solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)

Working on venue applications; got invited to a couple, actually, and those are highest priority. Wow, I’m bad at this part. I need some better promotional photos, too. Like, any.

So have some photos from the trip down to the shows in Oregon last week! I took 101 the whole way, and it took much longer than Mapquest, Google Maps, or I expected, so I didn’t get as much hiking in as I wanted. But I did stop for a little.

The bridge over the Columbia was under a fair bit of renovation on the Oregon side, but the waits were not very long. If they’d been longer I might’ve got out and taken more photos. But it wasn’t, so I did not.

Abrupt Elevation


I’m not the only one who thinks this looks like a Viper launch from pilot viewpoint, right? Doing a Viper-tube launch from a Raptor was pretty weird.

Green Squadron Leader, Launch



I remember when we had air. It’s nice there’s a museum to it.

Well, That’s What It Says

This was the only time I got out and actually hiked a little. (A very little. Like, a mile. But it was steep.) I’m very disappointed because I took another panorama of the ocean that I know I took, and… it’s not in my camera. I don’t know where it went. Still, have these.

Bigger versions on my Flickr account, like usual.

Anyway, not so many photos as other times. I’d like to do 101 again, even if it is kind of freaky to go through So Many Tourist Towns in Oregon. It’s kind of like getting a tour of all the different models of Potemkin villages, and then every so often you hit a town which is Not For Tourists and Out Here For Another Reason Goddammit and you can really tell the difference.

I just wish I’d had more time to stop and hike more. Ah well, hopefully next time.

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (music)

Thanks again to GAMCON for having me at their event last weekend! It was The Bremerton Gaming, Anime, and Music Convention’s very first year, and the staff was all sorts of anxious to make sure attending professionals had a good time. I felt very well tended. They had their share of first-year problems, but mostly, it looked like only their fair share – except, maybe, for running out of badge holders and lanyards. They only bought like 110, and those were gone in minutes. I’m told they got more later.

I rode over on the ferry – I think it’s the first time I’ve gone to Bremerton as a passenger, so it was fun to get on and off the boat via the passenger terminal. Much cheaper, too, of course; bus to boat to CONVENTION! to boat to bus to home. And the convention facility was literally right next to the ferry terminal building, so it’s extremely practical.

GAMCON’s dealer room had some size for a first-year, with a couple of more exposition-like booths, and a pretty good range of dealers. I talked with a maker group for a while, with a couple of educational groups, with some people who build entertainment systems, some artists – they had a lot of artists in the dealer room, lacking an art show – and I bought a Mockingjay pocket watch. I have a convention watch again! It’s been a while.

But the best dealer had to be Team Rocket selling Pokébathballs, which are not at all stolen and are most certainly not boobytrapped in any way.

Not in any way.

Larger at Flickr

Other function space consisted of two primary function areas: an outdoor courtyard (concerts, original plan for cosplay competition, things like that) and the Fountain Room. Both spaces were pretty large, though the Fountain Room was a bit across-and-far from the rest of the event. Despite that, people found it. There was also what looked like a small tabletop area near registration, and a gaming trailer outside. I watched some Black Ops being played for a while, via the external display screen on the side of the trailer.

There are fountains outside, but you can’t see them in this photo.

The cosplay event had to be moved inside because of light rain, so I’m not sure the outdoor part of that was the best idea. They had a lot of entrants – I arrived late and didn’t get photos of everyone, but I still saw over 20 entrants.

The format wasn’t like anything I’d seen before – no stage, more of a walkthrough on the same level as the audience, with classes of “beginner,” “experienced,” and “master,” and at least some awards given by popular vote. No sound support, and I’m not sure if their classes are supposed to correlate to the Guild tiers or not. But they did have a photo area, at the end of the hallway runway.

There were a lot of hall costumers just wandering around – for such a small con, it sure had a lot of cosplay.

I’m not posting all of the costume photos here, but I took a bunch – they’re on my flickr page. But I’m posting this one, because…

…now that is a goddamn scythe.

But flags make the best props. Even accidental exposures look awesome.

It felt right to one-day it; I really, really needed a day off, so I just kicked back Sunday and did pretty much nothing. But I’d go again next year, if they do it again, and were I in Bremerton or out on the peninsula in general I’d certainly give it a good look.

Next weekend: Clallam Bay Comicon! It’s a weird one, on Sunday and Monday rather than Saturday and Sunday, because of Clallam Bay Comicon. Will it work? No idea. Let’s find out!

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (molly-content)

Before the show on Tuesday, we went hiking up in the hills around Cumberland, then came back into town and ate a late lunch, and played some because we good. Anna saw Simon getting ready for the show out the living room window – being next to the venue has advantages!

The show photos, I posted on Friday, but here, have some hiking:

Sketchy Sign is Sketchy. Also six years old.

Into the Woods

One of the effects of having been under and up against the ice shield is that the topsoil – like that of many rainforests – is thin topsoil, particularly in mountains. The rock you see here is actual bedrock. These mountains pushed back the glaciers, but everything else was pushed away:

How Thin Our Soils

There’s coal in these hills, along with other minerals;
this was not far from a mine operating into the 1960s.

