Tuesday, October 31, 2023

The Nippon Series

The Nippon Series is Japan's baseball World Series. 

It's not big like American baseball, though. It's bigger. Much bigger. Imagine the NFL and MLB combined, and that's how important the Nippon Series is in Japan. 

This year, it's the Hanshin Tigers (Osaka) versus the Orix Buffaloes (also Osaka).

Hanshin (my team now) hasn't won in 38 years (and only once in 88 years). They're the equivalent of the Chicago Cubs in the U.S., so Osaka is losing it's mind. Just imagine a Cubs-White Sox World Series and amplify the hype 10X and you'll know what it's like.

The Nippon Series has one very odd quirk: if a game is still tied after twelve innings, it ends as a tie. This creates the possibility of an EIGHTH game if the series is tied 3-3 and another game ended in a tie. This has only happened once in NPB history, but what a bonkers rule.

This is why I was up at 6:30 this morning, watching the last five innings of game three of the Nippon Series (thanks to Rising Sun TV). The series was tied 1-1, and Hanshin was playing at Koshien Stadium, the most iconic stadium in Japan (this is why,). 

They got behind early, but had the tying and winning runs on base in the bottom of the ninth--and their slugger struck out to end the game. Brutal. 

It's a different experience, watching a Japanese baseball broadcast, because they don't cut away to commercials between innings. There's a news update half way through the game, but otherwise they show highlights between innings. I'm so used to American sports broadcasts showing constant commercials (they even show commercials between batters occasionally!) that it's a huge pleasure to see a game this way, even though I don't understand anything the announcers are saying.

It's funny how much I want Hanshin to win because of one bartender in Kyoto. 

Monday, October 30, 2023

Costume Count (2010-2022)

As traditions go, the Costume Count had a great run.

In recent years, though, enthusiasm has been flagging, both mine and yours. And after passing out candy for the last 25 years, I'm actually going to a Halloween Party for the first time this century.

So let's do something different this year.

Instead of sending me costume counts, just send me descriptions of any interesting or unusual costumes you see. I can compile those and put them in a post very quickly, instead of delaying and having an Excel spreadsheet icon staring at me for months like an angry, orange eye.

I have an idea for a costume that is low cost and low time commitment for a very solid effect. I'll post a picture tomorrow.

Of the costume, of course, not me. I haven't taken complete leave of my senses.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Friday Links!

We're loaded up this week.

From Meg McReynolds, and it's unfortunately necessary advice in many places in the U.S. now: this is how you can protect your local library

From Wally, and it's so bizarre: This man drives a burger to work. I can't even describe how crazy this is: 'Missing X-wing' from 'Star Wars' 1977 auctioned for $3.13M. Hugo award winners: 2023 Hugo Award Winners

From Kevin W., and it's the strange story of a crime game being stolen: Tiny Epic Crimes

From John D., and this should be quite the unboxing video, so to speak: Philly thief steals a shop-vac filled with hundreds of giant hornets

From Ken P., and it's an excellent read: The surprisingly subtle ways Microsoft Word has changed how we use language. Next, and I'm skeptical, it's Major Study Claims to Identify The Root Cause of Obesity: Fructose. Hopefully slower than my left rear tire: There appears to be a slow leak in Earth's core, scientists say. This is terrifically clever: Dev sets up “goatse” trap for sites that steal his free web game. This is outstanding: Revolutionary Bionic Hand Fuses With Woman's Bones, Muscles, And Nerves. Unfortunate: Mazda’s DMCA takedown kills a hobbyist’s smart car API tool

From C. Lee, and it's ridiculous: Pfizer hikes price of COVID antiviral Paxlovid from $530 to nearly $1,400. This is also ridiculous: Nebraska governor’s remarks about Chinese reporter spark outrage. Might want to put some guardrails in place, Amazon: Amazon Let Its Driver's Urine Be Sold as Energy Drink. It's on onslaught: Google-hosted malvertising leads to fake Keepass site that looks genuine. I'm sure you'll be able to buy this in at Wal-Mart /s: Japan’s Railgun Performs First Test Firing At Sea. A fantastic read: The Twisty Tale of the BBC Show Supposedly So Terrifying That It Was Destroyed. An excellent series of interesting articles/videos (the technical process is staggering): 
Creating the Theme | Radiophonic Workshop | Doctor Who
1965: How DELIA DERBYSHIRE made the DOCTOR WHO theme
Delia Derbyshire


I feel sick today. Again.

