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Osaka: June 18

"Let's go to Nara... nah, I spent too long on the computer, it's late."

"Let's go to a museum! ... oops, they're all closed on Tuesday."

"Let's go to Koreatown!" That worked.

Ate some store sandwiches in a shitty park near the station. Small park, small playground. Looked grungy, I guess partly the litter, even more so all the cigarette butts when I noticed them (no trash can, but there was a butt can clearly not used enough,), and the ground under the play equipment being part grass part dirt.

Found a Buddhist temple along a residential alley, one big enough to have two caretakers and at least two rooms. I looked inside but felt uncomfortable as they looked at me.

Found Koreatown, it has an official entrance. And right away I found a sizable Shinto temple, Mizukimori-tenjingu. Uhhh, Koreans aren't Shinto... actually the main entrance is outside Koreatown, but a side entrance opens to it. I ended up spending a fair bit of time and phone battery reading up on Shinto shrine structures, so I would have a better idea of what I was looking at and what the things were called. One thing is that they often contain auxiliary shrines, to related kami; this one had three different shrines/altars, or at least structures with bell ropes. I saw one woman ring and pray at each one. Plus a fourth little thing that looked altar-ish but didn't have a rope. The shrine also had trash cans. Look, when you carry your garbage for multiple blocks, you'll start noticing these things too.

I followed the "main street" of Koreatown to its end, though I later found there are lots of other Korean businesses (or businesses with Korean writing, anyway) in the area. Lots of places selling raw meat, or corn dogs(!), or kimchi, or things that looked like meat marinated in kimchi or some other red sauce. Wasn't hungry enough to buy anything then. Not a single conbini along multiple blocks.

Along the way I found a much nicer park, with trash can and water fountain (one faucet aiming straight up, which is how drinking fountains here work, one straight down for filling things.) Less litter, less scruffy (ironically perhaps because a big area was *just* dirt, so didn't have the "trying to grow grass but failing" thing), a lot more people hanging out. Tidy trees, maybe neater than the first park.

Looping back toward the train station, I found another Buddhist temple, Shukyo Hojin Minshuhotokekyo Kanon Temple. I was able to get much closer to the altar, which had a big bag of Pocky and a big can of pineapple, among other offerings. A priest had me light and plant an incense stick. Statues outside of Budai and Kannon.

Also I found that you can copy place names out of Google Maps on the phone (long press on the full page). So I never had to type "Shukyo Hojin Minshuhotokekyo Kanon Temple".

Google Maps on my phone also has a working compass. YAY.

Nearly stepped into a moving motorcycle, I need to pay more attention.

Some woman was biking on a somewhat busy street while looking at her phone.

Many bikes here have a symmetrical kickstand, one that goes over the back of the rear wheel so the bike stands upright.

Wandered through the Tsuruhashi arcades (arcade seems a better name for the 'covered shopping streets' like the one I first stayed on.) Found a Korean restaurant and had bibimbap for 800 yen (actually 860 after tax, I would like better indication of when sales tax is going to be applied -- in 2008 it seemed always included in the price, but a lot of conbini products now have two prices printed on them, before and after tax.) Turned out to be vegetarian (egg, no meat). The proprietor mashed up the bowl's contents for me ("this is Korean food!" -- Japanese generally don't mix food like that, I think.) She provided metal chopsticks with odd shape and weight, then standard disposable wooden ones when I seemed to be struggling. Was good. Lots of side dishes as seems common for Korean food. One looked like a tiny bit of cheesecake but was actually tofu with a red sauce on it.

Another store in the arcade was selling churros. I spelled out the katakana on the sign, went "really?", and looked inside. Yep, churros.

Then home.

Observation: despite warm temperatures, most women here wear more covering clothing than I'd be used to around hot weather Boston, say. Almost all have trousers or below-knee skirts. I've seen some above-knee skirts or even miniskirts, but they're a lot rarer. Something like tank top and shorts is very rare, and tends to come with indicators of foreignness: speaking fluent English to a white boyfriend, looking Chinese (not that I'd bet a lot on my judgement), looking Chinese in a group and I think talking in non-Japanese (I didn't get to hear much).

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analysis of the Siege of Gondor

A medieval historian looks at the siege of Minas Tirith, in the movies and books. Long but worth it. Link is to the final part, which has links to the other five parts.

What I got out of it was that Tolkien's portrayal was quite good, even in subtle details I hadn't picked up before. Opposed landings are hard, and despite inferior numbers Faramir might have held Osgiliath but for the Nazgul. Denethor lights the beacons (summoning vassals, not Rohan) before troops even leave Minas Morgul; foresight or the palantir at work. Also learn a fair bit about medieval warfare considerations.

