TheLeong.com

Rarely updated, rarely disappointing

2012-2Q

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Inadvertently, my blog posts are now coming out at about a rate of once per quarter, which kind of sucks but hey what are you going to do?  I’m sure of the at most three people who still follow this blog (myself included), only one might be annoyed.  Oh well, let’s take a recap at what exciting and not-so-exciting things have happened to The Leong since our last episode.

 

. . .

 

Uh, surely something happened right??

Well I guess I should mention work, since that is what I have to do every day.  We had our busy season through April, which was pretty hectic but I’ve become a lot more comfortable with the job since last year’s busy season.  Of course once that was over things got much better and I don’t have to go in on weekends anymore to grind away at the sheer pile of excitement known as accountingologymatics.  That’s a word right?  Sorry I’m new at this stuff.  But really, I didn’t find the season to be that bad this year, although it was a lot of hours and a many times where sifting through paperwork and starting at a computer screen all day really got tiring.

Because work was busier, I only took one class during the fall semester, and it was an 8AM class – and yes, it was as awesome as you would imagine.  Especially fun was the 30-40 minute rush hour drive towards and through downtown St. Louis.  I suppose I am really fortunate now that my normal commute to work is less than 10 minutes, while only a few years ago it was more like an hour and a half, mostly on disgusting, crowded Tokyo trains and subways.  There is not much else to share about this past class (primarily because it would be too much excitement and you would probably be really jealous of me) although I am happy to say that I destroyed it and earned the grade “You’re the man now dog.”  I think this is worth a 4.x on the standard grade point scale.

Not soon after tax season ended, in April I took a weekend trip out to Bloomington to meet up with some friends.  It was awesome to see everyone, and going out in Bloomington with friends is still a lot of fun.  I don’t think it would be a lot of fun if you were by yourself, because the population has definitely stayed the same average age while I have aged a bit in the past 6 years.  OK so that last sentence is unnecessary, because 1) who would go out by themselves? and 2) of course it is more fun with friends.  Never mind.  And in case you haven’t noticed by the lack of coherence in this post, I am just typing as fast as I can, with little to no editing or care given to trivial matters like “paragraphs,” “writing flow,” or “engaging readers.”  But yes Bloomington was a lot of fun, and as proof of the kind of misfits I was hanging out with, I would like to share this photo of the infamous Nikolai “Hold Button” Roberts7000.

I took another vacation last month, but that will have to wait until my next post.  It should not take me another 3 months to get around to writing it, I swear.

年末 Back to the Japan

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At multiple points during the past few months, I’ve (OK fine, only very slightly) deluded myself into believing that 2012 would have me jumping back on the blogging bandwagon, rather than neglecting this poor excuse of a website, save for a minor post once every few months that consists mostly of me talking about how I don’t blog anymore.  So ignoring that, I’m not going to waste any more time talking about not blogging.  I am going to just do it.  So hold on to your butts, here comes a somewhat old-school style mind barf as I recount my short trip back to old Nippon in a semi-followable manner.

START UP!

Despite booking the ticket to Japan back in like August, it still seems like it kind of crept up on me.  Could have been because December was pretty busy with school and work, but all of a sudden it was Christmas and even sooner after that I realized that I needed to pack to head over to Japan.  This was the first time going back since returning to the US in August of 2010.  Nervousness, anxiety, curiosity, dyslexia – I had none of these issues while preparing for my “return voyage.”  As I’ve explained to a few people since, going to Japan just isn’t a huge deal for me anymore.  It’s along the same lines as if I’m going to take a trip to Bloomington: I of course look forward to revisiting old hangouts, seeing friends who are still around, walking down familiar streets, and all that normal stuff.  It’s fun and I love going, but going to Tokyo is no longer a big adventure.  It really doesn’t even feel like I’m going to a foreign country at all.  I don’t think this is a bad thing, but rather something to be expected after so many trips to Japan, topped off by living there full time for four years.  So while it might sound amazing to some people when I say “I’m spending New Years vacation in Tokyo,” really it’s not such a big deal for me.

