of climbing, 3:01 total time (2:39 moving time).

I should have done another 34 mile bike ride…

bicycling logo

Bicycling Magazine – what world do they inhabit?

I have posted about the ridiculousness of Bicycling Magazine in the past. I do not purposefully subscribe, but instead I get a copy with my Performance Bicycle membership.

Every month, this rubbish appears at my house. This month’s edition has a giant picture of a rear cassette from SRAM that has 11 speeds. Of course, you have to go to page 94 to figure out why the fuck they have this (hint: it is a way to have only one chainring on your crank, and still ride a wide variety of terrain. Of course, they say that unless you are a novice, or have very specific needs, don’t buy it).

On the cover there are leaders for:

  • A pizza that is rocket fuel for riding (It is a restaurant in San Francisco making a wood-fired Naples style pizza)
  • Pot and riding (in states where recreational marijuana is allowed, and yes, WADA will still fuck up your shit if you compete and piss positive.)
  • And, a lame link to one of their Q&A’s on what to do if you get dropped.

Yes, the last one. I had to look it up. It is referring to being on a group ride, and being dropped means that on a climb, you lag and they all tear off ahead. How to handle that (just keep riding, no need to apologize, because some of us are fat fucks that can’t climb worth shit.

Of course there are plenty of reviews of bikes. Herein lies my biggest grief about this magazine. Virtually all the bikes they test and review are $2800 and above. Yes, some times they go bargain shopping, but far more likely what they are reviewing is a $6K bike.

Seriously, their attitude is that you don’t get into anything worth riding until you are well above $3,500. That is just fucking whacked.

s-works-webWould I be able to tell the difference between my $1200 Lemond Buenos Aires and a Specialized S-Works? Yep. Would I be able to discern an $8K price differential? Nope.

The funny thing: For the last 3 months, I have received an: “Act NOW!” letter to renew my subscription. Really, like I want to spend $20 a year on this rag.

Last article I read: On the benefit of going to bicycle mechanic school. Starts with a tale of a 26 year old racer who has been on the pro circuit since she was 13. Never twisted a wrench, it was done by her father or a mechanic. So she went to school.

Seriously, if you don’t have enough mechanical intuition to do the basics (adjust cables, change and adjust brakes, lubricate bearings, true wheels), just take it to a shop. For fuck’s sake, you don’t need to go to school for that shit.

The Dentist

Today was that twice yearly ritual, visiting the Dentist. Hygienist and a quick check.

Where else will you get the joys of the poker, the gouger, and the scraper jabbed at your teeth and gums? As I have long had some moderate gum recession, I get exhortations about keeping the exposed root on my first molars clean.  And the reminder to use a fluoride rinse.

Ah, the pleasant staff, the pain of gouged gums, the mild bleeding. The hamfisted attempt by the hygienist to have a conversation (seriously, you are elbows deep in my mouth…)

And of course, where else would I hear the light banter of KBAY 94.5, and the latest Kelly Clarkson tune?  I mean c’mon, isn’t that the definition of a great time.

Of course, I have hairline fractures in another tooth, so I will get to go back for a quick filling to hold it together and avoid a catastrophic failure and yet another crown.

Great day.

mystery-spot-sign

Seen in Silicon Valley – Mystery Spot

More in the things found in Silicon Valley. This isn’t as mundane as a Mercedes with a lawnmower in the trunk. Nope, this is about the Tourist Trap, AKA The Mystery Spot.

kome_packWhy am I bringing it up? Mainly because there are so damn many of their bumper stickers everywhere. I swear every third car has a “Mystery Spot” decal. More than used to have the iconic KOME 98.5 decals back in the day

The attraction is a “house” built in Santa Cruz where it “appears” that the laws of physics has been suspended. Balls roll uphill, you can’t stand perpendicular to the floor, yada yada.