Let's skip the pedantic "Sure, guns are designed to kill, but they're not designed JUST to kill PEOPLE" objections and get right to what we can do. 

For one, we can vote to elect people who will do something about this bullshit.

Two, when we elect those people, they can repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which created a liability shield for gun manufacturers in 2005. It's mind-boggling that this law was ever passed in the first place. Repeal it, then watch gun manufacturers stop manufacturing assault rifles in record time or get sued out of existence.

Today, you can buy one of these weapons in the U.S. for $500-1000. When they stop being manufactured, though, the cost on the resale market will skyrocket overnight. That alone will deter some of these idiots.

Three, start a buyback program for the existing assault rifles. Yes, that feels a bit bitter, to be rewarding people who bought these in the first place, but let it go. Reducing the number of weapons outstanding is more important. 

The harder you make it for someone to get an assault rifle, the harder it is for someone to do this. Again.


Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Studio Ghibli

There's a Studio Ghibli shop in Tokyo. 

There's a museum, took, but it's very difficult to get tickets, and you have to do so months in advance. We took the path of least resistance and went to the shop. Two of of them, actually--one in Tokyo and one in Kyoto.

They were both surprisingly small, or maybe it wasn't surprising, because Studio Ghibli doesn't merchandise itself out the eyeballs like Disney does. They had a series of little papercraft projects, though, that looked very appealing. 

Thus begins the descent into madness. 

The box itself was square and small, about 2.5" on all sides. This should have been a warning about hand size, because I'm 6'0" and do not have small hands, but of course this red flag was entirely ignored.

About two weeks after we got back, I sat down to put it together.

These little kits aren't like Legos, because you can't really break Legos. No matter what kind of mistake you make, you can just take it apart and start over. 

Papercraft, though, is different. No mistakes allowed. 

The pieces were so small that I was staggered when I first looked at them. I didn't even know how I could cut them out, let alone make use of them. A few were specks, basically. 

It went poorly. 

At first, anyway. The most difficult section was at the top of the instructions (in Japanese, of course, and thank you Google Translate), and the instructions themselves had an internal logic that was quite baffling until you understood. 

That's probably a metaphor for countries, and people. 

After a relatively inconceivable length of time, I started making progress. I saw what dotted lines and other symbols meant in the instructions. I discovered I needed to use toothpicks to apply glue to the pieces requiring gluing, for more precision.

There was one piece I discarded, but it was an internal piece and couldn't be seen, and eventually, I finished it all. 

That's Satsuki in My Neighbor Totoro, and the caption in the store said it was called "Always Be Curious," which I found particularly meaningful. It looks simple, but each of those figures or structures involved 6-10 separate pieces, which all had to be connected or glued, and it was quite tricky overall.

I don't know how much detail you can see from the blog entry, but if you click on the picture, it enlarges into a higher resolution image with much more depth. 

Of course I want to do another one now. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023


I need three hands today instead of two, so here's a quick update on This Doesn't Feel Like the Future.

Originally, the second draft was going to be entirely structural, just making sure that the plot was complete and events were in their proper places. Some would be added, some cut, some moved.

Of course, as soon as I look at page one I see twenty things that should be phrased differently, so now, it's turned into a combined structural and content edit. I'd rather keep it strictly separated, but I'm also seeing clean edits that I might forget, so I'm going to put them in now. 

I finished chapter one yesterday. Only 96% to go.

When this draft is complete, it will be a readable, coherent book (that still needs many more drafts and a ton of work). Still, it will be progress.

Monday, October 23, 2023

The Cow Runs Dry

Incredibly, there's Star Citizen  news: Space sim Squadron 42 is "feature-complete" and gunning for Starfield's lunch with massive new video.

Hmm. Let's see if there's anything more concrete: 
"As we move into the polishing phase, we're fully focused on optimizing and fine-tuning all aspects of the gameplay experience to deliver an unprecedented cinematic adventure," reads the accompanying blurb. "To celebrate this milestone, we have gathered our core development leadership from around the globe to share what this means." Senior game director Richard Tyrer adds in the footage that "this is the final phase of gameplay iteration before we fully transition into optimisation and stability on the road to release".