Jackson's version... not so good.

(He also looks at how medieval Game of Thrones is: not very. Lots of things are more like the Early Modern period: large armies with regular kit, weak religion (okay, that's more like *late* modern), nationalism.)

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Osaka: June 16

Just stayed in yesterday, ducking the alleged storm, though it wasn't that bad in the end. Some rain and thunder. Re-read a lot of Gunnerkrigg Court, read about hyperpolyglots and curbside management.

Today W and I had ramen, then came back to watch the latest anime version of Legend of the Galactic Heroes. So fun for me but not a lot to tell y'all about. Our table condiments included a jar of garlic paste and a jar of something that looked like green onion kimchee -- green onions and red bits and a fermented look to it all.

One thing about Japan is lots of tiny shrines you'll run across. I wondered if one was Shinto or Buddhist, and W pointed out the swastika -- excuse me, manji -- marking it as Buddhist.

I'm apparently in walking distance of the tallest building in Japan, so that's a thing to check out.

I found Camembert in Japan! I was surprised. If it's an import it was thoroughly re-labled. It's also triple-wrapped: you open the cardboard box, and there's a plastic tub; you open the plastic tub, and the mini-wheel of cheese is wrapped in clingy plastic.

I have a bag of "candy-style cheese". It had looked like a bag of cheese curds. Kind of, but more regular in shape -- a bit like a small Reese's cup -- and *each one* is wrapped in twisty plastic, like hard candy. Japan is a terrible country for pursuing a minimal-packaging lifestyle.

(These cheese itself seems normal, not sweet; some semi-soft white cheese like cheddar.)

I have cooked! Well, I boiled pasta and put sauce and cheese on it. But assembling a meal and putting it on a plate, rather than just eating supermarket packages, is a step toward feeling at home in a kitchen. Oh, and there was a sieve after all. No can opener in either kitchen, though.

I passed a Denny's on the walk home. I did not expect that.

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A guy says standard poster sessions are terrible, especially for walking around and hoping for serendipity, because the posters are walls of text with some obscure question as a title. But they can be better! Make your interesting *result* prominent and easy to see, with simple details on one side and crunchier details on the other. Video jumping to the good bit (the first 11 minutes set the context).

NPR article.

Some critique and riffing.

Even those of us who will likely never make a poster can still benefit from thoughts on clarity.

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can rideshare reduce driving?

I've seen reports that Uber/Lyft (rideshare) increase congestion. This surprised me, I thought they would reduce driving. Someone pointed out a flaw in my thinking: single passenger rideshare CANNOT reduce driving.

Say Alice would drive from A to B. She calls a Lyft instead. The car takes her for exactly the same trip, PLUS having to drive to pick her up at A, and to pick someone else after B (or to take the driver home.) It's strictly MORE driving than before. It can, however, reduce parking demand.

A group of people who would have carpooled are the same.

A group of people who would have individually driven DOES reduce driving if they take one rideshare vehicle instead.

The biggest potential is probably in arranged shared rides, Lyft Line or UberPool. If Alice would drive from A to C, and Bob would drive from B to D, and the routes overlap or parallel a lot, then driving to pick up Alice at A, driving to B for Bob, driving to D, and then C, might be a reduction. Depends on how much endpoint driving (including backtracking to pick up Bob after already going part way to C) there is compared to the shared component. Picking up two people at the airport who live half a mile apart five miles away is a clear win. Picking up people five blocks apart who are going to places ten blocks away and five blocks apart themselves would not be a win. (10+10 vs. 5+10+5.)

So the shared rides can reduce driving, and we'd need actual data on algorithms and trip patterns to evaluate that. But it's more likely for longer trips than short ones within a squarish area.

And of course all this ignores taking trips from transit, or stimulating new trips that wouldn't have happened.

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Osaka: June 14

Found a Hainanese chicken and rice place, tried it. Couldn't read much of the menu but it had pictures, so I pointed at something that looked tasty, and it was. Better luck than yesterday's teishoku (which I forgot to mention) which came with some gross vegetables (though good fried chicken.) The menu also had some bizarre manga in the back (or maybe the front? Have I been reading menus in the wrong order? Must pay attention.)

My previous place was right on a shopping street, practically in a mall. This area is quieter. I have to walk seven whole minutes to get to a supermarket. Tragedy!

(Actually it might not be that long, might not even be further than the old one. But I've gone from "go down the street" to "follow twisty path" so it feels more taxing.)

