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Obligatory end-of-year ramble

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Just a few hours away now from New Year’s. This time last year, I thought it was kind of cool that we were approaching on the year 2010, since to me that sounded/still sounds like a pretty futuristic date. Growing up, sci-fi movies and stuff would use “the year 2000” or “in the year 20xx” to talk about stuff that was supposed to be so far into the future that you couldn’t even imagine it. Kind of like having a robot dog that can turn into a jet-powered hoverboard, a submarine, or a … big spring so you can jump really high. But here we are, now just one good nap’s time away from the year 2011, which to me sounds even more ridiculously far into the future, although the sane half of me realizes that it’s just the year that comes next in sequence. I haven’t really paid much attention to the dates that sci-fi movies use these days, but what is it, like the year 3000 or 4000? Because if they’re just using like 2100 it’s kind of pointless considering that some kids will be reaching that point in time within their lifespans.

Where was I going with that? I have no idea. Anyway the past few weeks have been pretty good. Christmas to me has become, with age, less a holiday to get a whole bunch of new toys and video games from my parents and relatives. Okay, just typing that last sentence actually made me age about 2 more years. But yeah now Christmas isn’t just worrying about what toys to ask for. I’ve grown up from that. Now I wait for gift money, and go out and buy those toys and games myself.  You see, it’s much easier this way because I don’t have to worry about people making mistakes and me having to go through the hassle of waiting in a return line at Target.  I kid, I kid!  No, actually Christmas really has become more about just relaxing, seeing people who have been away, and hoping it doesn’t snow because I don’t want to scrape the ice off my car.

So speaking of Christmas/my birthday/what the locals have begun to call The Holy Leongmas, it was pretty awesome.  Had the (extended) family over at my parent’s house for the big meal, which started around 3PM this year.  Lots of eating, not much sitting room, and an assortment of probably-banned-by-the-FDA malt beverage energy drinks that the kids call Four Loko.  Seriously, don’t ever try those things.  My cousin put it best when she described them as such: “It tastes like taffy…then butt!”  But after the family tasting of the traditional Four Loko assortment, stereotypically playing some mahjong, and telling enough offensive stories to make my new relatives probably pretty  uncomfortable, we decided to get out of the house and go to where most families spend Christmas evening after dinner – the casino!   Yes, it might sound kind of strange but it was a lot of fun.  We pretty much took over an entire blackjack table and annoyed every single other person in the place by group-cheering every time we won.  Which, luckily for me and my BIRTHDAY MIRACLE powers that night, was actually quite often.

I don’t really have much else to write about right now, but mainly I felt like I should reflect a bit on the past few months.  There really isn’t much else to reflect upon, although I don’t know if I really got the maximum relaxation out of my 1 week off of work.  I mean, it was good, but I feel like there still could have been more video games played, more movies watched, and more sleep slept.  I guess I still have two days left.

Happy New Year to everyone, especially the four readers of TheLeong.com.  Oh yeah, if you’re reading this on Facebook you really should check out my actual blog where this post if coming from.  If you want to see a pretty janky website, that is.  See you all in 2011 – I’ll be on the Rush Jet flying over some lava.

Almost forgot – HK 2010

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HK dai pai dong

It’s officially too late to write about this, but here goes anyway.  Back at the end of July I took a trip to Hong Kong since I figured it would be a lot easier and cheaper to do it from Japan than from the US at some point later on.  Got a pretty cheap flight from HIS and off I was to HK for about 5 days.  Derek and Christy were nice enough to take those days off from work to hang out and show me around.  Also got to meet up with Sunny and Chris on my second day in town.  This was like my fourth trip so by now I at least know how to get around and stuff, but there’s always new stuff to see, explore, and eat.  Despite my fairly limited travel experience (compared to most “global travelers”) I still think that Hong Kong has the best food on the planet overall.  It doesn’t help that I was raised on Cantonese food and love eating in general.  But I mean come on – it doesn’t get any better than dim sum, does it?

I arrived in HK on a Friday night.  Bought a prepaid SIM card for super cheap (100 HKD?  Only around 15 USD) and put it in this crappy unlocked phone I had.  Talk about easy!  Even my prepaid GoPhone in the US didn’t seem this easy to set up.  I think it only took me about 3 minutes to buy the SIM chip, install it, and make my first call.  After that I snagged a taxi from the airport to Derek’s place which wasn’t too far away.  Cheap taxis in Asia are always a nice change from Japanese taxis, which might be cleaner but are also about 10 times as expensive.  The next day got dim sum for brunch and checked out a huge mall in the afternoon.  And yes the legends about Derek are true – he has a Spiderman Golden Master Pass to every gym in HK.  During our visit to the mall he ducked out for a 15 minute workout in the gym that was conveniently located inside the same building.  About an hour and a half later he was finished.  I totally thought Hiroaki was joking about Derek doing this, but it’s totally true.  The man is a machine.