There's quite the hubbub over this announcement today. No one is commenting on what this really means though, even though it should be clear.

They're starting to run out of money. 

It's true that polishing could last for as many years as they wanted, but as long as the cash flow was consistent, there was no reason to announce this. It could just be in development for another ten years and people could keep cashing checks and collecting bonuses. 

If the money coming in slows significantly, though, you have to present something more tangible. The revenue gain from actually releasing the game must be projected to be greater than incoming donations (or whatever they're calling them. JPEG ship purchases and whatnot.). This hasn't been true for the last decade.

I said a few years ago that this game would be in development until the money ran out, and then Squadron 42 would get pushed out with all kinds of fanfare, no matter the kind of shape it was in. I believe that's still true, and I'm waiting for the article that connects the dots and explains their financial situation.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, a deep dive into smoke and VOC removal: Air purifiers aren’t enough to clean your home from wildfire smoke.

A link from C. Lee (more from him later) that seems like the first edge of a wave: Japanese tea commercial actress created by AI, has some wondering if it’s the scandal-free future

There's so much irony here: ‘This was his revenge on art’: is Marcel Duchamp’s greatest work a fake?

From Wally, and I'm sorry we missed this: This FamilyMart in Shibuya has a hidden bar serving Japanese whisky and cocktails. This is funny (and short): everyone in mckinney is dead. A lengthy and excellent video: Old pinball machines are amazingly complex. I almost think we're to the point where Halloween has jumped the shark, which stinks, because it's my favorite holiday: When the Lights Come On (Asking Alexandria) 2023 Halloween Light and Fire Show.

From C. Lee, and it's an interesting read: Rich countries are importing a solution to their nursing shortages—and poor countries are paying the price. I wonder if this includes vaping (I'm guessing not): Smoking to be Banned Forever in the UK. A fascinating story: The Saga Behind America’s Giant Government Cheese Vaults. This is a terrific read: In ‘Prison Ramen,’ Author Gustavo Alvarez Wants to Put Inmates’ Culinary Ingenuity on Full Display. This will be outdated in a month, tops: How to Detect AI-Created Images. This is so wrong (and stupid, and gullible) in so many ways: TikTok Myth of the Week: ‘Bone Smashing’ Will Make You Beautiful. Conveniently following the previous link: How TikTok profits off dangerous health trends. This sounds excellent: A murdered Argentinian writer’s comic finds a new audience – and far-right haters

A Kindness

My friends across the street asked me to play golf yesterday. 

This seemed like a fine idea compared to feeling weird and a bit anxious, so I went.

I played terribly (I need to work on my swing and haven't been motivated to do so), and afterwards, we went to dinner. Just minutes before the food arrived, Eli 22.2 called, and as I particularly wanted to talk to him, so I excused myself and went outside. 

We talked for quite a while, as we do, and by the time I hung up, I realized my dinner was going to be very, very cold. This was fine, except I felt bad for leaving my friends in the lurch for such a long time. I hoped I could get it to go and reheat it at home. 

I walked back in, and as I suspected, I'd been gone long enough for them to finish their meal. Only one of them hadn't. She'd slow-played dinner, and still had over half of her chicken wrap left. 

So I wouldn't be eating alone.

Kindness is more noticeable on certain days than others. Yesterday was a day when I appreciated her more than I could say.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Two Years

Gloria passed away two years ago today.

I'm having a bit more anxiety today than I expected, but grief is strange in its twist and turns. I don't think I was prepared for it this year because I'd resolved to stop focusing on this day and think of her instead of her birthday, at holidays, etc. Happy times, not tragic ones. Sometimes you don't get to choose, though.

As I write this, though, there's a chipmunk in the back yard sprinting around who looks deliriously happy. Thanks, chipmunk.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023


If you'd like to read about the maglev technology, here's a thorough article: The Japanese Maglev: World’s fastest bullet train.


I was wrong about the Shinkansen (bullet trains) in Japan. I said they were maglev, but they aren't, not yet. The first maglev is coming in 2027 with a top speed of 375 MPH, which seems like complete science fiction, doesn't it? Right now, they just travel at a piddly top speed of 200 MPH. 

Barely faster than a bicycle, really. 

