Key in the cognition

Oct. 25th, 2008

09:55 am - End of an era

In case you hadn't figured it out already, I've switched to Posterous as my blogging platform.

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Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Current Music: November Rain - Guns 'N' Roses
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Sep. 22nd, 2008

11:11 pm - nearly passed out at Porchlight

I have a wild and vivid imagination, probably inherited from my mother. As a creative type, most of the time that comes in handy. On occasion, however, it can prove to be my undoing. The last time that happened was several years ago while watching Requiem For A Dream. Tonight it struck again as I was listening to a story at Porchlight.

The theme for tonight's stories was Tales of the Human Body. We'd been regaled by a few good tales and I was enjoying myself as I sipped a soothing mix of Kahlua and Baileys. Then Montrealer Frank Andrick took the stage and launched into an account of how he was simultaneously treated for diabetes and hepatitis. He was good. Really good. As he unveiled detail after detail I unwittingly began to picture myself in the story, as him. Pleasant was not a word I would use to describe how I began to feel. No, I began to feel weak and queasy. I slurped down my drink, hoping the alcohol would numb my mind, but it was too late.

Against my will I found myself experiencing a powerful psychosomatic reaction to the story. I held out until he was done and then got out of my seat and left the room. No sooner had I walked into the foyer than the tunnel vision I'd been experiencing brought me to an abrupt halt and my legs gave way. Still conscious and coherent but unable to pick myself off the floor, I accepted assistance from one of the staff who lad me to a couch, where I lay for a minute while my vision restored itself. Then I stepped outside for some fresh air and a couple of minutes later I was totally fine.

The other stories were good too but thankfully none of them involved lurid details about the effects of scary ailments.

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Sep. 16th, 2008

10:56 am - Help, my congresswoman is spamming me!

A few months ago I wrote Nancy Pelosi, the SF congresswoman, about an
issue. Since then , she's been spamming me on a weekly basis with
updates on what's she's been doing on a host of unrelated matters.
Replying to the sender address just bounces and there's no unsubscribe
link in the emails. I've resorted to marking them as spam in Gmail :-(

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Sep. 9th, 2008

07:47 pm - Somebody mailed my the receipt (for my new bike) that I lost on Sunday!

I don't know who it was but "Thank you"!

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Sep. 1st, 2008

08:46 am - Durian

While biking though the Sunset yesterday evening, I spotted a shopping-cart full of durians and purchased one. Despite their reputation for being stinky, I did not find it stinky at all. It was, however, delicious.

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Aug. 20th, 2008

10:58 pm - Japan Airlines rocks!

I was supposed to show up at Narita airport an hour before my flight's scheduled departure on the 18th but didn't make it there until about 55 minutes prior. When I tried to check-in, I discovered that I could no longer do so. A JAL staffperson informed me that I had arrived too late and would have to catch the next flight. She then discovered that all flights for the next 2 days were fully booked. Moved by my wild-eyed desperation, she called the gate and tried to see if she could get me on the flight anyway. By the time she explained things to the gate, there were only 20 minutes left before boarding was to commence and I it was unlikely that I'd make it through security in time. That's when they pulled a rabbit out of their hat. After sticking a red aeroplane-shaped sticker on me, one of the JAL staff lead me to the crew security area, where there was no line-up, and got me through.

So far, so good. But I still needed to return my $200 rental keitei (cell phone) and there was no way for me to do that. That's when JAL really came through for me. They contacted the phone rental company and arranged to get the phone back to them on my behalf. Best airline service I've ever had :-)

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Aug. 13th, 2008

04:19 pm - Kabuki

Last night I went to see a Kabuki adaptation of an opera called Aida with Chris and two other Waterloo co-ops. For ¥1300 we got standing-only rush tickets and an additional ¥400 got us a headset with a running English explanation. Interestingly, even some of the Japanese get such headsets with explanations in modern Japanese because the style of discourse used in kabuki is sufficiently archaic that it can be hard to follow even for native Japanese speakers. I'm not sure if Shakespeare or Chaucer would be the better analogy though. It was very enjoyable, although the ending was rather heart-wrenching. I suppose that's just par for the course with operas. I'd definitely go again but I'd probably pay more for a seat next time.

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Aug. 11th, 2008

08:50 am - adventures on a synthetic island

The Onsen and capsule hotel are on a synthetic island made of landfill
in the Tokyo harbour. Upon emerging from the capsule hotel in the
morning, we wandered around the island for a bit until the museum of
science and technology opened at 10am. I was struck by the number of
Japanese teens who wander around without the parental supervision that
seems necessary in North America. Maybe the Japanese are less paranoid
because their society is safer.

Once the museum opened, we went in and ate lunch before checking out
the exhibits. I was amused to see that there was a man whose job
appeared to consist of pushing buttons for people using the
ticket-dispensing machine! Honda's Asimo robot is a huge hit with the
kids and I noted the contrast between the Japanese idea of a robot as
cute and the American idea of a robot as fierce. O thought the
mechanical router was a great way to illustrate the concepts of
network data transfer to kids in an interactive and visual manner.
Disappointingly, the special pterosaur exhibit was almost entirely in
Japanese.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

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06:47 am - Hato Bus tour: bonsai, courtesans & a boat cruise

On Saturday, after picking up an SD card for my camera, Chris and I met up with his neighbour and coworker Dennis to go on a bus tour of Tokyo along with a couple of other tourists who were visiting from Perth. Our first stop was a bonsai museum run by a man who has been collecting the little trees for the past three decades and now teaches foreigners the art of growing bonsai. He showed us some of his prized specimen and answered our many questions about the art form, after which we partook in a green tea ceremony.

The next stop was a special event to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Kyoto's only geisha house. We were treated to a lovely performance by a troupe of dancers keeping alive the ancient art of the Japanese courtesans (who weren't geisha). The tradition of the courtesan dance is that every year these women would parade through the street and then select a suitor to join them for a tea ceremony. First the suitor would drink from the tea bowl and then, if she chose to do so, the courtesan would signify her acceptance of his love by finishing the bowl.

Our tour concluded with a dinner of tempura and sushi aboard a little boat where we were watched the sunset amongst the skyscrapers of Tokyo and learnt a great about Japanese history.

[cross-posted from my new blog at Posterous.]

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Current Location: Tokyo, Japan
Current Mood: tiredtired
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Aug. 10th, 2008

03:55 pm - Hot-springs and capsule hotel

After the bus tour, we rode the amazing Tokyo subway to a a place that
offered onsen (hot-springs) and a capsule hotel. I'd long wondered
what it would be like to sleep in a capsule hotel and the Tokyo subway
stops running at midnight so we needed a place to crash anyway. The
hot-springs were almost entirely filled with Koreans! I had to stick a
band-aid over my tattoo to avoid being mistaken for a member of the
Yakuza (Japan's organized crime rings). But I got to wear a yakata
(traditional Japanese bathrobe), which was pretty neat.

We had some trouble gaining access to the capsule hotels because none
of the staff spoke any English. Eventually one of them resorted to
using a Web translator, which did the trick. The capsule hotels did
not quite match my expectations of a tempofoam coffin in a drawer,
being more like bunk beds in a hostel.

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