Tomorrow predicts a storm, like wind gusts of 75 kph, so I was stocking up on food. Three weeks in one place also means I can do things like buy groceries such as olive oil without feeling like a chump... and yes, they have alleged olive oil here. I got some basic pasta ingredients, though realized later I don't think I have a sieve. Oops.

Went back out to explore my nearby train station area, and stared at the JR map for a while. I learned something! The shinkansen doesn't stop at Osaka station, big and busy though it is, but at Shin-Osaka. Which Google says is a 50 minute walk from Osaka -- or a 4 minute train ride. I croggle at both numbers. For Kobe and Shin-Kobe, it's 50 and 13. Now I wonder if the Shin means "new" as I thought, or "shinkansen stops here". Or, likely, they had to build a new station to accommodate the needs of the bullet train. Wiki says the 'shin' in shinkansen does mean new, or at least the whole word means "new trunkline".

While I was there, I saw a woman in clothing whose color and drape made me think "yukata" but whose material made me think "ankle-length sweater dress". I did not stare enough to resolve the matter.

I found a store apparently specializing in beauty and cleaning goods; at any rate, I got to buy paper towels there, so I am no longer drying my hands with fucking kleenex. While I was there, the blaring radio or PA system or whatever started up with a version of the Battle-Hymn of the Republic, in high pitched anime girl voice. I don't know what it was saying, but imagined "My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the sale / These discounts will turn your shopping into an epic tale".

I got more snacky food at Lawson, and milk because I can read their carton and not accidentally get skim or 0.5% milk. They also had drinkable yogurt! I got it, anticipating something like ayran or kefir. I got something sweet with no fat and 28 grams sugar instead of 9 (or so I guess based on comparative nutrition labels). :(

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fanfic author: Unpretty

I mentioned reading a cool Korra fanfic: that's Icarus and the Sea, by Unpretty on AO3. This fic is Varrick/Zhu Li, long (a short novel) but quite good. Has both of their POVs. Sex scenes near the end, after they finally hook up, if that bothers you. [Oh, I've been reading the EPUB version, which apparently has more sex than what's on AO3.]

I'd discovered her via her Sorrowful and Immaculate Hearts, a whole bunch of DCU fics (mostly Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.) That's a series set in chronological order but each work is standalone; someone had recommended Empty Graves, which I liked, and then I picked out lots of shorter works until I trusted her enough to read her longer works. I'm not a particular DC fan, but I enjoyed them a lot. If you know the basic 'facts' about the characters then I think that suffices, though there'll be the occasional minor character detail you don't fully appreciate. They're mostly 'human interest' stories, rather than drama with fights and such.

Some out of context quotes:

"Is Superman from Texas?"
"For that to be true," Batman said, "it would need to be possible for a man to be from Texas without telling anyone about it for years."

"Maybe you could give people tips to be successful?" Danny suggested.
"Based on personal experience you should try being born a white billionaire with a Type A personality and a need for external validation that can never be satisfied because your parents are dead."

"Look at this thing. Baguette toasts. What is a baguette toast? I want to shove myself in a locker for this."
(A new Robin has an identify crisis with Alfred's idea of Lunchables.)

Robin-1 to Robin-2:
"Your job is to take care of the genius whose solution to gun violence was to put himself in front of all the guns."

"What, ya just throw rubbers at randos tryin' to fuck in alleys?"
Harley laughed loud and hard at the thought of someone getting hit in the head with a condom like a batarang.

"If I see any scenery worth pissing on, I'll be sure to let you know."
"That won't be necessary."
A crudely made wooden sign came into view in the field beside the road. It had a lot of opinions about what constituted sin and what happened to sinners.
"I see some scenery," Bruce said.

"I do not brood."
"Based on the number of birds you've raised, you must."
Bruce groaned audibly.

"I'm imagining the worst fight," he admitted.
"Hawkman and a mirror."

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Osaka: June 13. The Move

Lots of minor annoyance today.

So the big thing was moving from my 1-week place to my 3-week place. Hallelujah, I've been moving every 1-1.5 weeks since early April and its not my favorite mode of travel. But, unlike most US Airbnb, these places are hardnosed about checking out at 10. But Japan has a solution: coin lockers! in or near many train stations.

But my nearest station didn't have big lockers, and the next one didn't have available big ones. It also had an elevator to the mezzanine but no elevator or escalator to the platform, whyyyy... But I got to Tennouji station, which did have available large lockers. Which I messed up using -- it's single-use, not use for a day -- so it cost me 1400 yen instead of 700. At least I was able to stuff both bags into one.

