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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.

Recent travels

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Last month I headed to Vegas for a sort of mini family vacation. Well I guess it really was a family vacation, although it seems weird to say that considering my brothers and I are all grown now, and the primary reason for the trip was to gamble.  My brothers, parents, and I flew out to Vegas on a Sunday and met up with my uncle who drove in.  We were originally supposed to leave on Saturday, but due to “mystery electrical events” that supposedly occurred at some airport in Minnesota, every flight in the Midwest was held up or cancelled.  That excuse might sound fake and ridiculous, and I totally agree.  But that’s what Delta was telling us as the reason why we couldn’t be rerouted on another flight to Vegas, even though we were at the airport at like 8AM.  We were rebooked for the next morning, having to fly through Atlanta (going the opposite direction from St. Louis, mind you) in two separate groups.  Thanks Delta, I really appreciate your customer service not to mention you shortening my Vegas trip by an entire day.  We weren’t even given free flight vouchers or anything, which I honestly kind of thought they had to do in this kind of situation.  Maybe the rules are different for those mystery events that they can’t explain.  Meh.

So once we got to Vegas and waited in a taxi queue that literally wrapped around the airport building, we checked into our rooms at the Luxor and it was time to go big.  And by that I mean In N Out Burger.  Oh yeah, and gambling.

This beautiful scenery was paid for by a bunch of losers' money

Overall I’d say while the Strip is great for the flashy experience, party atmosphere, and buildings shaped like monuments, I think I preferred gambling off the strip.  Minimum bets on the strip are just way too high and money goes too fast.  After getting the strip experience the first few nights, we went to a decent number of off the strip casinos like Silverton, Green Valley, “M,” and the whole downtown area and it was a lot more relaxed and fun for me.  Also not to mention that you can bet less money and play games with better odds, like 2 deck Blackjack as opposed to the 8 deck electronic shuffler ones on the strip.  You’re surrounded by a lot more locals and old people when you go off the strip, but for gambling (as opposed to partying, etc), it definitely seems like the way to go.

We didn’t gamble the entire time we were there of course.  We also checked out this awesome “museum” called the Pinball Hall of Fame, which has tons of pinball machines set up to play.  They’ve got machines going way back to probably at least the 1950’s, all the way up to machines that are still being manufactured today.  As a big pinball fan from when I was a kid, this place was better than Disneyland.  (I mean that literally, since even the tea cup ride makes me want to puke).  It also helps that I bought a pinball game for PS3 earlier this year, and have played it a lot.  Not as much as my dad, mind you, who plays it probably every day.  It has a lot of old Williams machines, very accurately recreated in HD.  After playing that for a few months it really makes you want to play a real pinball machine.  The Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame was the perfect way to take a break from gambling but still getting to do something different and fun.Las Vegas Pinball Hall of Fame

While we only had like 4 days in Vegas, it was a pretty solid trip and I didn’t lose as much money as I had budgeted for, which is always a good thing.  I’ll have to keep an eye out again for cheap airfare/hotels to head out there again.  Also my god we ate at so many buffets, ranging from decent to ridiculously amazing.

A few weeks after the Vegas trip, I drove out to Bloomington for a weekend to meet up with some friends.  It is definitely getting a little stranger every time I head back to good ol’ B-town, primarily because I don’t have many (any?) friends who actually live in Bloomington anymore and I am about 6 or 7 years older now than your typical undergrad student.  Not to say that Bloomington isn’t still a great trip.  I had 4 of the best years of my life there and it’s worth the drive to go visit old friends, see the old and new parts of campus, and eat some good food.  A certain SOB did end up bailing out on us at the very last minute, though, which was disappointing.