Anyway that night we had Chinese hotpot which is a lot different from Japanese nabe or shabushabu even though the basic premise is the same: take a bunch of pieces of food, put it in boiling soup until it’s cooked, eat, repeat.  This was at a chain restaurant called Little Fat Sheep, and it was great.  It’s all you can eat for 2 hours although they don’t really care about the time limit since it’s pretty impossible to eat hotpot for 2 hours straight.  Tons of meat, vegetables, and “other” keeps coming at you on little trolleys, and you have two soups on a burner in the center of your table to put it in.   One was like a standard mild soup, and the other one was a spicy one.  Spicy in China is not the same as spicy in Japan.  Here, the soup was literally filled with red chili peppers, cut in half so as to release their spiciness throughout the pot.  You couldn’t put your ladle in the pot to scoop out your cooked meat without getting half a scoop of chili peppers every time.  Since I didn’t want to die, I left a sizable pile of uneaten peppers on my plate.  I hope I wasn’t the only one since I’m sure I looked like a wuss.

Next day hit up a Vietnamese place for lunch and got on a bus for Shenzhen, China.  Last time, I took the train up to cross the border, but the bus was also really cheap and fast.  You have to change buses when you get close to the border, but it’s an easy process and in just about 2 hours total we had moved from a shopping center in Hong Kong, which sold global luxury brands like Gucci, Prada, LV, and Coach, to the giant mega shopping center in Shenzhen who sold copies of global luxury brands like Gucci, Prada, LV, and Coach.  That evening we went to this spa place, which at first sounded really sketch, but when I got there it was actually really nice and clean.  The place was called Water Cube, or 水立方 in Chinese.  No, not the Water Cube from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but a spa in Shenzhen who has cleverly stolen the name.  At first when Derek and Christy were talking about going to a spa/massage place I had imagined like a super shady happy ending place.  But when we got there it was more like a family-oriented resort fused with the nicest high-end Japanese internet cafe you can imagine.  You get there and go to segregated locker rooms.  You can shower, use the hot tubs, jacuzzis, etc., then you head to the main area (which is co-ed) where everyone is wearing the same goofy Chinese pajamas.  You don’t have to carry your wallet around with you, since any charges are just billed to your locker number which is on a plastic wristband you wear around.  Drinks and fruit are free, but there’s a restaurant in the building where we got some dinner.  The food was good and cheap, since it’s like that pretty much everywhere in China. You’re free to roam around the place – there were tons of sections of super comfy leather easy chair recliners, pool tables, ping pong, fruit and juice bars, a video game corner, and even a room with a giant projector screen.  Each chair has its own TV and there are attendants running around everywhere whenever you need something, or are too lazy to go to the juice bar to get your own glass of watermelon juice (which is the nectar of the gods).  You’re charged a really low entrance fee and can pretty much stay as long as you like.  There’s TV, internet, and magazines and stuff to relax with, then of course there are massage packages and individual massages you can get.  Everything is pretty cheap and they just add it to your bill.  You can even sleep there over night if you want on the recliners: they turn the main lights off and everything.  The whole place is pretty much just a huge awesome internet cafe with better food and with massage options.  I’m not really a huge massage guy, but I did get a “foot scraping” where an old Chinese dude comes and uses a straight razor to shave dead skin off your feet.  It sounds horrible, but that was probably the weirdest and oddly awesome experiences of my trip.  I definitely recommend hitting up one of these types of places in Shenzhen if you get a chance – you probably  need to take someone who speaks Chinese with you though because otherwise you have to do a lot of sign language which sometimes works but is kind of a pain in the butt.  My favorite gesture is the “I dunno” head shrug with both hands.

Did some of the standard shopping in Shenzhen for bootleg movies and cheap clothes before heading back to Hong Kong on the train.  Stopped by Temple Street on my way back to do some shopping and eating at the dai pai dong street stalls, which are amazingly cheap and delicious.  The last day of my trip was pretty much just buying souvenirs for friends in Japan, and eating.  It was a great trip and I really hope I can make it again sometime.  And hey now I can get back to writing about stuff that didn’t happen 2 months ago!

おっさん?!

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Merry Christmas everyone!