Another stream; more bedrock

Lovely without exception

Further down the hill we walk past the site of the former Cumberland Chinatown – this used to be a much larger town, back in the mining days – and get down the slough. It’s a bit mosquito-heavy in the summer, I’m told – particularly for Cascadia! – but this time of year, no such problem:

The Slough

After hiking around all morning, we stopped at Tarbell’s for lunch – Anna didn’t quite buy the hot chocolate with sortilege (feeling it’s a bit early to be drinking at 2pm) but the pastries were all quite good, were the sandwiches. Anna had a breakfast biscuit with egg she quite liked, too.

Lecturing after Lunch at Tarbell’s

After that, of course, the show at the Cumberland Public House. Then next morning we headed back to Vancouver for bagels and cider and then home. Lots of fun all around.

This photo came from that trip back, but still on the island, the last time we stopped before hitting Victoria on the way to the ferry:

The Coastal Stream

I didn’t really have anywhere else to put it so it’s here. So how’ve you been? ^_^

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (montreal)

First: I got the CD orders shipped this afternoon! So if you’re waiting for those, you should have email with dates. ^_^

Okay, now, to the rocks. I’m not a geologist, and being all Fire Nation Asshole, not much of an earth-bender sort, but the south coast of Vancouver Island will turn anybody into a geologist.

We actually discovered this kind of by accident. Trans-Canada Highway 1, one of the longer highways on the planet, starts in Victoria. It heads north up the island, then ferries over to the mainland, then goes back to BC and makes its way east eventually via bridge and ferries and such alllll the way out to St. John’s, Newfoundland. And I knew there was a marker monument at the road’s start, so we went to see that.

So on Sunday after the symphony show, we went to High Tea:

Anna at High Tea

And before going to play at Norway House – which I did later that evening – we went to see Mile 0. On the way there, we found this:

Comfy Cement Mattress Bench is Not Actually Comfy

Now, Mile 0 is obviously pre-metric, which is kind of hilarious, since everything else is metric. But more hilariously, TC-1 gets really tiny on the way to the end. In town, it’s a large city street – like Aurora, only not as big and far better controlled – and at the end, it’s basically a park access road.

That’s from the sidewalk. The only car you see is parked.

And after wandering through the very nice Beacon Hill Park, we got to Mile 0 and Terry Fox’s statue.

Mile Zero

Terry Fox

And while taking pictures, we saw someone run somebody else off the seashore road. We were already going to explore that a bit anyway, since it’s the meeting really of the Salish Sea and the Pacific Ocean, but the near-accident pointed us to a stairwell down the cliff, where we found this insanity.



I mean seriously, what.

See how all those pretty much unlike rocks are crammed up against and into each other and shit? That is madness. Welcome to the subduction zone. According to Fishy, Vancouver Island was actually – many millions of years ago – torn off from Alaska as the Alaskan plate moved north. So it’s violent and different and merged and mixed up in all sorts of crazy ways. To wit:

Go Home Rocks, You Are Drunk

And some places it just looks like a volcano went off. Which… arguably it has. Fairly recently. But that’s not what made these rocks. All these rocks are dozens of millions of years old.

Not a Lahar, Not Lava Either

I’m telling you, the Doctor Who episodes you could film here would be epic.

We hiked around for – I don’t know, really, I’m bad at time. A couple of hours, climbing up and down things. As everywhere in Cascadia, they have beach logs, one of which apparently belongs to a giant robot.


(Larger versions of all these are on my Flickr photostream.)

After that we hiked on back to the hotel, from which we headed north to the show. And I’ll post about those bits tomorrow, while the water heater is being replaced. My first stage experience in four and a half months! How did it go? Find out tomorrow. ^_^

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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solarbird: (molly-sleepy-not-asleep)

Back, but playing catch-up liek woah. I have some orders to fill (yay! And that comes first!) so if you’re ordered CDs and are reading, they’ll be going out Thursday or Friday, probably Thursday, which for most of you, means today.

As I get caught up, I’ll be posting some pictures over what’s left of the week. Or you can see them out all at once on my Flickr stream if you can’t wait. ^_^

Anna on Lookout Duty

Right then. Great trip, but I’m writing this the night before, like I occasionally do, and it’s bedtime. Good morning! :D

Mirrored from Crime and the Blog of Evil. Come check out our music at:
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Jun. 25th, 2011 11:18 pm
solarbird: (Default)
Scottish field games consist entirely of burly Scots throwing odd objects in strange ways.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Also, there are dogs the size of small ponies, and bagpipe marching bands. I liked both. The dogs are very friendly and extremely slobbery. Also, they have heads the size of ... I don't even know. Much larger than a breadbox. Seriously, they're like small ponies. Only, you know, slobbery.


Possibly a pony

I wandered around looking at all the tents of all the clans represented (of which there were many) and ran into Red, who I haven't seen since last year, and that was very nice. And I met some new people! Who may find their way here, or at least to the band website. Hi, new people!

Finally, here, have another photo of a burly Scot throwing something heavy:

Exhibit Burly

It's very strange, but kind of charming, really. I had a good time. ^_^
solarbird: (Default)
So on Wednesday we were getting pretty worried - Snowpocalypse wasn't letting up, more snow was predicted Thursday morning, and one person had already dropped out from our invitation list, and large leftovers looked likely as I was baking for Second Thanksgiving.