Instead of getting a hotel like last time, I tried out AirBnB for the first time – it’s basically a website where individuals rent out rooms in their homes or even their entire home for prices usually less than what a hotel would run.  I had heard about it a while back since a friend from college now works there apparently, and this seemed like a good chance to try it out.  Surprisingly even a college town like Bloomington had a decent number of available places, and we were able to rent an entire house for the weekend.  It ended up being a great way to stay comfortably without paying as much as what a hotel would have been.  I’ll have the try it out again sometime when I have the chance.  There are ratings, feedback, etc. on the site so you can get a decent idea of where you’ll be staying, hopefully avoiding any creepers and such.  But my first experience on there was pretty good, even though I don’t know if I’d really want to stay with someone I didn’t know.  Getting the entire house for our group worked out really well though.

Whoa it’s almost April

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I’ve been putting off writing a blog for a while since I’ve mainly just been lazy, but partially also because I’ve been busy.  Working full time and going to school three times a week has left less time for publishing complaints and stupid pictures onto the internet.  But since I realize it’s been quite a while since my past post, and I don’t want to go several months with no updates to this crappy website, I’m just sitting down for 10 minutes to crank out a quickie.  Ew.

Topic 1: JAPAN
Hey you might not know this, but Japan got super mega knocked with a disaster trifecta earlier this month!  Of course you know this, I was just being sarcastic.  So yeah in case you were unaware of my current whereabouts, I am back in the United States and have been since the end of summer.  If you’re one of the four creepers who read this site, you already knew that.  But there apparently are still several people who didn’t know where I was, and so they assumed I was still in Japan.  Imagine that!  Someone not keeping their eye on my every move around the planet!  So once the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear stuff came about I had more than one person contact me all like “hey Anthony where are you I hope you’re not dead” etc.  Thank you for your concern, but yeah St. Louis county didn’t get too much damage from the earthquake that hit Japan.  No seriously, it’s nice that you did ask where I was.  I don’t really know what to say about the Japanese disasters other than it’s a horrible thing and I’m glad that no one I know (that I have heard about, either directly or indirectly) has been injured or anything.  While the area that I lived in (Chiba/Toyko) wasn’t in the tsunami area, they still got (are getting?) a ton of earthquakes and the nuclear problem is pretty widespread although possibly a bit blown out of proportion.  I hope.  Times are still tough in Japan but I hope that things will all get back to normal sometime soon.

Topic 2: WEATHER
It’s finally feeling like spring here, even though a week ago it was actually snowing where I live.  Strange midwest weather.  I’m definitely happy that things are getting nicer outside, with the only drawback being that I must have developed some pretty wicked allergies having been away from the area for so long.  Getting some random allergy attacks is pretty weird although not really a problem as much as they’re just annoying.  Still not sure if it’s actually pollen, mold or something, or if I am being secretly poisoned with nuts in all of my food by a squad of ninjas.  I hope it’s seasonal allergies.

Oh no I’m getting distracted by the interwebs.  Weather must have been too boring a topic!  Onward we march.

Topic 3: SUMMER TRAVEL
This summer I’ll hopefully be able to get some traveling in, with the family and also on my own.  Where should I go?  I’m thinking primarily within the US for now but international isn’t out of the picture just yet.  My youngest brother turns 21 in a few weeks so maybe we’ll go take a Vegas trip after the spring semester is over.  I also wouldn’t mind hitting up LA or New York or something, and a drive out to Indiana at some point is probably called for too.

Topic 4: OTHER
OK so I’m not really going to have many other topics during this brief mindbarf onto the WordPress page.  Last week I was actually all raring to write a detailed complaint post about the idiot lady in front of me in the checkout line at Target, who pretty much held up my evening by a whole 10 minutes, but then I got distracted and found something better to do.  Like eat dinner.  It would have been a very classic NR7000-esque post, but unfortunately the fire is gone and I probably won’t be writing about that subject ever.  It did make me think about how much I’ve grown to dislike shopping in real stores and how important Amazon Prime has become.  Speaking of, I got a pretty sweet remote control helicopter a while back and I don’t even care if you’re snickering to yourself right now about me getting another toy.  It is pretty awesome and on an even deeper level I think I’m just amazed at how far toy technology has come since I was a kid.  I mean for $25 I have a freaking helicopter!  It can hover and fly around the room and land on the top of my cheese ball barrel.  You pretty much have to see one for yourself to beleive it.