I was back in the Tokyo/Chiba area for about a week and a half total, which seems like a long vacation but honestly still is a pretty short trip.  Especially when trying to meet up with so many people in the area and hitting up old favorite restaurants and shops, I do kind of wish I could have stayed longer.  I definitely feel like I didn’t waste any days over there though – pretty much every day had something planned at least roughly.  It seems like a lot of old friends would say “wow  you haven’t changed at all!” which I guess is better than hearing something like “my god you’ve turned into a totally different person” or “Godzilla is attacking the city!”  At first I thought it was a little strange, but I did quickly come to realize that although a  year and a half had passed, not much really had changed.  Everyone and everywhere is pretty much the same as before, which I guess should be kind of expected.  It’s hard to explain the feeling.  I guess if anything, it was weird that it wasn’t weird to be back in Japan.

This is getting a lot more introspective than I thought it would have.  I guess I should give more details about what I actually did during my week and a half over there.  I didn’t really do anything touristy of course, so it was more just hanging out with friends and hitting up old tabehodai buffets and restaurants.  Also I expectedly bought a decent amount of plastic toys and junk.  Surprisingly though, my suitcases didn’t come back as full as I might have thought they would.

The flight over to Narita was via Chicago, on an early morning series of flights.  Following my modus operandi for international travel, I stayed up the entire night beforehand packing, which means I was pretty exhausted as I stumbled around O’Hare waiting for my international flight.  Finally got to my seat, and luckily there was an empty seat in my row so I could spread out a bit more with an empty seat separating me from the next passenger.  I slept around a total of 6 or 7 fairly solid hours during the 11 hour flight, eventually watching some TV on my iPhone.  Breezed through immigration, getting the first stamps in my brand new, renewed passport, and picked up the rental SIM card I had pre-arranged for my iPhone.  It did feel slightly cool and spy-like, picking up a package at the airport post office, going to a bench in the corner, swapping the SIM card from the rental phone into my own, and having my iPhone work in Japan.  Or it might have just been the jetlag and lack of sleep doing their thing.

As I was spending the first few nights of my trip in Chiba, at the Mitsui Garden Hotel just 2 or 3 blocks from my old apartment, the nostalgia kicked in pretty quick.  Took JR from the airport to Chiba, and cabbed it from there.  First meal was kind of late, at Choshimaru, for real sushi that was actually prepared fresh with fresh ingredients.  It might not be a fancy place, but it’s light years above what they have in St. Louis (no offense to the many St. Louis sushi shop owners who I’m sure read this blog religiously).   Crashed hard that night, sleeping until late the next afternoon.  Jetlag wasn’t too bad after that, although my sleep schedule was slightly weird for the first few days.  It might not have helped that there was an all night party/karaoke planned for my first full day in Japan.  I was surprised that I could stay awake for as long as I did, being jetlagged and out of practice for so long.

Hmm… If I actually do a full, detailed description of every day back in Japan, this entry will be way too long.  I’m going to have to kind of summarize stuff from here on out.  I’ll throw in some pictures though, since supposedly 1 picture is worth 1,000 words.  Coincidentally, this is much, much better than the exchange rate of 1 USD to Japanese Yen.

千葉神社での初詣

Spent New Years Eve in Chiba, with the countdown to 2012 at The Hub.  On New Years Day checked out Chiba Shrine for a kind of hatsumode I guess, which was actually pretty cool because I don’t recall ever going to a shrine on New Years Day proper.  It was of course super packed with people.  That afternoon I changed hotels to spend the middle portion of my trip in “THE TOKYO.”  Got a pretty good and cheap hotel, the Keikyu EX Inn Asakusabashi-Ekimae, which ended up being great and a good central base of operations for doing stuff in the city.  Went to Kamen Rider The Diner in Ikebukuro, saw the national college rugby semi-finals, and almost died eating shabu-shabu tabehodai.  I feel like my mass-eating skills have gone down significantly since leaving Japan, which is kind of a shame.  It was delicious, but wow there is only so much beef and goma-dare you can eat.  The next morning I experienced a post-food coma food-hangover of epic proportions, which could be the really disgusting plot for The Hangover Part 3 if those writers get really desperate.  