Bullet trains are an incredible experience because everything is so streamlined. The experience, not the trains, although the trains are streamlined, too. There's no showing up two hours early. No baggage checks, at least not in Japan. We showed up 15 minutes before the train departed, bought our tickets, and were good to go. Not having to get to the airport early makes the trains faster, overall, and they're so much more comfortable than sitting in a plane. I feel like an accordion in a plane, but on the bullet train, there was plenty of room to stretch out. Plus, you can get up and walk around, which is a huge bonus.

I never felt tired after being on a bullet train, even on three-hour journeys. Eli 22.2 didn't, either. It's just not fatiguing.

Japan wasn't fatiguing to me in general, except for the outlandish distances we were walking each day, and the endless stairs we climbed. America exhausts me now, and I guess it has for a while now. We've become such a performative culture. Everyone is always performing in some way, and it's worn me out.
[I understand the irony of someone who's been writing a blog for over twenty years talking about being performative, but it's not out in public, and it's not in person.] In just the last two weeks, three different clerks have felt the need to share their hard-right political views with me. Clerks!

It wasn't like that in Japan. Almost no one is performing, and people don't think they're the main character. They don't need gigantic trucks, or ear-shattering leaf blowers, or mountains of guns. They just seem to get on with it, really, in a generally orderly way.

Monday, October 16, 2023

Sea of Stars

A break today from Japan posts to talk about one of the finest games I've played in a while. 

Sea of Stars looks like a Super Nintendo game. It does nothing revolutionary. Yet it is so well put-together and so charming that it's irresistible.

Like I said, it's nothing revolutionary as an RPG. A few kids who want to save the world stuff. It's so well-written, though, and the music is excellent, and the graphics grow on you, and the combat mechanics are interesting, and there are all kinds of little surprises that are downright delightful. 

It's also a game that doesn't get in its own way. It's never too obtuse, or too complicated. You probably won't need a strategy guide to find your way through. You just get to play and enjoy yourself, and it's incredibly refreshing. 

This is my favorite RPG in many years.

It's on everything, too. Gamepass. PS5. Switch (which would be perfect). Steam (also perfect). I'm playing it via Gamepass on Series X, and I can't recommend it highly enough. 

Thursday, October 12, 2023

Friday Links!


From Wally, and I respect his commitment to the bit: Things that are hard to do on the treadmill. This is long but interesting (if you're into wargaming): Taming the boardgame collection

From Meg McReynolds, and it's a terrific read: Bad Manors: The McMansion as harbinger of the American apocalypse

From C. Lee, and what a senseless tragedy: Where Ukraine’s army of amputees go to repair their lives. There's much more of this than people realize: Can you melt eggs? Quora’s AI says “yes,” and Google is sharing the result. In Finland, surprisingly: These Prisoners Are Training AI. This is just the beginning: I Didn’t Know My Broker Was a Bot. Terrifying: The Gruesome Story of How Neuralink's Monkeys Actually Died. Crazed little bastards: They kill their own parents, children and neighbours. Now life is even worse for the vicious alpine marmot. This is promising: ‘We are just getting started’: the plastic-eating bacteria that could change the world. Still an absolute classic: The Space Between Two Worlds: How Music Shaped Cowboy Bebop

Favorite Japan Pictures (part two)

 More pictures.

I was lucky to catch the mundane daily tasks of life (laundry) with Mount Fuji in the background.

The door says "YOU WILL NOT FIND ANYTHING BEYOND THIS DOOR." Of course, this made me desperately want to open it, but I didn't. 

Super Nintendo World was wonderful because it truly felt like being inside the world of Nintendo. This was in contrast to Harry Potter, which looked superficially correct but captured none of the essence.

This is a famous castle in Osaka whose name I can't remember (of course). I accidentally caught the reflections (everything I do with a camera is accidental, really):

This is a view of Tokyo from the bar in "Lost in Translation." It was a spectacular view of the city.

This was on the way home. Totally exhausted and unbelievably happy and content. I very much hope I get to go back someday.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Favorite Japan Pictures

These are roughly from beginning to end (more tomorrow, too).

This is Tokyo in early evening. Shibuya, I think. If I remember correctly, this is either the Scramble or close to it. Tokyo is sleepy and quiet in the early morning (it was full light by 5 a.m. when we were there, so some days we were out before 6), but it's much more vibrant and energetic in the evening.