Although being in Japan makes Christmas feel less different, it’s been a nice relaxing and fun weekend so far, and the rest of today should be fun as well. Only 2 days of work this week, then Kansai, then a few more days off, then back to work. I kind of wish I had gone back to the States for the holiday, but I don’t even know if I would have been able to take this short week off from AEON, so it’s OK. I’m looking forward to just having a week off period. Hope everyone is having an awesome time off! I am also now 23, so I guess that makes me an old man. I feel as young as a 22 year old though!

3連休

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It’s Saturday afternoon, and I’m sitting at home. That’s right, no work! I’m not on Christmas Break yet, since X-Mas is more of a date holiday here than anything else, but I only have to work next Tuesday and Wednesday before I’m off for a solid week. A SOLID FREAKIN’ WEEK! Today would normally be a working day, but thanks to the great emperor of this fine country, it is a holiday. Thank you for being born, Emperor Akihito. Sure, the emperor of Japan doesn’t really do a whole lot, being a figurehead and all, but at least he provides me a with a day off. Also, as Blanchard mentioned in a comment on my last blog post, when the current emperor dies, December 23rd will in all likelihood become a new holiday, like Snow Day or Ice Cream Day (it’s winter). How about Ramen Day? If memory serves me right, this is the first proper 3-day weekend I’ve had in months. I always say that I appreciate my weekends more than ever, after having to work all week, but having a 3 day weekend is pretty much the equivalent of winning the lottery. Last night at work, by 7PM when I only had two classes left, I was so psyched about having a 3 day weekend that I didn’t think about the pain of teaching 4 classes back-to-back. I finished, took out the trash, got a b-day card from my staff, then headed home to being the relaxation process. I am not embarrassed to say that I spend the Friday night of my 3-day weekend sitting at home watching the Music Station Super Live 2006 concert on TV, then playing Twilight Princess for almost 3 and a half hours.

Speaking of the Super Live, let me elaborate a bit. It’s a 4-hour TV special of the normal weekly Music Station show, with more than 40 bands/artists performing live on TV. It’s a pretty fun thing to watch, since almost any popular Japanese pop song is played constantly in this country, so you’re almost always likely to at least recognize most of the songs, as crappy as they may be. There are a good number of Japanese bands I like , but I do have to admit that even more are pure trash. Now for some random hilights from the show, with some image links for those who don’t know Japanese musicians:

I have almost gotten used to SMAP, a popular boy band that has been around since approximately 1840, although I don’t especially like their music or their members. There are 5 of them, and they all do other acting and TV shows and stuff ALL THE TIME, so the probability of turning on the TV and seeing any 1 member of SMAP at any given time is approximately 40%. Anyway, I watched them on the concert and I laugh every time I see their band leader, who apparently is named Nakai Masahiro, because he is absolutely tone deaf and his singing voice is nonexistent. I have no idea how he became part of any band, because he can’t sing at all. Next, I don’t hate Dreams Come True‘s music, but the chick/vocalist looks so strange it’s distracting. Not strange in that she dresses up strange, but her face is just…butt. Sorry. (Unfortunately I couldn’t find a picture where she looked super butt). Next, The Tarako song was cute when I first saw it as a Flash game years ago, but the fact that is has been released as a very successful CD single is just disturbing. Even more disturbing was that it did well enough to be invited onto the Music Station Super Live, with the 2 little girls in tarako hats AND a giant monster-like tarako dancing behind them. There are a bunch of videos on this site. Oh, and the final thing I will mention is that Daniel Powter appeared on this show, and he is a complete d-bag. I remember hearing his song over the summer, and almost thought it was decent enough to download. I will not be doing that now.

I am still so happy at the fact that normally I would just now be finishing my lunch break at work. Thank you Emperor!

春休み開幕!押忍!

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Ah, spring break has finally arrived. What am I doing, you ask? Traveling to some exotic locale? Going on an exciting vacation to a foreign land? Battling a giant crab monster with an electric guitar? No, none of the above. I’m in GhostTown Bloomington, doing the same thing I do pretty much all the time. It’s not that bad; at least I have a week off from classes (which means only 2 days off, since I don’t actually have class that often anyway). Nonetheless, I think this week “off” will give me time to relax, get caught up on stuff, and just be even lazier than usual (if that is even possible).

Sunday through Tuesday, I will likely be waking up very late, and then working at the office for a few hours a day. Me and AP are going to rebuild the VT3 machine, straighten out some studio stuff, and just do general maintainence. I also have some more footwork to do for this supposedly upcoming “Real to Reel” film competition, which seems like it might be a bigger pain in the butt than I had ever imagined. However, if we pull it off, it will be awesome. And no, Red Bull’s marketing strategy still doesn’t make sense to me. But oh well. Sometime around Wednesday to Friday, I’ll be going up to Chicago for an interview with AEON, one of the English schools in Japan. The more I think about it, working in Japan is more and more tempting. We’ll see how that goes. Nova interview is in Indy at the beginning of April as well.