Ichiran ramen - I am drooling as I look at this pic

Speaking of food, that was definitely one of the highlights of the trip, since it really is just totally different being back in the States.  When you’re in Japan for a long time, you really start to miss stuff like pizza, Mexican food, and steak.  I mean, you can get all of those foods in Japan, but they’re just not the same.  They’ll work, and there are even some good places to go, but you still always are wishing you could get stuff from the other side of the pond.  Well after being in the US for a long time the same thing starts to happen with Japanese food.  Sushi, ramen, donburi, and stuff like that are kind of available in the US (especially in places like LA or NY), but it’s still not the same.  So being back in Japan was awesome at the very least just because of all the good food.

Y's 新年会 2012Got to see a lot of old friends (thanks to everyone who made time to hang out!) at random times during the trip, but the main event was of course a massive party at Y’s with tons of people.  Since the IES days in 2004, Y’s really has been the location for some of the best and most memorable events and parties, so it was awesome to go back and do another one there like in the old days.  Bryan and Karen, who also live back in the US now, happened to be  in Japan while I was there so it really was like a massive reunion.  All in all it was a great time and I got to see a ton of people who I hadn’t seen in at least the year and a half since I moved back to St. Louis.  Even certain friends who only have a 60% encounter rate for Y’s events showed up, haha.  We went back to Chiba afterwards for all night karaoke again and I actually managed to stay up the whole time.

The last part of my trip I went back to stay Chiba, and was able to meet up with some old AEON people, etc. who couldn’t make it to Y’s because of the Saturday work shifts.  It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long since I graduated college and moved to Japan to work as an English teacher.  Actually, I only now realize as I type this that that was about five and a half years ago.  Things have changed but then again they really haven’t.  I could definitely see myself moving back to Japan at some point, although I am honestly pretty happy with the way things are progressing back in St. Louis right now.  I’m definitely not going to just settle down here for good just yet, so maybe in a few years I’ll get the urge to work and live abroad again.  I guess you could say that life right now is a lot more routine than during the years I spent in Japan, but I don’t know if that’s because I’m busier and living in the American suburbs, or if it’s just because I’m getting older.  Eh, I’m not really worried about it because I still have several more years of wandering around the planet trying to figure out what I’ll do when/if I grow up.

And with that, since my eyes are starting to close on their own  I guess I will wind down this absurdly long post.  I am seriously going to try to at least post more often than once a month during 2012, but that is a promise that will most likely be broken several times if not every month.  Actually, I’m sure I’ll have at least one  follow up post regarding weird or random stuff I saw in Japan, so there is at least some content there.

Here goes my attempt at logging my trip.

5:38AM – Right now I’m sitting on a plane to Chicago waiting for takeoff. I stayed awake the entire night packing and getting other stuff done for the trip/end of the year, which is per my usual pre-flight routine.  I am sure that I’ll sleep the entire way to Chicago. Will probably be able to sleep at least a good 6 hours of the 11 hour flight from Chicago to Tokyo. I didn’t really fill up both of the suitcases I brought, but hopefully that will allow me some flexibility in buying crappy Japanese robot toys and other stuff that I don’t need anyway.

Note (1/30/12): Yeah that was pretty pathetic.  That’s the only mini-entry I wrote during my entire trip to Japan for New Years.  I’ll have to do a real recap sometime soon.

Technology, baby

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One of my accounting textbooks was talking about statistical analysis using computers, and had this photo.  I had no choice but to laugh, take a picture, and upload it here for no one’s enjoyment.  Computers one day may be in many homes!

Benefits: can display several shades of green to help visually represent data, business records can be saved on floppy disks that hold over an entire megabyte each.
Downsides: very costly and not realistic for home use, internet will not be available for about 10 years.

Computers: wave of the future

All Ones

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It’s 11:11 on 11/11/11!!!  That’s all I have for now.

A real post sometime soon though, I hope.

Parking Lot Warfare

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I was going to title this post “Parking Wars” but then I realized that it is the title of one of those A&E reality shows.  I’d hate for someone to think I was going to write an article about that show, since while I’ve never seen it, I’m assuming it is crap.  Hardcore Pawn, however, I will most likely write about one of these days because it is awesome and so much better than Pawn Stars.

Oops, got off track there.