Then I had to decided what to do with the rest of my day. Thing is, this particular new home makes you go somewhere *else* to check in and get the passcode. A NYC place did that but the key locker was right around the corner, not a couple miles away. So I had that to look forward to. I thought about taking a day trip to Nara, but I also had my laptop in my backpack, weighing me down. So I ended up exploring the mall at Tennouji -- not my usual thing, but it's a huge chunk of the local commercial activity, also air conditioned. I found a Lindt! though at around $1 per chocolate ball, I'll pass. Found a supermarket with olive oil, butter (from Hokkaido), and various cheeses (including Brie) -- though no instant rice that I could find. Finally I hung out in a cafe reading Korra fanfic, which deserves its own post.

Then it was time to go get my entrance code. I found the kiosk and checked in... and didn't get a code. Got a success message, but the fields were blank. I complained. 5-10 minutes later I got a message with a code. So now I went to the home -- directly, because I didn't want to be stuck outside with my bags if this didn't work.

But it did, and then I discovered the home is like 12 minutes from Tennouji, so that was looking up. (There's a closer train station, but it's only a JR Loop station; being able to walk to Tennouji gives me more flexibility.)

Speaking of up, the stairs to my bedroom are very nearly a ladder. Nothing is up there except my bedroom, so going to the bathroom will be fun. OTOH, I might as well leave my bags downstairs, and just shower and change in the living room.

And yeah, I did go back for my bags, got food, brought the bags home, and here I am. Hopefully I'll sleep well (also, not fall and kill myself); the last few places all had the virtue of being quiet, but street noise penetrates this room easily. It's people street noise rather than cars, but that's maybe worse.

Other things:

* The house guide had the WiFi ID and password as the same. It is wrong, which is good for security; I tried the password in the strongest WiFi and that worked.

* I haven't seen anyone wearing a bicycle helmet in Japan. Maybe some small kid, I'm not sure, but pretty much no teen or adult. It's Dutch style biking -- in more ways than one: the usual posture is either fully upright or mountain (bent forward somewhat); I don't think I've seen a single road bike hunch. And everyone's biking in their regular street clothes.

* Japan drives on the left, but mostly stands on escalators on the right, like the British. As for walking or taking stairs, I'm not sure there's a strong pattern. Many station stairs are marked with up and down arrows, but they different ones put you on the left or the right. I wonder if in a country with less pervasive driving, "imitate what cars do" is less of a Schelling point.

* While waiting for a reply by the key locker kiosk, I looked at the magazine in the conbini. Lots of the big manga magazines like Shounen Jump. Mostly with sexy girls on the cover, you have to look inside to see it's not an adult magazine. (The actual porn ones are taped so you can't look inside... though I peeked at one and saw even more manga, presumably hentai.) I did find one with furigana by all the kanji, so I bought it in a fit of optimism about my studies.

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Osaka: June 12

Quiet day, still catching up on sleep. Did some shinkansen and other travel research. Re-reading Gunnerkrigg or Schlock Mercenary, or reading Squirrel Girl and Batman fanfics. Went for a walk, discovered a nearby red light district, girls in booths like the Amsterdam street of windows.

Belka is Russian for 'squirrel'.

W came over for a co-working session in the evening, then we went out for dinner, at a sort of Indian restaurant. Actually a real mix: Japanese food, Indian (tandooring chicken, naan), Chinese (soup dumplings, chow mein), Thai (things I hadn't heard of.) It was decent, not the best place for soup dumplings.

She noticed that my street had mosaics of animal heads in it: goat, bear, elephant, bunny, pig... I'll post photos later.

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Osaka: June 11

I didn't get nearly enough sleep, and gave up at noon, so it wasn't a day for big adventures like Nara or Kyoto.

(One benefit of being in Osaka is that I can allegedly just day trip to a bunch of other places, with having to juggle more housing.)

I realized that I have my own place, sandwiched between karaoke places. As long as it's before 2300, I can practice singing full volume and no one can complain. HAH. Actually there's another apartment below me, so I still tried to stay in the front, or sing in the bathroom, in case some other traveler was trying to sleep late. But still, cool.

Eventually I wandered out to hunt down a Sukiya branch east of me in Abeno; this is a chain of cheap and English-friendly gyuudon (beef bowl, like Yoshinoya) places. I'd seen some in Namba and near the aquarium but hadn't eaten at one yet. Cheap as in a basic bowl is 400-500 yen. Took me a while to actually find it, all while trying not to get run over by bicyclists, but I did. It was okay; greatly enhanced by the pepper-thing I sprinkled on, and the mass of pickled ginger I mixed in. Oh, and extras of green onion. But there are big bins of pickled ginger at your seat, so I helped myself generously. No tea though; when went to Yoshinoya in Tokyo there were huge bins of free genmaicha to serve myself from. Sukiya had paper napkins.