Of course they offer some ridiculous explanations of the phenomenon. From their website, they claim that there is a circular magnetic anomaly, 150 feet in diameter that affects the local gravity. Of course this is malarky. The physicist in me doesn’t need to calculate the mass of such an anomaly to know that it would have to be neutron star density. But it plays well to the rubes.

bumper stiskerReality is that the house is built on a hill, and thus is slanted 20 degrees from normal, while carefully modifying the perspectives so that the brain is confused by the eye. The human mind wants to find horizons and levels, and will use the clues of the structure to build this, even if they are way out of what we would consider normal.

A thorough debunking was done in the 1990’s by a psychologist at UC Berkeley.

Of course, that hasn’t quenched the popularity one iota, and you see shitloads of Mystery Spot decals.

(Side note: It is damn sad that the KOME decals sell for $12 on FleaBay)

comcast-logo

Not going to happen – Comcast Solar

Over the last week, I have had three calls from Comcast. Trying to sell me on their "Energy" program.

Apparently they want to install solar cells on my house, pay me $1,200 for the privilege of doing this, and save like 20% on my electric bill.

Asking them who "owns" the panels brought about a lot of hemming and hawing. Apparently I grant them access to put them on my roof, and to feed into the power grid, and I get some minimal credit for the electricity. But I don't own them.

From the hassle I had to go through selling my house in Tucson, even though we did own those panels, me thinks that having something owned by Comcast on my house would be a very bad idea.

Look, it is bad enough that I have to use these wads of fuck for my Internet and TV, as scummy as they are, but to trust them to put photovoltaic panels on my house?

Not in this fucking century.

only-in-si-valley-1

Seen in Silicon Valley

One thing about moving back to the bay area has been an adjustment. I left in 2003, and things were weird then. However, the 11 years I was gone has led to a watershed of oddity. This is the first in a series of things I see on the roads here.

Entry #1, a green Mercedes E320, with yard work tools hanging out of the trunk. A gas lawn mower wedged in the trunk. Inside the car was a string trimmer, and other tools.

Only in Silicon Valley is a Mercedes a car for a landscaper to travel around in.

Al_Dimeola__DSC3217_depth1

It just isn’t fair …

All my life (ok, most of my life at least) I have played guitar, wishing that I could crest a plateau that has evaded me. Alternate picking, one of the foundations of shredding on guitar, has been a skill I struggled with.

Of course I tried often. A lot of exercises. Training videos by Al di Meola, Paul Gilbert, Rusty Cooley all bought, watched and attempted. All failed.

Life intervened, I got a busy career, and my practicing waned. What was a three hours a day passion (practicing and playing) in College, turned in to an hour every other month, if I was lucky.

Add in 25 years to the equation, and it was bleak.

Then as I posted a while back, I had a breakthrough. Strict alternate picking just “clicked” and the speed that I chased in a misspent youth was there.

That was my electric guitar with a good crunchy tone. Today, on my nylon string acoustic, and a thin pick, BAM, it just worked again. Shit. Not quite Al di Meola smooth, but fluid, fast, and now clean.

Damn. Too bad that I now have pretty serious arthritis in my left thumb, so I can barely play for a half hour without several days of agony.

Curse you music gods.

death in paradise

Damn you Netflix – Death in Paradise

Trying to avoid opening the work laptop yesterday, I was browsing Netflix, and one of their recommendations just popped under my remote. Death in Paradise, a BBC detective show.

The premise is somewhat weak, the pilot showed a police officer in Sainte Marie (Martinique in the Carribean) was killed with some unusual circumstances. An inspector from Scotland Yard is sent over to solve the case.

So you are on an island in paradise, with a classic British person (full suit, tie, etc).

Now I am frickin’ hooked. Catchy themes, always with a twist, and enough humor and interplay between the cast. Fun.

The stiff english gentleman, the island girl detective, two worlds collide. Makes me want to sell everything and move to Martinique.

Now I have three seasons to watch.

Thanks Obama.