Archive for December, 2009


December 21, 2009 Leave a comment

I am currently involved in moving and probably won’t update the site much (if at all) until January.

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New Menu Addition – Bright Green Gaijin Pants

December 13, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve added a page to the site which lists all of my reposted Bright Green Gaijin Pants articles. It can be accessed via the menu, above.

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Bright Green Gaijin Pants, Post 3-5

December 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Bright Green Gaijin PantsMy first blog, titled Bright Green Gaijin Pants, was a chronicle of my time as an exchange student in Kushiro, Hokkaido, Japan. I’ve decided to repost its contents on this blog. For a full list of all these posts, click Bright Green Gaijin Pants on the menu, above.

The first blog post of any real worth that I published from Japan was far larger than it had any right to be. It was actually several posts combined and posted at the same time because I didn’t have internet access when I first got to Japan. I will be reposting them separately, as they were meant to be.

Operation: Lena Needs Stuff

Originally published on October 16, 2005.

So I met Nei-san. Nei-san is a fourth-year biology student, with a car. She took us to my apartment to drop my stuff off, then the three of us went shopping. We got a lot of things to get me started here, general necessities I was without either because I had no intention of bringing it or because my baggage didn’t make it. Stuff like a futon to sleep on, food, dishes, and soap.

We went to three stores; the first was a “home center”. It’s full of good fun stuff like mini-fridges, vacuums, towels, washing machines, alarm clocks — good, old-fashioned home necessities. I didn’t get a mini-fridge or a washing machine because with the futon there wasn’t going to be enough room in Nei-san’s car, but I did note that suitable but cheap ones would be about 28,000 yen in total. [2009 Edit: At the time that was about $260 US; now it’d be closer to $300.]

The next place we went was called “100 Yen Plaza”. It’s what a dollar store should be and isn’t, at least in Alaska. In Alaska, dollar stores rarely sell anything that’s actually for a dollar, and it’s all cheap, useless crap. This 100 yen store is chock-full of useful stuff, and (for those who understand this reference) about as big as the old Fred Meyer used to be in Fairbanks. It carried dishes, cooking utensils, measuring spoons and cups, dish soap, laundry detergent, notebooks, binders, small storage and organizational stuff, sushi mats, umbrellas, and a whole lot of other stuff I didn’t even look at. When I got to the register, the cashier started counting, then multiplied the number by 105 (100 yen plus tax). It was great!

The third place we went to had food. I didn’t get too much, ’cause I live near a convenience store and don’t yet have a fridge. This was a place to buy eating food, not gift food, so the fruit wasn’t of the ungodly expensive variety, but it was still more expensive than we’d expect to pay in Alaska. Four or five bananas each came in a bag at a flat cost of 198 yen. But I didn’t see a bad banana in any bunch. There was plenty of non-fruit, too. Whole fish, fish pieces, fish eggs, shrimp, other seafood, bread, more bread, crackers, snacks, cup ramen, cup other noodles, eggs, drinks, and a whole lot more.

This picture was taken later, after I'd settled in. I ended up getting a lot of my juice from convenience stores. This is a stack of apple and orange juice boxes waiting to be recycled. (Photo added to post on June 23, 2010.)

Now, the place that we got the food from was actually a store inside of what was a kind of mall. The Japanese don’t call it a mall; Nei-san told me it isn’t big enough. It’s called a Co-op. Like I said, it’s kind of like a one-floor mall as we think of it, but no mall I’ve ever seen seemed to have no truly secure way to close the shops off for the night. These stores also spilled out into the hall, sometimes almost halfway into the walkway. You could still tell where once place ended and the next began, but it was interesting. The only two stores that I saw which didn’t spill into the hall was another, smaller 100 Yen Plaza and the media store.

I wish I’d gotten to go into the media store. Over the low wall around it, I saw manga and anime and CD’s. The low wall itself advertised PlayStation 2 and Xbox and Gamecube, and the TV’s on either side of the entrance were all about the new Katamari game. But that wasn’t why I was at the co-op.

The Problem with Modern Television

December 5, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve watched the first few episodes of the remake of V (Not for Vendetta! Click here.) showing on ABC. I don’t think I will be watching any more. This is not because it’s bad. On the contrary, I think they’ve done an excellent job of updating the story to account for today’s sociopolitical atmosphere and adapting the storytelling to the standards of modern television.

Unfortunately, the standards of modern television don’t work for V.

In order for a prime time drama to remain on the air these days, it must have some combination of action, plot twists, and unbridled coolness packed into it like sardines in a can. This has to be true of every single episode. The exact combination varies from show to show, depending on its plot. House, for instance, doesn’t usually have a lot of action, but it has a plot twist every five minutes. (Oh, that didn’t work? Then it must be this!) Any show that tries to develop its plot gradually at first doesn’t survive to explode into unbridled awesomeness later.

