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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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Star Sapphire Nanoha

For hearts long lost and full of fright
Those who caused the blackest night
Listen to me or meet your maker
I'll befriend them all! Starlight Breaker!


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double gas stations and Starbucks

Often we see two gas stations at one intersection, or a McDonald's and a Burger King right next to each other, or two Starbucks across from each other. We point and laugh, but why does this happen? Various possible reasons, and these may not all be the same phenomenon.

The classic economic story is Hotelling's law. Imagine two hot dog stands, identical in product and price, on a beach, competing only on location. Their competitive equilibrium is to be in the middle, splitting the population. Customers would be better off (have less total walking) if the stands were separated, but that's not stable.

Three or more stands allegedly have no stable equilibrium, short of collusion dividing up the beach.

Cute story, but most of the world isn't a finite line. Does some generalization of this explain why gas stations converge on one intersection in a grid? Maybe! But there are other explanations, including some from this thread:

* zoning means a better location isn't legally allowed

* this location is where the customers really are. (Or for gas stations, maybe you want an intersection of two busy streets for lots of easy customers, but not such a busy location that the land prices are high.)

* (relatedlY) market research directs both firms here

* Or one firm did the research and the other one is just piggybacking. (I've seen allegations that Burger King follows McDonald's around.)

But what about double Starbucks, when it's two branches of the same store?

* Directionality: one store picks up morning traffic, the other evening traffic going the other way. Works really well for drive-thrus; could also help explain competitors across from each other with a busy street (or worse, highway) in between: they're not actually the same market, despite proximity.

* And my favorite for "huh" value: growth. Say you had one Starbucks and it's doing really well, lines out the door, you need a bigger store. But can you find a bigger store? Do you want to relocate? Maybe it's simpler to just open a second one nearby and let customers divert themselves to it, especially if it's across the street so picks up a bit more traffic as well.

And if you're really optimistic about growth, you open a bigger store *and* keep the old one open.

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The Bay Area is trying to kill me

Shortly after I got here, my sister was driving me home and some SUV nearly merged into us on the freeway. I was trying to figure out if it would be tactless to say "this is why I don't drive" when she went and said it for me.

Then Martha was driving me home, and some car in a driveway nearly backed into the passenger side, aka me.

And finally today, I was exploring Oakland's Chinatown on foot, when there was a screech-thump in an intersection followed by two cars slowly pulling over with their hazard lights on. I wasn't actually in danger, being on a corner, but if it had happened a few seconds earlier than I would have been rather close to whatever happened.

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The fairness of congestion pricing



Some people object to road pricing on the grounds of it being regressive. But free roads help the rich more: the rich drive more, and the pollution from congestion hurts the poor (living more near freeways and boulevards) more.

In top congested cities, poor households are 14% of the population but only 4% of peak commute traffic.

You have to spend a fair bit of money to get on road in the first place; free roads are more like matching grants than progressive transfers.

Money circulates: what's paid by drivers can be used to help the poor. Time lost in congestion is just lost, no one benefits.

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On Game of Thrones

Beginning of Game of Thrones: psychological and political realism plus magic.

Ending of Game of Thrones: fanservicey wrap up that a fairy tale would be ashamed of.

(Or fan *dis*service, given the ratings.)

Disclaimer: I haven't been watching the show normally, I read re-caps and see scenes on Youtube. Which means I miss details and much of the fine acting. OTOH it also means that fine acting can't distract me from a shitty plot.

Spoilers for the last two episodes: Read more...Collapse )

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/game-of-thrones/s08 has been fascinating to watch. Audience rating fo the whole season was 45% a week ago. It had fallen to 39% right before the last episode, dipped down to 38%, and now 37%. No audience rating of individual episodes, but you can see the critics have had collapsing opinions. I suspect the last episode rebound is partly trying to find something good or just plain relief it's over.

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abortion attitudes

Pew poll on abortion attitudes:
Legal in all/most cases:

Men 57%
Women 60%

White evangelicals: 34%
Unaffiliated: 74%

Democrats: 71%
Republicans: 36%

Moderate/liberal Republicans: 58%
Conservative Republican: 29%
Conservative/moderate Democrats: 68%
Liberal Democrat: 84%

High school or less: 48%
College grad or more: 71%


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Black Stallion Revolts and Ghost

I finished Revolts. Farley is really good at writing thrillers. A friend's daughters get very excited watching tense movies or episodes, especially the youngest girl, even when they know the plot and outcome; youngest will get up to shake out tension, or hide from the TV, or cling to mother for comfort. I felt a lot like that reading this book, having to put down the book because eeeeeee. This despite the fact that if you describe the plot baldly, it's a ridiculous concatenation of unlikely setbacks.

Oh, and the plane did crash, but *not* because of the storm! Well played, Farley.

I'm currently reading the Black Stallion's Ghost, which I'm sure I did read, because I doubt there are two novels in the series with the Everglades, sawgrass, Seminoles, and twisted icons. I still recall nothing of the plot.

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Black Stallion re-read

When I was very young I read a bunch of Walter Farley's Black Stallion novels. I even wanted to be a jockey, until I saw Feynman on TV and wanted to be a physicist, at around age 8.

I've just re-read the first two. They hold up decently. It helps to know, now, that those were written in the 1940s -- the first one published in 1941, when Farley was an undergraduate! Alec says 'Gosh' an awful lot, and there's an Italian immigrant straight from Central Casting (of the many bambinos, not Mafia, variety). The first book is part desert island survival, part settling in in Flushing, part "can we race?" I liked the second one more (Goodreads is divided on this point), it was quite high tension (like, put the book down at times because eeeeeee high tension) and didn't seem obviously insulting to the Arabs in it.

The second book also has an unresolved murder and I don't know if it's a loose plot point or simply "things happen that aren't about the protagonist but affect him anyway. It also has some unfortunate "ugly = evil" but that's not confined to 1940s writing.

Knowing the date of writing puts some things in context. The series starts with Alec on a steamship from India, while the second early on has a detailed flight of a flying boat -- not even a straight transoceanic one, but hopping from NYC, to Trinidad, to Brazil, to Liberia, and so on until Aden. Passengers stay in hotels between hops. This must have cost an awful lot of money...

I jumped ahead to The Black Stallion Revolts, which I doubt I ever read before, and the tension is high again: A&B are trying to go somewhere and I don't actually know if they'll get there -- sometimes travel trouble in Farley is just raising the stakes, and sometimes it kills almost everyone and change's the survivor's whole life.

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name and date of birth

Ever wonder why US doctors and nurses keep asking for that? Apparently it's part of HIPAA rules to use two identifiers to make sure you have the right patient. Also a basic cognition test -- if someone doesn't know their birthday, red alert.


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Philadelphia corner stores

One thing I've noticed in my new Fishtown location is that there are a lot of corner stores. Like "every other corner" wouldn't be a terrible approximation. Delis, bars, I think a salon, more delis/convenience stores... It's pretty neat. Both providing surprise as you walk around an otherwise residential neighborhood, and of course providing services to residents. No idea if they're all grandfathered in or if the zoning and parking codes would be friendly to buying a corner house and opening a business.

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fundamental blockchain problems 2

A simpler take on https://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/511477.html

If everyone used Bitcoin, you could use it twice in your lifetime.

Global life expectancy is 70 years, which is around 2 billion seconds, which allows for 14 billion Bitcoin transactions, given a hard limit of 7 per second. There are 7 billion people, so in that 70 year span, two transactions per person.

Currency of the future, I tell ya...

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Damien Sullivan

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