If I have time, I also wanted to go back home to St. Louis for a day or two. Don’t know if I’ll actually have time to do that actually, but we’ll see. Other than that, I don’t have many other goals to accomplish over spring break. I’m almost already done with News Radio season 3 (yes, I actually purchased ANOTHER real DVD box set, I can’t believe it myself). Considering how much I watched the first News Radio box set though, I figured it would be worth it. This show is amazing, one of the funniest ever. And season 3 has the Rocket Fuel Malt Liquor episode, which was a very very pleasant surprise. Gazizza, my dilznoofuses. I also plan on finally finishing Kingdom Hearts II, playing a bunch of SNES puzzle games, and if I miraculously have even more video game time than I expected, I want to play FF8 or Super Mario RPG again. I also borrowed the first season of Lost from Kyle, which everyone keeps telling me I will love and get addicted to. We shall see.

I’ll be posting a few times over break, I’m sure. Maybe I’ll try to think like Nick and write a really deep entry about something. Likely it will just be boring crap from my daily routine like this one. Either way, you will all read it when you get back from Florida, California, or wherever else you bastards went for spring break.

さよなら、夏休み

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Here is the last post of what may very well be my last summer vacation (from school at least), ever. At the very least, it’s the last post of summer vacation 2005. It’s about 3:30AM, and I have a meeting at 10. Yeah, a meeting before classes even start. Yay. Anywho, I feel like this is the first time (maybe in my life) that I haven’t prepared for a new semester of classes. When you’re in elementary school, you have all your school supplies and crap packed in your bookbag, ready to go. Then you end up doing pretty much the same thing in middle school, although by then you also have a folder with papers and stuff. Then in high school, you don’t care quite as much but there’s always the binder of papers, and you care about who you’re going to see and talk to at school. College starts, and you have to actually get your books on your own, make it to class (after finding the building) and all that jazz. Usually, I’m pretty prepared, have books, etc by the start of classes. Well, this year, for some reason or another, I’ve done pretty much NOTHING. I haven’t gone to the bookstore to buy any books, I haven’t dug my bookbag from my room, I haven’t emptied out the papers in my binder from last spring, haven’t put pens or pencils in my bag. Heck, the most I’ve done was print out a syllabi and some Powerpoint slides from OnCourse about an hour ago.

There was no reason for that entire first paragraph, just pointing out that I don’t care about classes right now. Maybe it’s not that, just that I don’t care about preparing anymore. Textbook-wise, I’m going to wait until tomorrow night or Tuesday night to decide 1) if I really even need to buy the books, 2) if I should get them here in town or online. I’ve never actually bought textbooks online, but checking out Half.com the other day, it looks like I can get a lot of those big textbooks for much cheaper than the used ones at TIS or the IU Bookstore. Only problem with buying them online is that I think they’re cheaper versions (called “International”), and also it would probably take over a week to get delivered. Not like I ever really read my textbooks anyway.

In other blog news (nothing of importance), I’ve been watching this Japanese drama show lately (thanks to BitTorrent, of course), called Densha Otoko (電車男). It’s pretty sweet, although definitely pretty cheesy at times. It started broadcasting in July while I was there, but I never really have time to watch shows regularly in Japan. Plus this way I can download a bunch and watch them in a row. This show is an interesting story in itself. Apparently, a year or two ago on this huge Japanese BBS called 2ch, there were posts from a huge dork that saved a girl on a train, and the two ended up falling in love and getting together or somat. The “actual” posts from the BBS, which documented this story of them meeting and getting together, posted by the guy himself, was printed into a book, which became a best-seller in Japan. Now there is this TV show, a movie, comics, etc based on this story. Some people say this is all fake, and some that it really is a true story. Whatever, it doesn’t matter, it’s a cool show. Also, Misaki Ito plays the chick, and she is like the hottest girl I have ever seen. So that’s one of the Japanese shows I’ve been watching lately. And since I haven’t posted any pictures in my blog in a while, here is some stuff from Densha Otoko:

Densha Otoko logo


And to wrap up this post and this summer vacation up, I leave you with an image of the funniest sight all week: Nick Roberts showing up in my apartment when everyone is over, wearing a huge leather coat with a fur collar and cuffs. Nick truly is a man of style (what kind, I do not know). Laugh, and enjoy the fall everyone. I’m going to bed. Back to being a hard working student!

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