But to my surprise, Snowpocalypse actually boosted our attendance quite a bit, as people had to bail on other plans thanks to travel plans being disrupted. We ended up with 16 people, counting ourselves, and we have far fewer leftovers than usual. (I figured out something with my stuffing - now that I'm using a lot more dried fruit I can cut back down on the spices, and I tried that this year, and it worked really well.) But I'll still have my Turkey Tacos. ^_^

A lot less Rock Band was played than usual, but we did squeeze in some traditional Jenga. Mostly, it was large enough that we had three or four conversational groups going at once, which I like to see, since it usually means everybody's having a good time. For the first time in I don't know how long, the music circle actually happened - we had a decently large circle going for a while, made up mostly of various members of jamming groups mostly associated with Anna. I think the lineup was me, [ profile] cflute, [ profile] mamishka, Anna, and if I forget anybody, I apologise[ profile] technoshaman! (Sorry for leaving you out the first time!) We hadn't done that in forever. Most people didn't even start leaving until around midnight - I finally got to bed around 2am.

Then yesterday [ profile] flashfire and [ profile] spazzkat and [ profile] annathepiper and I went to see the Battlestar Galactica exhibit at the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum and the Harry Potter exhibit at the Pacific Science Centre. (I'm not quite sure how that presentation space works out, but let's leave that aside for now.) Anyway, the BSG exhibit is smallish but there are a few nice models and the full-scale vipers and raider are excellent. The Potter exhibit, particularly early on, triggered lots of nostalgia for prep school dorm life. Particularly the notice board in the Gryffindor common room, and having a common room called a common room, and all that. XD But if you have any interest in this series at all, go. It's huge, and stuffed full of set pieces, furniture, props, costumes, books, and really - it's just great. (And if you're doing both, do the BSG exhibit first, or you'll be disappointed just because it's so much smaller.)

I have a lot of good photos from the BSG exhibit - my quarter-second-to-full-second-handheld photo ability came in handy again - but my Flickr account is full, so NO PHOTOSTREAM FOR ME. Maybe I should pony up for the "pro" level, but I'm so not a pro photographer. XD
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)


...was unmitigatedly awesome.

So we went to see Great Big Sea play Newfoundland and Labrador Night at medal award ceremonies. We had some surprise opening acts before the medal awards themselves including the Irish Descendants (omg) and that was fun, and they had this film they'd shot of people doing thread-the-needle dancing around the world and when they got to Japan it was all "omg I used to hang out there" "and also there" and and and.

Then medals and that was nice but when the show started it turned out the medal playform wasn't the stage but was standing room! So I decided I was Going There and did, which was fun (I NEED TO SEE A TICKET ok HERE'S A TICKET BYE) and we got up reasonably close to the stage and closer as the show went on.

We brought the flag! Which I'd been wearing all day anyway as a cape and getting lots of "what flag is that?" questions. And we were on camera with it several times and we crowd partied with Russians - I think they were part of a team! They were all "we do not know who you are but you are high energy and have an obscure flag so we like you" - and Poles and Newfoundlanders and some people who were from somewhere out east but not N&L.

And people would ask what the flag was and I'd say "Cascadia!" and they'd nod and go, "oh, okay!" Mostly they didn't ask where that was other than the Poles, who did, and I explained and they liked that. ^_^ And we did the TINY COUNTRIES ARE AWESOME dance and that was fun. ^_^

Not to mention that the Boys put two+ sets of energy into one set so had show of epic mania, which was super infectous. Anna has the setlist and has probably posted on her LJ, go check it.

And apparently the show was broadcast! So if you see the blue, green, and white tricolour towards the centre of the stage audience, that's us. ^_^ With the Newfoundlanders to our right and Poles behind us and happy Russians in front.

After the show there was a lot of omg crowd and WOOOOOOOOOO and bad renditions of national anthems (Anna and I did in fact sing Yank My Doodle, It's a Dandy walking up Robson. But my plan had anyone asked what out anthem was was to say it had no words and play them Cascadia (How I Have Missed You) off my phone.) And about an hour and a half later we made it out of downtown and back to the Cowhaus.

And, before all that, in the afternoon, we got into the BC pavilion so could see the Da Vinci exhibit, I should mention that before I forget. I wanted SO MUCH to do the zipline ride but even in the rain the wait was six hours.

And I think there was a firm concensus that Team Cascadia took home the Vertical Movement gold. No question.

Now I need brunch! Time for brunchings. ^_^

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solarbird: (Default)
Going to Disneyland. [ profile] spazzkat made two comics about that. (I like the second one a lot.) Back l8r, try not to destroy the world while I'm gone.
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)
Everybody talks about the Japanese train system. I have to say it's for damned good reason. They're fast, they're pleasant, they're on time; what else could you want?

Oh, I know - how about comfort, and room? Everybody knows how packed Japanese trains are, right?

How About That Legroom?

That's on a しんかんせん700, the highest-speed class of "bullet train" currently running. (They have faster ones in testing now.) Note how Anna has her bag in front of her instead of in the overhead racks, or the luggage storage areas at the back of each car. Note also that the train is in motion, and I'm standing, taking pictures. What you can't see is that I could have stood up in front of my own seat and been at full height, or that this is ordinary class, not a green (first class) car. And it wasn't a reserved car saved for us. We had ordinary seat assignments, but that was it.