I saw signs against biking on the sidewalk, nearby. The people seemed to have decided this is one rule they won't obey.

Parking garage! 1000 yen for 3 hours, 2000 for a day (I think), 35000 for a month. It's roughly 100 yen to the dollar (108 yesterday), so that's $3 for an hour, or $350 for a month.

Across the street from Sukiya was Q's mall. I didn't explore it much, but the first thing I saw was, in katakana, "chi chi ka ka". I thought a moment and wondered if that was "Titicaca". Yep, it was. Some store devoted to Latin American clothing and other products. A name from an Andean lake, signs about Day of the Dead and Lucha Libre, coin purses from Guatemala (the only tag of origin I could find or at least read.)

Then I wandered north into Tennouji Park. Too late for any of the attractions, but I figured, park, could be fun to walk around, right? Right. Lots of greenery, some bright red bridge, a small steep hill Chausuyama that wikipedia tells me is a kofun, good lord. I think I need to go back and pay more attention.

Tried some Buddhist temples but they were all closed.

Wasn't hungry enough for any of the tempting restaurants (including one called Usagiya, which I wanted to parse as Rabbit Store, but selling okonomiyaki), so got some food to go at Lawson's, including my first pork tongue (smoked slices in a bag) and cooked quail eggs (not my first, but first from what's basically a 7/11.)

I got deceived by packaging, though: there was something I thought would be a chunk of grilled salmon, based on the picture and english label, but it was onigiri with salmon inside. I would have seen that if I'd looked more closely, but didn't. Might have bought it anyway, but I opened it thinking it was salmon to put on my instant rice, but no, it had its own rice.


Other thoughts:

All bathrooms have been the "futuristic toilets", with heated seats and water jets and such. Except for one squat toilet I saw in a stall in the aquarium; the other stall had a future toilet, with instructions on the wall about how to use this Western-style toilet. (Don't squat on it; do put your toilet paper in the toilet to flush. This raises questions...)

Given that they've been around for decades they're hardly future toilets anymore, except that I'm from the US. https://www.theonion.com/earthquake-sets-japan-back-to-2147-1819569216

I haven't said much about the trains because I so quickly slipped into taking them for granted as how Things Should Be In A Civilized Country, but they're awesome. I think they run every 5 minutes or less? Except coming home last night from the aquarium, 9 pm in some semi-distant part of town, they were every 10 minutes. TRAGEDY. Oh, and if you take a rapid train to Nara that might be 15 minutes. They're clean. The stations are clean. They line up with line-up points. (BART does that too, but not as quickly.) People haven't been playing loud music on them. The trains are more bilingual than I recall Tokyo 2008 trains reliably being, which is helpful for yours truly. The one flaw is that the A/C is sometimes weak for my taste.

Despite high density and narrow alley-streets, my neighborhood has been quiet. I can hear some noise in my bedroom but I am literally squished between karaoke places and even then just sticking earbuds in my ears mostly helps, without even playing anything. If I were in the front of my apartment I would hear a lot more but my bedroom is sensibly in the back.

Well, there's been some daytime construction or such noise -- manual, not Big Equipment -- but that's hardly a sin.

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Osaka: June 10 (Aquarium)

W had said that a good option for a rainy day was the Osaka Aquarium. Not a casual or cheap option -- 30 minutes away and 2300 yen admission -- but Wikipedia said it was one of the largest aquariums in the world, and reviews were good, so I went today.

Lots of different exhibits, some trivial (the first one, "Japanese forest", with a couple of sleeping otters and a bunch of plants), some huge (the Pacific ocean tank.) A highlight of this aquarium is that it's very deep: you go up to the top, and the top of various exhibits -- e.g. penguins, seals, and dolphins -- and then you spiral down, and see underwater levels of those exhibits, going down quite a ways. Some aren't too exciting, like the giant kelp of the Aleutian islands (still, informative), while for others you see diving penguins, seals, and dolphins...

There are a couple of odd ones, like the ring-tailed coati, which I don't think is even aquatic at all, or the capybara, which does eat riverside grass but still.

The penguin one had king penguins, gentoos, and Adelie penguins. The kings stood around looking big and yellow-stained, while a couple of Adelies were playing quite energetically in the water, or jumping out and diving in again. Their exhibit was full of actual ice, including ice bits continually dropping from a hole in the ceiling; some kings stood under it and apparently didn't mind ice whacking them on the head.

