Bach Processing

Today is the last day of work during this “baching it” period for the Cosmic Buddha. Goddamn, how time flies. It seems only yesterday that I started off eating strange chili concoctions out of the pan and declaring atomic jihad on the world. Fast forward through two blurry weeks of the flurried singledom that defines my bachelorism process to this morning, where you find me eating kimchi & eggs w/leftover pork out of the same pan.
kimchi_and_eggs.jpg
Sometimes using my pan as a plate and the spatula as silverware makes me yearn for the good ol’ dormitory days at Tenri U… Then I remember finding rotting fish carcasses half-flushed down the crapper by the Chinese students, constant hazing by karate club senpai that left one Korean-blooded boy brain damaged for life, heinous Japanese lessons from moronic gaijin teachers (forever mentally entrenched in a time when they were revered as gods A.K.A. the “impale yourself on white penis” period of Japan), and all the other bullshit that defined daily life then. I’m much better off now getting paid to deal with similar shit. But as far as life in Japan goes, shit is a constant that must be dealt with or duly ignored. You know what they say, “Same shit, different flies.” Wow I went from food conveyance to waste excretion in one paragraph – truly a healthy movement, no?
Anyway, anyway – My girlfriend is coming back on the 2nd. I must clean the house enough not to get yelled at. I recently discovered that we have been out of laundry detergent from before she left. I will no doubt forget to buy some on my way home tonight, and will be forced to use dishsoap or baking soda or another “field expedient”. Also, I am at a loss as to why indoor plants are so GODDAMN WIMPY. What’s two weeks of drought to, say, a cactus or dandelion in the wild fer chrissakes? These limpwrist plants up and died on me, man! And they died rather grisly deaths, I fear – their twisted, brown, hardened skeletons are a karmic vote for my next life as an abandoned ficus. It ain’t my fault, I say; nobody told me they weren’t self-watering! Just great. Now I gotta find similar ones at the nursery and transfer them to our planters. (I wonder if this will darken any future experiences I have switching a healthy goldfish for a bloater for my kids. Maybe I’ll just tell them about death right off the bat, despite any crying over dearly-departed Nemo, nightmares about an ominous beyond, and sleepless nights of hand-holding solace… Nah, scratch that. I’ll replace Nemo with sea monkeys and teach them about evolution instead.)
Note: Thanks to my truly adoring fan Jen (even if she is one of my friends having a great time impersonating a truly adoring fan at my expense, although I will kick your ass soundly if this is the case) for the link that enabled the photo editing.

Your ass ain't worth it

I spoke with a friend about this the other night and we did some rough (read: beer-inspired) calculations to estimate how much money every Japanese taxpayer paid for the release of the Japanese hostages in Iraq this month: about 2,000 yen. I do not vouch for the accuracy of this figure, but I want to make it clear that I do not agree with the decision to pay for their release, no matter what the cost. They chose to go where their country told them not to, and tear-jerking death threat footage aside, the burden of consequence should not fall on our shoulders. 2000 yen per taxpayer for the whole country is way too much to pay for 5 people’s ransom, for that matter, so is a single yen. I bet you I’m not the only one who feels this way, either.
The anti-government views of the hostages are obvious, and there are rumours about their possible collusion with enemy forces – that the whole incident including abduction, videotaping, etc., was a set up. Obviously, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of this, either. The situation is being looked into, and hopefully the truth will eventually come out. I won’t pass early judgement, but if it turns out that those taken hostage were, indeed, working with the enemy, I think they should be punished, harshly.
That a portion of my tax money is now most likely being used to prolong the insurgency in Iraq is almost more than I can bear. I would like to think it affects the average Jiro the same way, if he would only stop to think about it.

I blame it all on Portishead

I placed a down payment on a theremin yesterday. I have no idea what it will end up looking like, but this is for the best, I feel. For this particular instrument (which I have never played before BTW), not knowing how it will turn out creates a certain excitement I could never attain by simply ordering online or through a music catalog. This was only made possible by hiring an otaku to do the job. Kasama-san is a nice guy, a most skilled bassist, Taro’s business partner (they sell antique condensers, specialized mic shields, and other maniac music shit), and one of the most functional denki-otakus I have ever met.
When I found a loose circuit board connection to input RCA connector jacks inside my 500 watt amp, I used what tricks I could to keep it working temporarily. Unwilling to be without decent sound in my car for even a short time, I never even considered having it fixed at a professional shop since they generally take forever just to tell you (approximately) how badly you will get raped for repairs. I looked around for a decent replacement instead, but couldn’t find a good deal before the connection got a lot worse and basically made my amp unuseable. So I turned to Kasama-san, who I knew at the time as a tinkerer of guitar amps, and he replaced the part I needed on the board for a pittance – so I tipped him well. The skills he possesses are very special in our modern world of cheap throwaway electronics. Like some of the engineers at work, he can read the circuits on a PCB like a roadmap, and tell you where you can find shortcuts, bypasses, and hidden paths, among other things. This is a very valuable skill.
Anyways. Theremin of unknown specification and design will be mine in a couple of weeks, and I take great comfort in knowing that the creator has spent countless hours worrying about each subcomponent, optimizing it as a whole system, and tweaking it to perfection with the cold twisted love of electronica.