Here's an example of how beautifully interior spaces are designed. This is just the top floor of a Uniqlo, and instead of jamming everything together, it's carefully designed to be spacious. Across the way is greenery on top of the building opposite. 

I didn't see many places to sit in department stores. We went entire floors without seeing a single chair or bench. This was the most concentrated collection we saw.

This is from the top of a small mountain we ascended via cable car. There are so many beautiful places in Japan.

This was just a random field in Fujiyama Town, which was rural (at least, the part where we stayed was rural).

A lovely, rushing stream as we walked through Fujiyama Town.

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Japan (Random Notes)

1. One of the very serious questions Eli 22.2 and I considered while we were in Japan was "Does the hammer exist here?"

Eli said, "Of course. The hammer exists everywhere."

I agree, philosophically, but we never saw one. However, we didn't go to a bowling alley or a range, which are two of their preferred environments.

2. I was constantly astounded by how quickly Eli navigated, even in confusing/complex situations. He said, "A lot of good traveling is just information sifting," which is a nice reinforcement of traveling as a skill, not an intuition.

3. We turned on the TV one night and Gamera 3 was on, and the ten minutes I saw were so batshit insane that I can't wait to watch the entire film.

4. One of the things I was very surprised by was the lack of birds. In Tokyo, there were crows, but little else. In Fujiyama Town, no birds at all. In Kyoto and Osaka, I don't remember seeing birds, either.

5. Bullet trains are wondrous, magical things. The first one we rode was called Kodama Superexpress No. 719. Screw airplanes.

6. I'm not sure I saw a water fountain the entire two weeks we were in Japan. Vending machines with water everywhere (and cheap), but no fountains.

7. We were at Universal in Osaka so we could see Super Nintendo World (my favorite theme park experience ever) and it was blazing hot. 94F with a heat index of 105F and full sun. I looked over and there was an adult dressed in a a full-body Yoshi costume, complete with head (to be clear, a customer, not a mascot). I looked over at Eli and said, "Look at him."

Eli said, "I can't believe he's doing that in this heat."

I said, "You never go full Yoshi."

Monday, October 09, 2023

Quite the Ditty

We always had breakfast at hybrid cafes when we were in Japan.

These cafes served some Japanese food, but they also served waffles and other traditionally Western foods. I like Japanese food, but I've never crossed the border into liking cold noodles for breakfast. 

Since almost every café served waffles, that became our go-to for breakfast. These were small waffles, mind you, not even Eggo-sized, but it was enough to get us started. Oh, and no syrup, either. Almost every café served honey instead, which I wound up liking very much. 

Part of that is how things taste differently in Japan. Apple juice tastes like nectar. Honey tastes like candy. Simple things that taste generic here (and are) taste wondrous in Japan. Don't even get me started on wasabi.

So we were having breakfast in this little restaurant, eating our waffles and playing Kings in the Corners (Eli 22.2's favorite new card game), and I noticed the song that was playing in the background. It had some distinctive sections, and I swear I'd heard it a few minutes ago. A few minutes later, it started again. 

"Is that song repeating?" I asked.

Eli nodded. "I think this is the fifth or sixth time," he said.

"What kills me is that no one else notices," I said, "All these employees and no one seems to know."

We kept playing cards, and it kept repeating. Seven times. Eight. Nine.

We'd almost finished the card game, and I pretended to be hearing the song for the first time. "Catchy tune," I said, looking at Eli. "I wonder if we'll hear it again."

He burst out laughing. A few seconds later, the song started again, which sent both of us into laughing fits. I had tears running down my face from laughing so hard.

We didn't get a chance to go back, but I bet that song is still playing.

Thursday, October 05, 2023

Friday Links!

Leading off this week, and absolutely brilliant interview from an outstanding writer: Author Viet Thanh Nguyen on the legacy of “Apocalypse Now”

Too bad her fame is based on fraud (I really admired her as a kid): Diana Nyad’s Swimming Brought Her Glory, Fame, And An Adversary Dedicated To Exposing Her Lies.