Here's what it looks like out a window of one of these trains. I don't know whether we were at top speed when I took this shot; the comfort level of the ride didn't really change with speed. The occasional vertical blinky blurs going by horizontally are utility poles.

Note how much quieter it is than an airplane. Note also that you can walk back to the bathrooms, complex of vending machines, or other cars at any time. Note that we didn't have to arrive at the station two hours in advance, and that we just walked onto the train. I spent some time updating my print journal while on the ride; it's far smoother than air travel, and while there are seatbelts they encourage you to use, they're optional.

We rode a 500 series - slower than the 700, but still high-speed - away from Tokyo ahead of the typhoon. Here's video of Anna updating her journal on the 500 during the ride through the leading edges of a typhoon. On the 500, it just seemed like another rainy day.

But it's not just the しんかんせん lines. The ordinary JR lines are also very comfortable. Not nearly as fast, of course, and on some lines the rails aren't welded - but even on those, there's not really much of the clacky-clacky noise. And below that, the light rail - those are more like a subway (side-seats only, lots of standing room), but again are 1. quiet, 2. clean, 3. on time, and 4. easy to figure out once you understand how the maps work. And everywhere, at least in and near the cities.

Our JR Rail run to Kansai Airport was three minutes late to the station due to weather. They issued apologies over the PA system while the cleaning crew did a mid-day spot-check clean of some of the cars. We got to the airport on schedule, to the minute. Oh, and by the way, they're good at stops and starts, like you'd want - there's nothing jerky about anything.

JR Rail to Kansai Airport, at station

I do want to say that the Seattle bus tunnel - at least, pre-closing, I've no idea what it'll be like under Sound Transit management - was one of the few transport hubs I've seen comparable to the nice Japanese subway stations. Hopefully ST won't screw them up. Sadly, here, they're the exception, and not at all the rule; I'd like to change that. Interestingly, they're also similar in that the individual stations tie several otherwise-independent blocks of retail together, with entry directly into those complexes. In particular, the bottom level of Westlake and the corresponding entry point to Westlake Station is probably the most Japan-like moment of transit station I've seen here. Add the ticket gates and it could be part of the system. Perhaps if I ever write fantasy fiction, I can have it be simultaneously a Sound Transit line station and a みなとみらい line stop. A transfer point between Seattle and Yokohama rails. There's even a Daiso on that level. It'd be great.

If only.

But back on topic. Rails met and exceeded all expectations, except for crowding. Those crowds you hear about certainly do exist, but not nearly to the extent suggested, and are a rush-hour phenomenon. I never saw it, but my friend Mariko told me they're real - mostly on the ring line in Tokyo, maybe, but real.

As with the food, though, there was a surprise: Japanese roads are also better. Smaller, sure. Much better sidewalked where appropriate, of course. And far fewer of them are really primarily intended for cars - most of the side-streets are pedestrian-first, cars certainly can and do come through but they need to be careful and slow. But the highways and major arterial routes - the car routes - are much smoother than here, and, accordingly, the bus rides are smoother and quieter. Not traffic-jam free, of course; our bus from Narita to Yokohama took almost twice as long as it should have, thanks to Tokyo rush hour traffic, and it was far and away the worst part of the trip, and pretty much the only portion I didn't enjoy. (We should have taken the train, but I didn't have that figured out yet. Now I do.) But at least the roads were smooth.

Getting back here - and onto 99 - reminded me of the time Anna's Norwegian pen-pal Yngvar flew in for a visit; we picked him up from the airport, and on the trip to Murkworks North, he was curious about the pavement treatment Seattle apparently used on I-5 to slow traffic down by making the ride have a strange vibration to it. "No," I said, "the roads just suck." Yngvar said, "...oh." and didn't bring it up again. I further speculate that someone from Japan would have had the same reaction. We may have a lot more roads than either of those countries, but they aren't really very good. "More," again, rather than "better," on roads. And both less - much less - and dramatically lesser on rail.

And even with really good roads, I prefer the trains. Somehow, I think the Japanese do, too:

Hato Bus
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)
[ profile] spazzkat pointed out that I did in fact have a vending machine picture, so I'm posting it as an addendum here!

Even the Coke machine
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)
One of the things I'm still missing pretty severely is the food - really everywhere, not just Yokohama and Tokyo. I expected all the Japanese food to be better, of course, and it was - for example, the cluster of restaurants at the train station had a sushi-train restaurant which served sushi of quality much better than that of cheap-but-good sushi here. It wasn't I ♥, but it was within range given the limited palette, and, of course, that was cheap sushi. Meanwhile, the cooked fish lacked some taste that I really dislike in cooked fish throughout North America, and while it still wasn't my favourite thing in the world, it was something I was perfectly happy to eat.

I didn't really expect the western food also to be better, as a rule. The sandwich and fries I had at Anna Miller? Really good. Good cold cuts, good bread, an unexpected but very good mayonnaise relish that I've no idea how to duplicate that was tasty without being heavy like I usually find mayonnaise to be. It came with french fries. They were solid but light and tasty, despite being deep-fried.

