Day 1: Japan 7am-4am

I have safely arrived at my Hotel in Kyoto. I got to take my first train ride in Japan and overall it went pretty well consider I can count to 10, say thank you very much, and know a half dozen other Kendo terms which don’t really apply in normal situations.

I started my trip this morning by getting up at 7am and taking care of some minor last minute stuff. The real journey started at 9am when a friend gave me a ride to SFO. I made it to SFO around 9:45 and entered the ridiculous queue United had for international flights. The queue when through this huge maze, and then spilled pretty far out of that. Of course since I had a paper ticket I had to wait in that giant line to check in.

Almost an hour and a half later around 11:00 I had almost made it to the front of the line when United employees let all of us bound for Osaka and Kansi International Airport cut ahead so we could make our flight. After that I boarded a 747-400 for the longest airplane ride of my life. First the seats seemed a bit more comfortable than domestic coach, but not 12 hours more comfortable. The flight goes on for much longer than one would imagine. At several points I wondered if we were getting close, and then I realized we still had a couple thousand miles to go. There was enough time to show four feature films, Transformers, No Reservations, Ratatoulli, and The Ultimate Gift. Of those “The Ultimate Gift” was the biggest surprise and was a pretty enjoyable movie, one I would recommend watching.

Finally, after what seemed like forever the plane landed I was adrift in a foreign land with no real understanding of the language. After a bit of confusion as to what the purpose of my trip was at immigration I entered the country and cleared customs. After messing around with an ATM to try and get some currency (only took me 3 tries), and a short line to pick up my rented cellphone (probably shouldn’t have bothered). I was on my way to Kyoto.

I picked up my Haruka train pass from a ticket sales person (I wasn’t ready to try out the automated machines yet), and started my trip to Kyoto. The one train I rode on so far was very nice. The system reminds me of a combination of the CalTrain and Bart in the Bay Area. Only the seats are comfortable and clean which cannot be said of some Bay Area transit options. After a very smooth ride through what appeared to be one giant connected city, I arrived at Kyoto station.

At Kyoto station I managed to get a pretty decent walking map of Kyoto and then wandered around the station unsure if I should attempt the subway or hire a cab. Being somewhat adventurous I decided to brave the subway and after making my way there took 10 minutes to figure out exactly what ticket I needed to buy for my fare. I then got to ride the Japanese subway which is also a pretty clean and neat system. So far I’m pretty impressed with the whole public transportation system here. It’s TONS better than back in the States.

Anyways I checked into my hotel which has a service level I’m not used to as I usually stay in some of the cheapest hotels around (this one isn’t TOO bad.) My room is fairly small but clean and neat, and the feature 100MB/s internet access. The only other exciting feature is the crazy toilet with heated seats and way more buttons than a toilet should have.

Well that’s it for now as I think I’m going to hit the sack so I can get up early tomorrow and start with the sightseeing.

Land of the Rising Sun

Tomorrow morning I start my first trip out of the country to a place other than Canada. My flight will be leaving SFO at 12:05pm Saturday and arrive around 4:55pm Sunday. With a flight time of just over 11 hours.

Considering how comfortable flying coach domestically is, I really don’t look forward to spending 11 hours sitting in one of those seats to cross the ocean.

In any case this should be an adventure and I plan to take and post a bunch of pictures.

Comments are Fun

After the last few days at work I can only thank the GNU gods for giving me:

find . -name "*.h" -exec grep -H "SOME_DEFINE" {} \;

Sparsely commented files bring loads of fun. If you ever find yourself thinking: “My code documents itself. Who needs comments?” You need to be hit with a cluestick.

Heading to the Frozen North

Well I’m leaving the bay area today to head home for Thanksgiving. I’m journeying from this land of sunny weather (70°), back home to the land of frozen lakes (35°). While I’m happy to be visiting my family I don’t know if such cold, cold, weather is going to be tolerable after CA has weakened me.

I also get to have my first fun adventure taking the Caltrain/Bart to SFO. I’ve never done the airport trip before so hopefully this is exciting.

Categories vs Tags

So I’m pretty new to this whole WordPress thing so I have to ask, does anyone know the difference between a tag and a category? Most of the blogs I’ve used before seem to treat them the same and I’m not sure WordPress does.

Busy Last Couple of Weeks

Well it’s been a busy couple of weeks since my last post. In the last couple of weeks I’ve spent most of my time outside of work working on a presentation I’ll be giving at a conference in Japan come December. Even with this sort of sucking up my time I have done some interesting things this week.

My friend Mike Zenz (from here on out referred to as Zenz), came to visit last weekend. He was in town after spending the earlier part of the week presenting some poster at a neuroscience conference. We spent the weekend doing two primary activities. On Saturday we went Wine tasting (I bought more wine that I should have), and on Sunday we went to check out the UC-Berkeley Campus.

After walking around the campus I sort of regret not applying to go to school there. The whole place feels like you’re in a big park with some nice shady tree groves. The town area around the campus sort of feels like a normal college downtime and so is very similar to Madison. Those of you from WI imagine something like UW-Madison but with the campus transported to the UW Arboretum. I definitely would recommend the place over Stanford, when I visited there it seemed much more like a corporate campus than a University. To bad I’m done with school for the moment. Maybe some day I’ll go back to get a PhD or a Law Degree.

Last Tuesday, DoIT decided that I no longer needed access to the Campus IT resources and has taken away my NetID. I can no longer use my school e-mail address or access my grade/class information online. If anyone wants to get a hold of me please use my gmail account, or jthon<at>

I also picked up a couple of new PS 3 games this week bringing my total number of purchased PS 3 games to 4! (I also own a few PS 2 games to play on the PS 3.) I got the new Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction game, and Assassin’s Creed. So far in my limited playtime both of these games are enjoyable. I plan to write a full fledged review of each once I get a bit more playtime in.

The Earth is Alive!

Earlier this evening a magnitude 5.6 earthquake hit the bay area. This is my first earthquake experience and I have to say even for such a “minor” one I’d rather not have that happen often. I think I’d rather live in the Midwest. At least with tornado’s you’re not likely to be hit.

The USGS has a map and some info on local quakes. I’m just glad my TV didn’t fall over. I don’t need plasma shards in my rug, and have my TV die after a month.

Good Bye Wells Fargo

I’m currently searching for a new bank to open a checking account with. It seems that due to a race condition with my direct deposit, and a mid month statement date, I managed to dip under a ridiculously high minimum balance (waived with direct deposit) in my checking account. Since the account pays a whole 0.010% interest the $12 fee is more than I’ve ever earned from that account in it’s entire history.

As Wells Fargo offers terrible rates and wasn’t willing to do anything about the charge the account is now closed. I just hope my next paycheck doesn’t try to go into that account despite my removing it from direct deposit.

If anyone knows of any good banks out in CA that have good customer service please let me know. I’m seriously considering just banking from my online money market or brokerage accounts, the only downside is ATM operators stick you with fees for being out of network (neither of my banks charge). So if anyone knows of fee free ATMs in the bay area that might work too.

8800 GT Launches!

NVIDIA has launched their 8800 GT this is a DX 10 midrange card that currently performs about as well as the higher end 8800GTS but costs significantly less. The suggested retail is between $200-250 for a 512 MB model. Don’t go buying these on at the moment since they’re gouging the early adopters. Fry’s, Bestbuy and any regular retailer should have these in the $220 or so range if you can find one in stock.

I’m considering getting one for my system but I’m not sure I want to fork over the cash quite yet.