From David Gloier, and it's a remarkable discovery: Farmer protecting chickens captures creature considered locally extinct for 130 years. This is remarkable: Pythagorean Theorem Found On Clay Tablet 1,000 Years Older Than Pythagoras

I'd buy one of these tomorrow, if I could: Best Selling Lawn Mower That's Illegal In U.S.. Under construction: Your FIRST LOOK at America’s Only Permanent BATMAN ’66 MUSEUM. A worthwhile essay on the curse of bigness: Google's enshittification memos. I didn't realize they hadn't figured this out: Scientists Think They've Finally Figured Out How Cats Purr. The shows are wildly off in their order, but as a list of fifty great shows, it's excellent: Hollywood Reporter Critics Pick the 50 Best TV Shows of the 21st Century (So Far).

From C. Lee, and this should be getting more attention: The Dark History Oppenheimer Didn’t Show. A bizarre relic of the Cold War: We Got Our Hands on an HK G11, the Space-Age Rifle That Never Was. And here's the new one: We Fired the Army’s New Rifle and Machine Gun. It Was a Heavy-Metal Experience. Well-presented data: Visualizing $156 Trillion in U.S. Assets, by Generation. I've actually started using this budgeting method: Kakeibo: The Japanese art of saving money. This is supremely embarrassing: Microsoft blames human error, not AI, for recommending tourists visit a food bank on an empty stomach. It wasn't just that article, though: Pluralistic: Supervised AI isn't. This is astonishing: Humanoid Robot Can Fly a Plane Just By Reading the Manual. A hero: Remembering man who saved Koreans in 1923 post-quake chaos. Congratulations, and Penn must be ruing the day: Nobel Prize Awarded to Covid Vaccine Pioneers

A Quick Story

Doorways in Japan are of many heights.

Most are fine, for a 6'0" person (for two 6'0" people, actually), but after going through dozens with no problem, there will suddenly be one that is 5'10". This is particularly difficult in a dwelling where rooms have been added on, like some of the places we stayed. 

As a result, for the first week or so, I whacked my head quite often. Three or four times a day. 

"Stop doing that!" Eli 22.2 said, laughing. He almost never hit his head. I almost never stopped hitting mine. This was the third time I'd hit my head on this particular doorway in one day. 

"Someday, when I'm dead, and the doctors find evidence of CTE," I said, "they'll ask you if I played professional football, and you can just say, 'No, but he did go to Japan.' "

Wednesday, October 04, 2023

The Bar in Kyoto

Eli 22.2 sent me a picture of the bar:

Hanshin Tigers Fever

We decided we were all-in on the Hanshin Tigers, so when we arrived in Osaka, we went straight to the Hanshin Team Store, which was on the top floor of an eleven-story department store. We walked through a large art exhibition on the eleventh floor when we got off the elevator, which was quite the juxtaposition to what we saw next.

The team store was a madhouse.

There were sixty people in line, and the merchandise area was so crowded you could barely pick your way through. I managed to secure two hats before the walls were bare. "What is happening?" I asked Eli 22.2.

He laughed. "This is absolutely crazy."

We asked the clerks at the checkout if it was always like this, and they laughed and said "Never."

Here's the hat, by the way:

After we checked into the capsule hotel, we went back out for dinner. Eli took us to an entertainment district whose name I can't remember, but it was unbelievably loud and crowded for a Thursday night. 

This crowded:


I just thought Osaka was really, really crowded. Then we saw this (which is one of my favorite pictures from the trip):

It's in the far background of the picture, but there are police buses lined up across the bridge. 

"What have we wandered into?" I asked. I looked at Eli. "If it's a political demonstration, keep moving." He laughed.

Eventually, we figured it out. Hanshin needed a win that night to clinch a playoff spot. That's the game everyone was watching in the foreground of the first picture. They did win, about half an hour after we left, which set off a raucous celebration. The police buses were there just in case.

We were so lucky to have that encounter with the bartender the night before, because it framed everything that happened the next day. 

Now we're on the Hanshin Tigers hype train. I'm trying to figure out how to stream the playoffs (it's not easy). I may be waking up at 6 a.m. to watch playoff games. 

I mean, it's my team. It's the least I can do.

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

Very Strong

We visited well-known places in Japan (particularly temples), but we also got off the beaten track as often as possible. One of my favorite things about spending time with Eli 22.2 has always been that we can go anywhere or do anything and wind up with stories.

It's been like this all the way back to his 3.5 days, and it's never changed.