That became a recurring theme, really; a lot of American foods, particularly cheaper American foods, are heavy with fats and grease. While actual meats served in Japan tended to be very fatty cuts - particularly the night I tried 牛どて鍋, which is, hum, a country beef single-pot pie-like dish - you never found much of anything heavy with oil or grease (or, I suppose butter), like all fast foods, most sandwiches, french fries, and so on. I liked that a lot.

Actually, let me just me come out and say it: food was all but uniformly better than here. In a lot of cases, dramatically. Quality of ingredients showed. Everywhere but the first stop when we joined up with the Thundering Hoarde tour already in progress was at least really good. That first lunch with the group was a very western lunch aimed at reassuring a very western group of tourists, and it was mediocre, but even the tour food improved quickly. And more specifically, even the western-oriented tour food - which shrank in proportion as time went on - improved just as quickly.

I don't quite know how to drive this home with clarity. How about this: we stopped at a rest station - a combination rest stop and truck stop - on the highway between tour visits one day. I got a curry from the short-order counter, and it was good. Rest stop curry - actively good.

(Oh, there was another exception: one night we needed Food Now, and Paul and Anna dove in to an egg, italian sausage, rocket, and anchovy pizza, which I avoided for the spaghetti. I chose poorly. Amusingly, I was able to recreate what I think they were going for last night. It came out nice.)

Even things like candy-bar chocolates are better. Counter chocolates are generically of better quality than you get here without going to specialty shops. One of the reasons for the Pocky phenomenon, I rather suspect, is that the chocolate is simply much better than you get in, say, a Snickers bar, and people are reacting to that. Apparently some people think it's dark chocolate - it's not, at least, not in the standard box. But it's got a lot more flavour per volume than people expect, so they think it must be dark. iirc, "Men's Pocky" actually is dark chocolate, if you're curious.

Similarly, soft-serve ice cream - you know, the swirly kind you think of as fun in the summer but not really a good example of the art? It's just good ice cream in Japan. Very good, in fact. I particularly liked the sesame that Mariko introduced to me (so tasty!), but plain vanilla? Also very good. I was pleased to discover today that Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream bars are, in fact, of reasonably comparable quality to the soft serve vanilla - not quite as good, frankly, there's a bit of a hollowness to the taste that I can't figure out, and the chocolate shell isn't everything I'd like it to be, but it's still good. This means I'll have at least some ice creams that I can buy at a counter which aren't a big letdown. Of course, the selection is far less than I had in Japan in, say, in an ordinary ice cream vending machine, but what can you do? At least there's something.

I'm going to have to get serious about learning the art of bento. I can usually stomach airline food, but I seriously and honestly could not eat what United put in front of me on the flight home. It was appalling. But I don't think it was any worse than what I scarfed down on the way there.

Fundamentally, the way that American culture prefers "more" over "good" shows up exquisitely in food. Despite the fact that American food has improved dramatically over the last 50 years, it's still kinda crap. Fatty, sloppy, oversweetened crap, made as cheaply as possible and served by the bucketload, as though to pigs.

This quality emphasis doesn't mean limited choices, by the way. I ran into far more variety there than here. Some of it was scary variety, like HELLO JELLYFISH but! Variety.

Japan is already famous for its vending machines, of course. I don't need to go on about that too much. But in case you're not aware: they are, of course, AWESOME. (Sorry, return of t3h c4pz.) Even in a single smallish drink machine in an alley, you're looking at 20 options - soda, teas, lemon drinks, waters, coffee, vitamin waters, juices, electrolyte waters (like the well-known Pocari Sweat, which I was drinking already before I went over on vacation - it's like Gatorade, sweet, but not sickly sweet, I really like it) - often in two sizes, and the cans have lids you can put back on so you can save some for later. Also, the machines generally seem to come in clusters of three or so, without a lot of repeats.

This is as opposed to a US soda machine, with its four slots filled with Coke or Pepsi, and four other options. Maybe.

Pleasantly, I've found I can get C.C. Lemon at Uwajimaya. I got hooked on that stuff in Yokohama, and it's everywhere. Also, mmmm, tasty. This is particularly good because I tried a lemon drink at QFC a couple of days ago - an all-organic "alternative" kind of drink - and like all kinds of other things now, it mostly tasted like sugar water. I could taste lemon in it, but it was kind of drowned out by the sugar rush. So I poured it out. (They didn't have any Limonata or I'd have tried that. I still plan to try it again. Hopefully that's still good.)

So anyway. Food in Japan: overwhelmingly better. Not universally, but overwhelmingly; Japanese food, western foods, whatever. Better.

But then, on the other hand, they do also have things like this:

Admiral Cheesehead's Orange Fleet Opens Namjatown
([ profile] spazzkat's picture)

Nobody's perfect. -_^
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)
No time for a long entry right now, so here's a short one.

I have 2700 photos and I have no idea where to start. You know how they tell you Japan isn't actually at all like anime and manga would lead you to believe, that you have to revise your expectations or you'll be really smacked around and disappointed and all that? LIES. FILTHY, STINKING LIES. At least, for the anime I watch and the manga I read. You know Megatokyo, of course? Of course you do. Piro kinda turns the reality down a notch. Not up. Down.