Starting at the end of last month, I have been engaging in a bi-weekly battle of wits, cunning, and tactical espionage action.  Wait maybe not that last one, as cool as that would be.  The fall semester started, and due to various scheduling issues and availability of classes, I am now taking daytime classes twice a week instead of in the evening like I had been doing since I moved back last year.  This change from evening to daytime classes means that I am now on campus when the majority of other people are, which basically makes parking 7000% more difficult and infuriating.  While the past two semesters I had no real troubles pulling into the parking garage and landing a spot, I’m now being forced to develop my parking shark skills in hunting, tracking, and waiting.  I’ve gotten better as the weeks have progressed, and I’m sure that by December I will be a parking master.  I don’t really remember ever having to park this aggressively.  In high school we had assigned parking spots, at IU I (eventually) had the “god” pass to let me park pretty much anywhere I wanted, and in Japan I didn’t drive.  I usually try to avoid holiday shopping so that wasn’t much of an issue either.  But now, I’m finally at a point in my life where I must park to live.  And by live I mean make it to my class on time.

The first day of class this semester I left my house with what I thought was plenty of time to spare.  I arrived on campus about 30 minutes before class started, and like a fool drove over to the parking garage next to the building I had class in.  5 levels of garage and not a single space.  I circled around a few times and figured I’d try my luck in another lot, one that was further away but still very walkable.  Not a single opening.  There were even people parked on the sides of the lot and on grass, etc.  The first week of class you don’t need a parking pass so I figured there would be a slightly higher number of cars.  I drove to the other side of the quadrangle, thinking there would be spots in one of the two lots around the student center.  Nothing.  By now I had 15 minutes left before class.  Frustration was building.  I witnessed people successfully stalking behind people who were walking to their cars and I tried the same strategy to no avail.  I even saw one person do the stalk, wait patiently for their claimed spot, only to be cheated by some girl in a Mustang convertible who appeared out of nowhere and hijacked the spot!  (Very ballsy, I’d say!).  What was even more ridiculous was that the lot I was now patrolling had a large portion of it taped off, empty and in plain view but unparkable.  I don’t know if it was for construction or what, but it seemed like poor management by the university to let a big area of a prime parking lot be unusable during the first week of classes.  The best way to describe my state of mind at this point would be the internet meme “rage face,” which I just Google Image searched and there are so many awesome variations I can’t choose just one.  Check out the search results yourself and imagine me making that face while creeping around looking for a spot.

After considering parking in a non-spot on the grass or even moving the barriers blocking off part of the lot, I finally landed a parking spot 10 minutes after class began.  Rage calming I went to class late.  Over the past few weeks I have refined my parking techniques through trial and error and haven’t been late to class since.  For a while I was using the slightly further away parking lot, waiting like a patient Chuck Norris ready to strike until I spotted someone walking towards the lot from the far-off school buildings.  Most of the time this worked, although it was a lot of waiting for a less than optimal parking spot.  It was hard not to hum the Jaws score when I saw a potential target, whose parking spot would hopefully be mine.

I’ve graduated from the deep sea hunting technique, and now I don’t even need to leave my house as early as before.  I didn’t think this whole thing through before, (I mean it’s just parking, right?) but now I have figured out that it’s best to get to campus and go to the garage around 15-20 minutes before my class, since this is when the previous class period lets out.  With that class letting out, it sends a decent stream of people to the garage who are going home and thus vacating their parking spots.  It’s not exactly easy, because the garage brings with it a lot more competition for parking spaces, and there are even people who stop their cars in the garage facing the stairwell, waiting for someone to leave.  I’ve run into the same girl more than once now who will wait near an entrance, yell at people asking where their spot is, and she then goes to that spot.  Unknowingly I was stalking behind one of her already marked targets, and when she saw me turn my blinker on the blasted her horn and yelled out the window “NU-UH! THAT’S MINE!”  So yeah parking is pretty intense.  Now I usually do a quick circle when I first arrive, and if there are no spots open by then I slowly drive around the main (ground) level for people to be leaving.  I’ve been able to successfully nab a spot every time using this technique.  Parking warfare has been an educational experience, although it would be much easier if this school just had more parking spaces.  Or less commuters.

And wow, yes I did just write several paragraphs about parking.

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