We were looking for a place to eat dinner in Kyoto, and the first two places we went to were closed. Since nothing in Japan is closed on Sunday, lots of places close one day during the week. Eli kept looking, and we went down a side street and wound up in front of a bar he said had very high ratings. 

We could see inside, because there was a wall of windows running along its length. It was small, with just a counter that would seat 8-10 people, and no one was inside except the bartender. In the corner was a nicely-sized television, and a Nippon Professional Baseball game was playing. "Japanese baseball," I said. "I'm in."

"Me, too," Eli said, and we went into the bar.

I have an unusual relationship with Japanese baseball. I played the NPB baseball game Pro Yakyuu Spirits (Konami) in the early 2000s and it was far better than any sports game released in the U.S. I'm also fascinated by the national high school championships held at Koshien each year, which have a legendary history. Add in  Chrysanthemum and the Bat, and I know enough to know a little.

The bartender looked surprised when we walked in, since this wasn't a tourist bar. He was in his early forties and didn't speak much English, but let us know through gestures and a few words that the menu was in Japanese only. We also found out there was no food, but it was so pleasant inside we decided to stay for a drink. 

We turned toward the game in the corner. 

"Who's playing?" Eli asked.

"One of those teams is the Hanshin Tigers," I said, because I recognized them.

"You know Hanshin?" the bartender asked, clearly surprised. 

We then went through a halting conversation where I explained how I played Pro Spirits and he was even more surprised. He's played it, too, he said. He grew up near Osaka (Hanshin's home city) and had been a fan his whole life, but they never win. This year, though, they were in first place in their division. 

He served our drinks and then it was just three guys watching a baseball game. 

Hanshin loaded the bases, but the batter struck out. Two outs. The next batter walked up and the bartender flexed his bicep and said, "Strong." 

The count reached 2-1, and then a pitch drifted over the plate and there was the crack of the bat and we were all yelling at the same time. It went ten rows into the stands and all three of us were fist-bumping and the bartender laughed and said, "Very strong."

We stayed for another half hour, talking the whole time, even with the language barrier. When we walked out, I looked at Eli and said, "That's going to be the highlight of the trip, no matter what else happens."

"No doubt," he said. 

Monday, October 02, 2023

Sisyphus, Now With Customs Documents

Japan stories tomorrow. Today, a brief recounting of how I spent 10 hours yesterday and 3 today getting Eli 22.2's goalie gear shipped to England.

Let me just say this up front: encourage your kid to swim or run track. 

Eli has settled into being in England again, and he's thrilled. All he needs is his goalie gear for tryouts next week. The logical course of action would have been for him to take it with him, except he was already taking two huge suitcases and two carry-ons when he flew out. Adding a massive goalie bag, a pad bag, and a stick bag would have been far too much.

Enter me.

I knew it was going to take a while to sort all this out. You know how much gear a goalie wears. Could I just ship the bags? Did I need to box up the gear, and if so, how many boxes? How much would it cost? What kinds of documents would I need? How long would this all take?

I mentioned this before, but Eli is so self-sufficient that he rarely needs help, but when he does, it tends to be something thorny and complex, like this. I knew it was going to take a good while, and I knew there was no one to help me. 

I miss having help. I'm incredibly self-reliant, but even I'd like help sometimes.

A brief recap of the timeline that emerged. Talk to Send My Bag (Eli used them when he came back from England two years ago). That spanned three phone calls and half a dozen emails, including a discussion of why I could just ship the bags, but the risk of damage was much higher because they lacked structural support. Spend hours analyzing options for packaging, then playing  infinite Tetris to see how much I could fit into a 28"x25"x25" box (incredibly, all of it except the sticks). Comparing price quotes for one big box versus three smaller ones (each box cheaper, but no difference in total price). It was detail after detail after detail. 

After detail.

53 pounds, not including the sticks. Then seemingly endless customs declarations and documents. Eli's class schedule and term of study, strangely. Every time I thought I was done, something else was required.

It was exhausting, really. 

Today I used the dolly to move the box from the house to Eli's CRV and drove to DHL. It seemed impossible that it would actually ship, but it did. I felt 53 pounds lighter as I walked back to the car.

By the way, Send My Bag was superb. It's the best customer support I've had this century, and I'm not even kidding. No, I didn't get a discount. How refreshing to have people who are highly skilled at their job and excellent at communication.

I guess I did get help. Just not in person.

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