Except for the undead thing, of course. At least, as far as I know. But then, that's Largo. Largo, perhaps, is the balance, turning it all back up.

But I mean seriously, I know where Megagamerz is now. I know where it is. I know where it is because I've been there. No ph33rbots, tho'. At least, not at the moment. I have seen and experienced the Idol Rush. Just to mix things up, I had the Anna Miller waitress take a picture of us.

I have seen the Nausicaa glider. Here, you can too:

Nausicaa In Hangar

What you can't see from here is that it actually flies. Carrying a pilot, not a dummy, not by remote control. Oh wait, I took a picture, so I guess you can:

Nausicaa In Air

How cool is that? They had video, too. Oh, I cheated: they weren't flying it at the convention, you can't fly gliders in a typhoon. So the flying photo is a grab off another image. But a real image.

Oh, and did I mention who's on the cover of this month's Rolling Stone?


I will say one thing, though; neither anime nor manga - or rather, any I've read - prepare you for how many levels Japan exists on at once. And by that, I mean physically. In any of the cities, you'll have areas - large areas - which are multi-tiered complexes. If you've been to Seattle and been to Pike Place Market, take that, make it about, five to seven stories, and horizontally about, say, 10 times the size. If you haven't, you'll have to do your best to come up with a highly-interconnected five- to seven-storey-tall complex of independent stores contained within a single building on several levels, and "mall" is not really the right image, not even a multi-level mall. That picture of Namjatown I posted? It's an entrance to a theme park, of small but reasonable size, three levels inside, all contained within one of these kinds of buildings. It took up less than a quarter of the building.

Then make another one like that. Then a third. Then have three levels of interconnect between them. Big ones. Wide. One will be at street level, one above, one below. Then, underneath a nearby former dock, add a couple of levels under those levels that you can reach by outdoor below-grade (but extremely open) prominade or elevator. Then every so often put skyscrapers on top, big ones, which may have their own interconnections at upper floors.

Then add an amusement park outside, just because you can, and welcome to みなとみらい。 The linked AVI is not all-inclusive of what I've described. There's just as much more off to the left. I took this from a park half a mile away and I couldn't make it all fit in the frame.

Thing is, sure, this particular area's new, but it's not a oneoff. It's not even the one with Namjatown. This is all over the place. Minato Mirai 21 is special because it's the first area like that we saw, and the one where I realised that it was kind of like the multiple overlaid worlds I saw at PAX with Pictochat, only physical. I didn't make a habit of checking for more with the DS, but I imagine I'd have picked up a few at the Pokémon Stadium.

That is here, by the way. The Pokémon Stadium, I mean. In みなとみらい。

"Not like anime." "Not like manga." Yeah. Not like anime and manga my shiny metal ass.
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)
First short note first: I've scrolled back through some of my friendslist, but it's kind of a lot. If it's important, please point me at it. Thanks.

Second short note second: I'm not going to write up one big trip report or anything, I'll post a few things as I think of them. Here's one now!
Okay, so, I really, really, really liked Japan.

Really. And not in just that Engrish kind of way either. (Tho' I have to admit, being in the sake shop and seeing the process of making sake described as involving a "fermentation airplane"? Pretty damn funny. As in, I couldn't take a picture of it, because I had to flee the store, because I couldn't stop laughing. I'm laughing again now. But I digress.)

I mean, there are a bunch of reasons. Sure, there's the way that the kinds of things I care about a lot all work really, really well. There's the outstanding transportation system, there's the emphasis on quality over quantity, there's the most excellent food and creature comforts; there's the special things like wandering through akihabara and singing along with Japanese fen to anime theme songs and all that. But there's also... just being nice.

I mean, sure, I got the point-and-"oh look gaijin" thing once, so we were far enough out for that on some of our wanderings. But honestly? Things were okay. I got so little flak about it that it barely even registered. And the whole culture-of-politeness thing combined with the complete lack of overt hate in my face every day? Pretty fucking awesome.

So, yeah. I ♥♥♥ Japan.

It's funny because if you understand Japanese even a little you pick up on a lot of stuff you otherwise wouldn't. On the second half of the trip - the half when I wasn't posting pictures anymore, I couldn't get net access - we were with a tour group. [ profile] annathepiper and [ profile] spazzkat and I would break off from the Thundering Hoarde whenever we could and go off on our own. We were wandering around separately in one of the gardens when this pair of Japanese women walked by going the other way speculating about my ancestry, deciding that I was definitely at least part asian, but they weren't getting more specific than that. I only knew that because my Japanese was good enough that I could understand what they were saying.