That’s enough for now.  A whole 15 minutes of me rambling.

HK bonus story of terror

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Even though the previous blog post is dated September 8 (the day I started writing it), I didn’t actually get around to finishing and publishing it until earlier this afternoon. I almost totally forgot about the return trip from Hong Kong, which was quite possibly one of the worst travel experiences I’ve ever had. The day I was leaving HK, it had been cloudy and raining here and there for most of the morning. My flight wasn’t until about 3:30 in the afternoon, so I had a pretty easy morning and got to the airport super early.  Checked my bags in, grabbed some roast pork and duck for lunch, and everything seemed to be going fine.

しかし!!

Things did not turn out fine. Due to thunderstorms, our plane was stuck on the tarmac for over 4 hours. This was after we had already boarded and everything, so that entire time we were sitting on the plane, without drinks, TV, food, good air circulation, etc. All the captain/attendants would tell us over the intercom was that fights were delayed due to weather and they would let us know when we would be moving. Oh, and they apologized several times. Which, unfortunately, does absolutely nothing to actually ease the pain of having to sit on an airplane that is not moving for longer than your actual scheduled flight time. I’m sure there are safety regulations to keep planes from letting their passengers off after they’ve boarded once, even though that would have been so much nicer. Better yet, they shouldn’t have boarded our plane at all if they knew that the storms were severe enough to keep us from moving. It’s not like the thunder just came out of nowhere between the time they started boarding and the time they closed the hatch on us. I fell asleep a few times but the time still passed by pretty slowly. Then we finally took off, so you’d think that would be the end of the nightmare.

Nope! About halfway through the 4 hour flight, the captain comes on and tells us that since our arrival time is now looking to be around midnight (8:00 scheduled + 4 hour delay), we will be unable to land at Narita Airport as scheduled. Apparently Narita, the biggest international airport in all of Japan, closes at 11:30 at night. I still don’t understand this one, since I’m sure it doesn’t actually close. But regardless they were no longer going to be taking me to the airport that is about 45 minutes away from my apartment. No, they’re instead going to Haneda, the primarily domestic airport south of Tokyo that is about an hour and a half away from home. That is, if there are trains running. Which there weren’t, since most Japanese trains stop running around midnight. I realized very quickly that I was going to be stranded as Haneda airport with no way to go home, but there wasn’t much I could do before we landed. The air staff also assured us that they’d “take care of us and help us get home” which made me think, with the slight bit of optimism I still had left at that point, that they would either put me up in a hotel near Haneda or pay for a cab all the way home. I should have known that wouldn’t happen.

Arrived at Haneda, and everyone is stranded. The airline, ANA, gave all passengers 5000 yen (about 50 USD) as we exited the plane. That’s all. No hotel stays, no coupons for flights, nothing. And of course at this point there are no trains, and a taxi back to Chiba would have cost me well over 200 (maybe even 300) dollars US. There was a super pissy Australian guy with long hair who made a bit of a whiny scene at the payphone lobby, but there’s not much to go into there. So yeah I was trying to figure out what to do, and eventually I decided to just take a taxi to the southernmost (i.e. closest) part of Tokyo, where hopefully there would be a capsule hotel or a net cafe. Talked to the cabbie and told him my situation. Shinagawa was close but there weren’t really any net cafes there. So I opted for Gotanda, which was fairly close and has some net cafes (in addition to lots of super shady stores and people around the vicinity). Taxi fare cost me like 7000 yen, and I had to spend the night in a cheap net cafe, which cost another 2000 yen. Thanks a lot ANA for a great welcome back.

I went home the next morning at about 8AM tired, still pissed, and lugging my suitcases around. The only extremely minor benefit from this excursion to the net cafe was that I got to watch Ame-Talk for the first time, which is actually a pretty funny talk show. But yeah that was it. The ordeal wasn’t enough to ruin the HK trip necessarily, but it was a pretty terrible way to end my last vacation during my stay in Japan.