There were a couple of Pacific whitesided dolphins, quite active, without many people around; the Japanese seem to prefer penguins to dolphins.

The Pacific tank is Big and has Many Animals, in particular two whale sharks, I'd guess around 6 meters long (based largely on a painting in a shopping area later). Quite impressive. Also hammerheads and various others, large manta or sting rays, schools of mackerel, etc.

A cafeteria sold me a fishcake sandwich, and provided actual paper napkins, contradicting my experience and testimony so far.

A deeper tank had giant spider crabs. Lots of them, very large. Very creepy.

I grew up hearing that sharks and rays had to keep moving in order to breathe. There were a whole bunch of bamboo sharks resting at the bottom of the Pacific tank, gills moving without their bodies going anywhere, so I guess not. They weren't just scattered around, but there was a whole cluster of sharks and other fish in a corner. I have no idea if they were being social or if there's something attractive about that corner of the tank.

(AMNH says some sharks do have to keep moving, others don't; all do have to keep moving to avoid sinking to the bottom.)

I'd gotten there at 14:48, and made a second pass starting around 18:00. The puffins seemed more active, swimming around, while six sea lions had all gone to sleep on wooden platforms, and cuddling; one seal was resting elsewhere, while another was still frolicking. I had previously no idea there were more than one seal and two sea lions.

The "Seto inland sea" tank had lots of things, including a cluster of one fish species all resting together, and octopi mostly in pots. One was moving around, apparently trying pots, which were occupied.

There's a room of jellyfish that's pretty cool. Some are small and plain, some are elaborately pretty.

I had a couple of train mishaps. One on the way, which I don't recall -- I think I got on the wrong line for the route I'd planned or someting. And on the way back, I got off at Hommachi, when I needed to get off at Saikasuji Hommachi. Happily, a different line also went from there to my home stop. Less happily, it took 2-3 minutes of walking, probably why Google suggested the other route.

Osaka has some sort of free municipal wifi portal. I haven't tried using it yet.

Photo album

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Osaka: June 9

Met up with W near Osaka castle park, and got up to the entrance of Osaka castle. Where there was a line, and W realized she didn't want to do that again, and I should go on my own on a weekday. So we walked around the park a lot.

Castle construction and moat reminded me a lot of the Tokyo one, unsurprisingly.

Had my first takoyaki. It was okay.

Part of travel is finding what another culture does better (trains, safety) or worse/alien (no soap in park public bathrooms, hardly any paper towels anywhere, few public trash cans apart from conbini or train stations, few drinking fountains (true of all non-US countries, in my experience), wall maps have random orientation.

She headed home, I figured I would finish riding the JR Loop to see more of the city by day -- it's an elevated train. I found myself on a train that would turn into a rapid train to Nara, an hour away. I mean to go, but figured 5pm wasn't the best time, so switched and ended up at Namba, another busy downtownish area. Including a little river, so that was nice to see and smell, and see tour boats on.

Went to Sushizanmai, a staple of my time in Tokyo in 2008, but it's more expensive either now or here.

Right in the middle of all this shopping is a little Buddhist temple, Hozeni I think, with what I would think is an attached Shinto shrine (row of orange torii, water ladle, wish placards.) Symbiosis at work: people were pumping water at the presumed shrine, to throw onto the moss-covered Buddhist statue.

We'd dropped by a shrine at the castle; W snarked that having someone sell you charms was a key part of a shrine or temple.

Hmm, wiki says many Japanese temples also have a https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ch%C5%8Dzuya not just shrines, and no one mentions a shrine, so maybe that was a false positive.

Had a skewer (yakitori) of "chicken skin" from Family Mart. It did in fact seem like skin. There was "chicken tail", too.

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Osaka: June 8

Walked down my shopping street, found a Chinese place with made to order dim sum, had some. 1350 yen for 16 dumplings, not bad. Including soup dumplings. The ha gow were teeny, though.

W told me she lives in fear of bicyclists. I'm quickly getting there; lots of them on the sidewalk or mixed-use streets. It's a really good idea to look back before shifting your walk left or right. I even contributed to an accident: I saw a biker coming, tried to get in line with a standing man to get out of the way, he moved back to get out of *my* way and thus went into the biker's path. Bam! No injury, but geez.

Had a quiet afternoon staying close to my toilet. Noticed that I have karaoke places on both sides. At least they shut up by 11pm.