Another day, we were in this elevator and a bunch of young Japanese girls - also tourists, but in-country - got on, and I did the right things, like you do, which is pretty easy. (Despite warnings to the contrary, picking up the social cues there was really pretty easy for me, and watching the tour group be, well, a tour group, was often very painful.) Then this old couple got on - also tourists, also Japanese - and they were drunk, and the guy cheered sake and then asked for his floor the wrong way because he was too drunk to get out more than かんぱい!! and numbers. After he got off on his floor, as soon as the doors closed, all the girls giggled explosively, and one asked "Japanese or foreigner?" and all the other girls chirped off "foreigner" (all this in Japanese) as they got off the elevator one floor later, giggling. The wait-what? part of this, of course, being that the drunken couple were in fact Japanese and we were the gaijin, but apparently, despite this, we passed muster, and they did not. ^_^

Actually, my extremely-limited language skills held up much better in some ways than I'd expected. We had bus ticket confusion in the airport upon landing; I was able to book passage from the airport to the hotel nearest ours on the shuttle-bus run purely in Japanese. Anna wanted to buy a couple of books by Japanese author in English translation at the big Kinokuniya in Tokyo, but they didn't have any copies; I was able to ask whether I could order them at the smaller Kinokuniya in Seattle, and understood the answer when she told me they couldn't, because the distribution system was different between the domestic and foreign branches; when we hit an internet booth cafe in Kyoto, I was able to find out that they were booked through the entire night and wouldn't have anything open until around 9:30 the next morning. So that was neat, even if I got my counters wrong sometimes. (In particular, I asked for a copy of the Timely Times at convention and got one, and realised almost immediately after that I apparently had thought it was some sort of animal, or at least alive, because of the counter I'd used. Oops. がいじんのばか、ね。)

I have nearly 2700 photographs. More than 25% of my entire digital library. I am no idea how to sort this stuff. So here's a link to an avi of what it's like to ride a cable car up a mountain in a monsoon, and here's a picture of the entrance to Namjatown, a Tokyo Sunshine City indoor theme park dedicated to food.

Namjatown, featuring Goyza Stadium
solarbird: (molly-asleep)
back from japan, loved everything, miss it terribly, will post more later when i'm more awake. bed nao tho'. g'night!
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)
hangin' out in cosmo world on a hot yokohama night, we get on japan's largest ferris wheel and take pictures


Cosmo World, From Above

Navios Yokohama (our hotel, on the right)

but now on to tokyo, and then kyoto!
solarbird: (sb-worldcon-cascadia)


then we stopped at megagamerz but great teacher largo was not home


btw, harajuku says hi

solarbird: (vision)
Currently, i'm alternating waves of feeling semi-kinda-normal and being totally wiped out and dizzy, with bursts of nausia. They consider my swallowing functions almost back to normal and think I'll be on unrestricted died probably on Monday. They tried to slip me some more stool softener drug today, and I think this time that once was not fucking funny, and the second time hadn't any fucking funnier, and the next person who tries it gets the resulting crapfest on their goddamn inbox.

That's sitting down or lying down reasonably normally. Walking any normal distance is an adventure; clearly things are not normal in the laterial hypothalamalic area. I would not trust myself to, say, walk down to the postbox at home, much less to be on a bike or stairs or carrying anything of any mass at all.

I currently look like I've been merely repeatedly punched in the face, and that the punching was fairly specific and targeted, with is a big step forward.


14 days ago. Unspecified bike accident. May have involved a car, may not have. Did involve a skull fracture and lying in the street unconscious for some time. When the EMTs found me and called Anna and Paul, they got me semi-conscious and tried to get a breathing tube into me without reasoning rationally. Longtime viewers of this programme may be aware of the time the dentist tried to put me under without specific and specific notice for wisdom teeth removal and I slugged him. In this case, it actually went worse, and I aspirated in the ambulance. (This is the medical way of saying "threw up in my own lungs." It's a gag reaction triggered while the air tube is locked open and is often fatal.) Notes: Appropriate physiological atypicalities medic-alert bracelets should be acquired. Several have been found.

13 days ago: Tubed for air and food, unconscious. Brought to semi-consciousness several times as required by protocol. Anna's and my durable power of attys VERY IMPORTANT here, as it turns out, even in-state, so yay.

12-7 days ago: Daily attempts to pass breathing tests fail, Anna stops talking about maybe being taken out of sedation soon. Anna has set a lot of her posts on this period public. Everyone gets very nervous. Meanwhile, in my internal world, I've found it important to take an impromptu trip to a Madalaharan1 community just across the Mexican border, for garden-related purposes, doing research before LACon IV, the upcoming World Science Fiction Convention, where I'd meet up with Anna and Paul on-site. Yes, really.

7 days ago: I finally manage to breathe without assistance, they take out the breathing tube and wake me up. [ profile] jenna says she knew I was going to be okay when my first words were "stop helping!" I, otoh, picked up where I left off and thought I was again no lie, in a small Madalaharan1 community's emergency room trauma centre following an automobile accident of some sort. Also, I thought Anna and Paul were in Seattle hospitals and were also awaiting surgery for unrelated accidents.

6 days ago: Still thought I was in Mexico. Worried about how I was going to get back into the US. Was trying Japanese-Mexican slang out on hospital workers and being surprised and pleased at my high success rates. I get it into my head that I'm being transferred to Seattle on Wedesnday. Confused by all the asking about the "driver" in the accident;" apparently the police also don't know whether I actually got hit or had explosive bike system failure.

5 days ago: First really coherent day, I posted. I got "transferred" to Harbourview in Seattle. I was already coerent enough to know that something clearly wasn't adding up, because while I inserted some sort of a motor vehicle ride (which doesn't exist - I rode an elevator) I couldn't figure out how it could happen so quickly, and had thoughts of: 1. I have been in Mexico.... right? 2. Maybe it was Canada? 3. "But I don't speak a word of Canadian!"