The brilliance of V: The Original Miniseries was in the Visitors’ gradual rise to power. They charmed people with their happy, friendly faces, claiming to need our help. Once everyone trusted them and eagerly looked forward to the advantages of being friends with them, they framed scientists for supposedly trying to destroy the alliance between Earth and the Visitors. With scientists universally detested, the likelihood of their actual physiology being discovered was unlikely, allowing them to continue their sneaky rape of our planet. By the time the resistance was formed, the visitors already had the upper hand. The resistance fought an uphill battle. They were only able to defeat the Visitors in V: The Final Battle because they got lucky.

In the first episode of the new V series, they’ve already given you half of the story. The resistance is already in place because the Visitors sent some people ahead some thirty years before the story started to lay groundwork for their invasion. Where can they take this? What can they add?

I’m afraid it’s going to end up like the recent Battlestar Galactica series did. The first two seasons were great… but by the end of it, it was dumb. They tried to make it deep and it ended up being incomprehensible, like a bad anime. Or worse yet, it could end up like Heroes. So many plot lines and characters and details introduced in that show have been dropped. When Peter Petrelli accidentally whisked himself and his girlfriend to the future, she got deported to Ireland and left there. He has done nothing — nothing — to get her back. Sylar also shows no sign of the inconvenience his super-sensitive hearing should be causing him. The woman he stole it from had to listen to rap music constantly to keep her ability under control, but he seems to have no trouble with it, in spite of the fact that he has so many other powers to control at the same time.

That, my friends, is the real trouble with today’s television. In order to stay on the air, a show must be cool. Cooler than cool. So cool you can’t stop watching. Even if it means that the show makes no sense. Even at the expense of the ability to tell any kind of story that needs to set itself up first. It works for some stories. It destroys others.

Babylon 5 is the show that taught the TV executives that people would watch prime time shows with an ongoing story. But if it were to have come out today, would it have stayed on the air? The first season is titled Signs & Portents, if I recall correctly. The action doesn’t really pick up until season 3. So no, I don’t think it would. Isn’t that ironic?

Showing Up to a Raid is Good Etiquette

December 3, 2009 Leave a comment

Some World of Warcraft players have a chronic problem with accepting raid invitations and failing to show up to them. It’s a problem I’ve seen before in Dungeons & Dragons, as well. The player is of the “it’s only a game” mentality — since it’s only a game, it doesn’t matter if he shows up or not.

While it’s true that it’s only a game, such people fail to see is that it’s not about the activity you engage in. It’s about the people on the other side of the table — or internet, in the case of WoW. We could be planning a huge cake-baking session, for example, and if the guy bringing all the flour decides at the last-minute that he’d rather go see a movie with his friends, well… sure, we can get flour somehow. It’s likely to take at least half an hour, though, and that’s several other people’s time wasted because one person was inconsiderate. In business terms, if you wasted half an hour of nine people’s time at the example wage of $10 an hour, then that’s 4.5 hours or $45 (plus the extra taxes employers have to pay).

And in the case of a WoW raid, the absence of a key player (such as a tank or healer) can cause a raid to fail to get off the ground altogether. That, then, is nine people’s plans for the evening ruined. Players have to block of a 3+ hour block of time for raiding, usually. If someone simply doesn’t show up, opportunities have been missed for the other nine people to do other things that evening. Maybe another member of the raid got invited to see a movie, too, but since the movie and the raid started at the same time had to decline; by the time the raid breaks up 45 minutes after the scheduled start time, the movie is half over. If he’d known the day before that the raid wouldn’t happen, he could have gone to see the movie and still had a good time.

What it really boils down to is that you are making a time commitment to your fellow raiders. Forget the game — that’s just what you guys have chosen to do with your time. If a real emergency comes up now and again, that’s okay. Your raid group will understand (unless, of course, they’re assholes). But if you can’t give your raid leader at least a day’s notice of cancellation so he can try to find a replacement for you, you should prioritize your commitment to your raiding friends over last-minute invitations to hang out with your face-to-face friends.

Unfortunately, your face-to-face friends may get offended because “it’s just a game”. If that happens, you should either point out the dictates of courtesy to them and make them deal with it, or choose not to commit yourself to the raid group. Don’t, however, use courtesy as an excuse to let your face-to-face friends and significant other completely fall by the wayside. Keep in mind, also, that it goes both ways — if your raid leader sets up a raid on a day on which you already have plans with someone, tell him you can’t go to raid that day because of a previous engagement.

Be responsible. Be courteous to all of your friends. Have fun.