There's a big E-W street just north of me. W tells me that since addresses are based on zomming-in area and block number, no one pays attention to street names. Anyway, I went walking west along it. I'd asked W about CVS equivalents; seems either 100 yen stores or conbini (convenience store) like 7/11, Family Mart, or Lawson's for any non-drug stuff. Found a Lawson, which seemed more bilingual in its product labels. Passed some hotels with private rooms (but shared bathroom) of 1600-2400 yen a night, though I think from online these are tiny (slightly wider than a twin mattress, say.)

Eventually found myself in car country: no nearby station, few pedestrians, gas stations and car lots. Turned back and took the JR Loop line to Osaka station, and walked around for a while in a busy place there.

A girl on the train had what I can only describe as face-framing hair whiskers. I've seen that on anime, not live before. There's probably some proper name for them.

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Japanese flash card permutations

Say you want flash cards. And you want simple ones: given query X, give answer Y, without having tons of related information right at once.

Spanish: spanish word, English word. Physical card is easy: you make one card, and go through your deck in either order so both sides are "front" and "back". The program Anki makes handling this easy: you create one note, with a Front and Back, and it generates two cards.

Japanese: Japanese word (kunyomi), English meaning, kanji, Chinese reading (onyomi) of the kanji... Never mind that you often have multiple kunyomi and onyomi. 4 items, 6 possible pairs, so 6 cards per word. Anki also makes this easier: I made a note type using just 3 fields (Japanese, English, kanji), which generates 6 cards (order matters). But that's still 6 cards to study, and it should really be 12.

Why studying Japanese is hard.

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movies: Frozen, Clueless, Moana

Eleven hour flights are really long. And the cabin was dark, making book reading hard. United's entertainment system turned out to have things I wanted to re-watch: Frozen, Clueless, and Moana. Plus a couple episodes of Game of Thrones (actually all of season 7, I think, but I saw most of two eps.)

I'd never re-watched Frozen or Moana, or seen Clueless for many years; all held up well. (Clueless is on the very very short list of movies I bought to own.)

Frozen: there's been debate over Hans's face-heel turn, and why he didn't kill Elsa earlier if he was being a villain who'd planned to kill her later. One idea is that he didn't know if killing her would end the winter; another is that he wanted to keep her handy until he recovered Anna. Personally I thought that his plan was plausibly to pretend to be a good guy, as much as possible. Yeah, he didn't love Anna, but doing all the 'right' things is pretty practical. Including keeping the queen alive. Only when Anna presented him with a challenge he couldn't live up to -- a magical kiss of true love -- did he get derailed.

Why not kill *Anna*? Worry about later investigation, perhaps. Better if she freezes than someone later ask why she looks smothered. It's not a great plan, but at that point I'm not sure there were any great plans possible.

Clueless: still awesomely fun, and cute. I like how Cher is ditzy but kind of lazily (and socially) smart, not emptyheaded; her Valley girl debates are surprisingly deep in essence, especially the immigration one. There's popular girl sniping but not deathly so, on either side. Her dad's a rich attack lawyer but "we divorce wives, not children" is a nice sentiment. I hadn't noticed before (thanks Tropes) that Cher, Dionne, and Elton are all singer first names, the first two providing cover for Elton which comes from Emma.

I was greatly amused to realize that the climax is basically a college student with his own apartment French kissing his 16 year old (ex-)stepsister. With her father's implicit approval (there's a very telling grin earlier). And I would bet against their waiting all that long for sex, so post-movie statutory rape (in California, with 18 age of consent), too. I don't see anything wrong, but dang.

Less amused to notice nothing really happens to Elton for assaulting Cher and then leaving her stranded.

There were some subtle production touches. Tropes mentioned musical ones I wouldn't get, but when Tai meets Travis "skater pothead" Birkenstock, they're both wearing plaids.

The ending credits were way shorter than those of the other two.

Moana: nothing much to say, just fun. Both it and Frozen started with mouth music, and had alternate versions of their songs playing during the credits.

On the TV front: I've followed GoT secondhand, so get plot gist but miss details. I was surprised to learn that people actually did talk about the Frey death somewhat: soldiers going up to keep the peace, Jaime going "whoever killed House Frey has no love for us".

I also sampled Gilmore Girls A Year In the Life, but it seemed to be some post-series sequel, and I stopped after a bit.

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Osaka: June 7

Was tired and it was raining, so I stayed in much of the day. Finally left before 5 to go meet W. I crossed the main street north of me, into yet more covered shopping gallery, and a young guy from Toronto asked me to take his photo. We chatted a bit, intertourist socializing. I forgot to mention last night, a young Asian woman asking me for directions as I returned from the supermarket. I think I was able to help orient her on her map, based on recognizing the market I'd just been at.