I'm now very confused. I think on and of that I've been in Mexico for the next two days. I don't really give up on this until my second LJ post. That bit in the first LJ post where I talk about being in Mexico was not a gag, it was by best understanding about what the hell was going on.. Also, calling what I was on "solid food" is just silly.

Now: Two weeks in hospital, of which I'm really aware of less than one; I'm all de-tubed except for a hydration and antibiotic IV; they're talking about letting me go to normal food and 1-4 weeks of serious (in-patient, 3-hr/day) physical therapy, if they can find me a bed somewhere our insurance supports. Wish us luck with that, we'll probably need it.

1:: Madalaharan: Japanese-speaking Mexican communitities. I have the name wrong, but these are real; Japanaese didn't just emigrate to to USA after the Heian period. Much bigger impacts in the US, Peru, Argentina, and Brazil, but there are Mexican communities too.

god damn!

Dec. 1st, 2005 09:10 pm
solarbird: (sulu_oh_my (from iconzicons))
The hotel Google is putting [ profile] annathepiper in when they fly her down for interviews(!!!)* is swaaaaaaaank. [ profile] poodlgrl, check out the Hi-Fi lounge (scroll down).

* zomg zomg zomg zomg zomg!


Dec. 29th, 2004 09:13 am
solarbird: (Default)
Sitting downstairs relaxing a bit; back from Joe Bologna's, a local mostly-Italian restaurant in a converted church, where we had the big crowd of people who showed up for one reason or another off the LexFA list and friends. The Louisville crowd that we know best (and see at Worldcon) were all there - Susan, Michael, and Linda - as was Scott T.; also [ profile] starfallz came by with her mom, as did [ profile] kitchengrrl in a surprise moment of, um, surprise, up from Texas with no notice whatsoever. And she brought her husband, who we have now finally met, even if he didn't say all that very much. Regardless, he seemed nice enough.

Earlier in the day, Anna's sisters finally managed to make it down from Louisville, so they got a chance to get caught up; I was around for most of that, though I did fall asleep briefly in the living room chair - it's been a long trip. They'd have more time together, but Anna and I were late getting back from lunch with E., my last guardian and the only one who was ever any damn good at all. I noticed the car was making a very strange noise, so I pulled over and discovered the flat tyre. So that slowed us down for a while. I called the rental company and they'd really prefer we repaired it and brought them the receipt, but honestly, I don't have time for that with the trip back tomorrow morning.

(We did actually try to stop by a place to see whether they could plug it quickly - we drove over a screw somewhere, and is even still with the tyre! - but they couldn't.)

I took a bunch more pictures today - I've been going kind of nuts with the snapshots this trip, probably because it'll likely be a few years before we get back here again, at best.

Oh, and at the same time as discovering the flat, we'd driven into a parking lot to take a picture of this horrible yet great cargo-cult-futurist building from the 70s - space colony station in suburbia made in large part out of wood, it's hysterical - and noticed "hey look, seven wireless networks!" which is how I got some queued-up LJ posts up today. That was kind of funny. We are t3h packet ninjas, we have come for your l33t. Or something.

I can't upload any pictures right now, or even prep them. I'll have to post the photo of the building later. It's that funny. To me, anyway. ^_^ Also must upload one of the pictures of the joint Arby's/Exxon Gasoline Stations. Your neighbourhood fry pit has married your neighbourhood grease pit. My favourite architecture crank will be overjoyed, I'm sure - I'll send him a copy for his Eyesore of the Month column. Southern Culture isn't merely on the skids, it's also eating itself. And its petroleum by-products! Mmmmmm, that's tasty! And good for you!

Before all that, of course, we had lunch with E.; he's very nice, and got us up to date on what's been going on with him and J. and a few other people, and who got caught up on what's been going on with us. That was all very pleasant; it was at a faux Irish bar-with-lunch place; the soup was only okay - Anna's salmon patties were better - but the dessert I shared with Anna made it up to me. Mmmmm, chocolatey.

(I think I'd done pretty well with the holiday eating until today. Today, I clearly ate too much. Blick.)

I'm quite sick of driving everywhere now and look forward to not driving my car when I get home. I'm also done with cigarette smoke until the END OF TIME, but, well, that's just one of the many roadside hazards. (That, and EIXT 59. Heh.)

Right now, Anna's upstairs mostly hanging out with her older brother. Tonight we pack, and tomorrow morning we fly. I really appreciate the way Marcus (Anna's younger brother) has been putting us up; the basement bedroom has been very comfortable and we've pretty much had the basement bathroom to ourselves. (It's attached to the laundry; they don't use it much.) So that's been very nice. But I'm really looking forward to being home.

Machine repair totals for this trip:

Win95 CPU (spyware): 1
Win98 CPU (spyware): 1
WinXP laptop (game compatibility problems): 1
linksys wireless LAN hub (config): 1
Nintendo Entertainment System (cartridge connector corruption): 1
Lighting (dimmer control not identified as such): 1

Total: 6

[ profile] annathepiper also consulted on a second WinXP laptop problem that was not on-hand for direct repair. Six and a half, I suppose.

More when we get back, I think I'm out again for now. La!

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