Please don’t make Inception 2

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Saw Inception last night and it was amazingly awesome.  An excellently made film with a good cast, great special effects, and most importantly, an original and solid script that’s not based on a comic book, television series, toy line, or a poorly made sequel or remake.  Apparently there are still some original films being made in Hollywood.  I won’t really post any spoilers or go into plot specifics because I’m too lazy and you should see the movie for yourself if you haven’t.  I never really thought of Leonardo DiCaprio as a good actor since I just hadn’t seen many movies with him, but Mr. Titanic is pretty impressive in this movie.  I also just happened to see The Departed for the first time last week since it was on TV here, and that was pretty good too.

So yeah, Inception was very impressive.  It was a great balance of action, suspense, SFX, philosophy, and any other words that people who actually know what they’re talking about might throw in there when discussing film.  That being said, I really hope they never make a sequel.  I know, I know, some people are probably thinking that such a great concept leaves a lot of room for a second or even third film.  And of course studio execs would love to milk this for as much as they can get.  But if you couldn’t tell from the first paragraph, I am so sick and tired of sequels and other excuses to make unoriginal films.  What is wrong with people in Hollywood?  OK not just Hollywood, since Japanese films are now almost exclusively comic book based and terrible.  Is there that much of a lack of originality?  Or is it a lack of balls to take a chance on something untested, instead going for something with a pre-existing fanbase who you hope to milk for money.  Star Trek a few years ago was admittedly a pretty good movie, but if that much money and manpower was put towards making an original space sci-fi action movie, couldn’t it have been even cooler?  G.I. Joe is a good example of  a movie that probably relied too much on building off people’s nostalgia but ended up being more or less awful.

The Matrix was an amazing movie, and I still think it is, but the sequel wasn’t nearly as good and the third movie was absolutely terrible.  Rather than make a sequel to Inception I’d love to see Christopher Nolan write and direct a totally brand new film.  Sure an Inception sequel could be great, but it could also be a reason to get lazy.  And no, you can’t improve on a crappy film by making it 3D, regardless of what every studio seems to think right now.

Also another minor note about movies: I hate sitting around until the end of the credits on the off chance there’s an extra scene.  I complained about this back when I saw Watchmen.  After writing that blog I found and commented about this site called MovieStinger that actually lists whether or not a movie has a bonus scene after the credits.  I need to remember to check this from now on when going to the theater, because I really am sick of sitting there for nothing.  Had I remembred about this site before, I would have known that Inception has nothing after the credits and I should have just left immediately.

Chinese APad/iPed

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Saw a Japanese news report earlier today on YouTube via TokyoMango about a Chinese iPad knockoff called the APad (or iPed?) that’s been popping up recently.  The reporter goes to the big shopping center in Shenzhen to check out the device at a shop selling it.  To be honest, I think I’d be more likely to buy one of these than a real iPad, especially since I’m thinking of heading over to HK or China sometime before August anyway.

The device’s casing looks almost exactly like the iPad, and it has a camera and full touchscreen.  To make it even better it also runs Android meaning that the thing is probably super customizable and would give you more freedom than a real iPad ever would without maybe jailbreaking it or something.  Sure the specs might not be as good as the real thing, but considering that it costs less than USD$100 I’d say it’s not a bad deal.  I’m not likely to spend 500 bucks on an iPad that I realistically wouldn’t use that much, but if I have a chance to get an APad I think it’d be worth having another toy to play around with.

On a side note it’s funny how often Japanese news has stories on Chinese knockoffs and counterfeits.  I always get the impression that rather than just providing information they’re trying to just point fingers at China for “being bad.”  Knockoffs are an awesome alternative to people who can’t or won’t by the original devices, and it’s hard to believe that the APad is actually going to have any effect on iPad sales.  Especially considering the iPad isn’t even officially available in China  yet.

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