Anyway, after Toronto guy I crossed Tennouji park. I'm right by a zoo and a museum, though the zoo is said to be rather sad in animal treatment and the museum is mostly about its special exhibitions. The park itself looked nice, and had some interesting shops in it. Also a bathroom which I sought out because I'd shaken hands with the Canadian and I'm paranoid about germ contro, but while there was a sink there was no soap or drying facility. >_>

W had told me to meet at the JR Central Gate exit of Tennouji station; by sheer chance I wandered downstairs and followed JR signs until I found it. I'd expected a surface exit.

W has long dark hair and is apparently 5'2", despite my memories of her being taller, so blends into Japanese crowds pretty well.

She took me to a soba place, which was decent, though the English menu had errors, translating the duck soba as having chicken and vice versa. Then ice cream, including a milk flavor. We passed a food store where I found the most literal egg sandwich for sale: tamago omelettes (a la tamago sushi) between pieces of bread. I got some, it was tasty. But funny.

All this was taking place in MIO Plaza, a big multi-level mall. My orientation was shot to hell.

Walking home along the south side of the park, I passed trees full of a flock of white birds. My guess was cranes but I'm not sure.

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Osaka: arrival, June 6

Between getting off my plane and getting past customs, I think 50 minutes. Steps:

* biometric, get photo and fingeprints taken.
* wait in long but fast moving line to have immigration paperwork checked and passport stamped.
* Pick up bag
* Customs inspection.

When I visited Tokyo in 2008, I noted good English signs in the international section and Engrish in the main (and scruffier) section. Here, I passed a sign sayings something like "temperature monitoring being executed", and a not completely fluent sign I've forgotten in the immigration area.

Got a SIM card for data, 7000 yen for 10 GB and 90 days.

Got an Icoca transit card with cash I'd gotten in SFO, and took the Nankai train. Man, US trains suck. Train was as fast as a car, according to Google Maps, 50 minutes for both.

Rice paddies between the airport and the city.

I have a whole apartment to myself. Bedroom has two full mattresses and open floor space for another four people doing push-ups at once. Kitchen/dining room decent too, though the fridge is dorm sized, and there are two hot plates. Plus a rice cooker and a microwave.

Toilet is in one room, sink and shower in another. I think that's common, but new to me (based on my 2008 hotel room, and someone's Tokyo studio.)

My place is on this weird "shopping street" with a covered roof.

Closest supermarket is a bit anemic in fresh food choices. There's milk, but not non-sweet bread. A lot of pre-made food is pretty cheap.

Bedroom and living room each have an A/C unit of a type I haven't seen before; later reading told me it's a ductless mini-split unit. The compressor is somewhere outside, keeping the noisy part away from me, while each wall unit has its own thermostat. 'split' because the thermodynamic cycle is split, the wall unit is pumping coolant through to expand and suck up heat, vs. a central air system where cold air is made in one place and ducted through the house.

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nomad outline

Expanding on https://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/499620.html
When I started my last job, my boss agreed to be friendly to "working vacations", going away part of the time (vacation) and working remotely. At first I used it just for 5 Christmas weeks in LA with S, but as partially described, last September I decided to go in for it full time. Since then:

LA (Xmas)
Osaka (current)
Hong Kong

Try guessing when my company stopped having an office to go back to!

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urban deserts

I wondered why South Berkeley felt so meh to me. The fact that my first 'home' intersection consisted of two gas stations, one small car rental lot, and only one corner with a proper building, might have something to do with it.

The fact that the actual density of businesses is pretty low as you walk around Shattuck and Ashby probably also has something to do with it.

Today I met old college peeps in Daly City, and was struck again that it somehow looks dense and pretty yet dead. Dense and pretty: wall to wall two story buildings, going up the hills, in various colors. Dead became clearer: wide streets and hardly anyone walking around. Even where there were businesses there still weren't many pedestrians.

Also it's a quiet town where my driving instructor took me to practice driving. But today... "where are all the people?"

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tomato competition

For years now I've loved the Wild Wonders tomatoes, a mix of tasty greenhouse-grown cherry tomatoes of various shapes and colors, but high flavor.

Recently I've been seeing Maverick Mix, a similar mix of cherry tomatoes, decent though not as flavorful. In very similar packaging. I'd wondered if it was a re-branding, but as far as I can tell the two are from two different companies, Sunset Farms and Village Farms. MM seems new as of this year, from one article. No one on the searchable Internet seems to have compared the two yet, so, breaking news, I guess.

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Damien Sullivan

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June 2019



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