Cheesecake Factory?

Well, Slate followed up the wonderful variety meat article with one written by a food critic weenie from England, of all places. Perhaps his wittiest assertion in comparing London’s Chez Whiteys with their counterparts in Los Angeles is: “The reason the food is better at London’s top restaurants is that Britain is closer to France.” Although I kind of doubt that the American chefs would accept losing to kidney pie slingers very graciously. The critic’s self-proclaimed noobosity (18 months on the job) is proven with the following:

However, once you drop down a couple of notches, L.A. knocks London into a cocked hat. The restaurant I’ve been most impressed by so far is the Cheesecake Factory in Brentwood. I had a cobb salad there last week that was every bit as tasty as the cobb salad I had at the Ivy, yet it was brought to my table in half the time and it was a quarter of the price. In Britain – indeed, in France – there just aren’t any midmarket restaurant chains to match the quality of the Cheesecake Factory. And there are dozens of similar chains in this country that are equally first-rate. When it comes to this kind of food?good, solid, dependable fare at reasonable prices?America leads the world.

Cocked hats aside, I think I see where this is going – that’s a big know your bloody place you yankee dogs only half-assedly disguised as a compliment. He’s only admitting that average American chain restaurants make American food better (even though the Cobb is also known as the King of Salads and the Crab Louie Salad, it originates from and was made famous by the west coast). Yeah, well I can only retort that the “average Brit’s ability to skillfully open doors is only offset by their tendency to run their bulbous noses into them first.”
That said, this is a pretty fun article to read. I like the guy’s writing. I just can’t understand why he has such a hard on for the Cheesecake Factory (and for the uninitiated, said restaurant’s cheesecake leaves a lot to be desired).

la cucina povera

I’m all for this. As anyone I’ve ever gone to yakiniku with can attest to, my fondness for what even what a lot of Japanese won’t eat. Slimy cow guts taste goooood when they’re fried nice and crispy. And nothing beats a crispy fried pig’s tail.

Pig’s foot Milanese is pounded so thin and breaded so thickly that the flavor of the pig’s foot is not readily discernible through the fried bread crumbs. Beef cheek ravioli are delicious, light and pillowy, with only a hint of fibrousness to the meat and a telltale chalky aftertaste. Lamb’s brain francoboli are so heavy on cheese and so light on brain that they taste almost vegetarian. While all of these dishes are delicious, the question inevitably arises: If the recipe requires that you camouflage the central ingredients, why use those ingredients at all?

There is only one answer: Because it requires the slaughter of a pig, cow, and lamb, respectively, and flips a big fiddle minger to PETA.
Reminder to self: Post pic from restaurant in Khon Kaen here later.

BB King

Look at what they’re finally confirming:

Japan Offers by Far Fastest, Cheapest Broadband Services: OECD
April 21, 2004 (PARIS) — Japanese firms are offering by far the cheapest and fastest broadband services of companies operating in 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), according to the first such report compiled by the international organization.
The survey, which was conducted in October 2003, shows Japanese companies leading the pack with KDDI Corp, NTT East Corp. and usen Corp offering throughput of over 100Mbps with their fiber-optic networks.

This really trickles my bits. My pal and I talked about this happening over three years ago, when Korea was still the place to be for broadband, and I was paying about 18,000 yen per month for dual channel ISDN (including both ISP and telco charges) service out here on Awaji Island. Since then my upgrade path went from 1.5 Mbps ADSL to 8Mbps ADSL, and finally to what I use now, 100Mbps FTTH. I am really sad because now there is nowhere to move up from here (maybe I can hope for that laser-based transmission technology next). In fact, I am planning on moving down, as far down as I can possibly go: dial-up. That’s right, the shrill screeching of analog modem handshakes will keep me company once again. I wrote about it in this post around when I started this blog, and Thailand still has no viable plans for broadband in sight. Things move slower there.
This passage was very interesting:

It has been difficult to conduct a comparison of telecom services offered in various countries, since there is no fixed worldwide definition for broadband. The OECD report defines a broadband service as one offering round-the-clock Internet connectivity and a download speed of at least 250kbps.

If this 250kbps standard was adopted worldwide, I think a lot of people in the US would be angry that the ADSL service they pay for isn’t even considered broadband. I was really shocked by the number of regular computer users in the states who say they don’t need broadband or can’t afford it. That’s a crying shame. It really should be made a lot cheaper and a hell of a lot faster than it is now.
Then again, why am I worried about you guys back home? When I’m checking line polarity before jacking in somewhere along the Mekong in a year or so, I will envy all of you. I do not relish the thought of reverting from the instant gratification of always-connected mode to a dial-up frame of mind: No downloads. No multiplayer games. No mindless clickfests. Oh, well. I guess I’ll spend my time finding other things to do. Maybe I’ll get my laughs by training an army of pocket monkeys to fling feces at passing water buffalo riders, or something.
Gecko racing, anyone?