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Oh deer me

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Saw these guys hanging out and snapped a picture with my phone a few minutes ago.  Since when did my parents’ backyard turn into Nara Park?

Deer in the backyard

Fuji TV

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Went down to Ichihara last night for the first time in a while, for a farewell party at my old workplace. On the way back, was stuck at the station for a bit since the trains were super delayed due to the wind. Uchibo line is almost as bad as Musashino as far as minor things causing late or canceled trains.

At some point I went to the men’s room. There was no one else in there, except for some girl in her 20’s or 30’s at the sink, which was weird but I didn’t think too much of it. At the time I assumed maybe the women’s restroom was totally packed or something. I didn’t really care too much – I’m used to having old women in the men’s restroom to clean, etc., which is pretty normal in Japan. Either way I went to the farthest of the 4 urinals to do my business. As soon as I’m starting up the process, the girl walks over towards me. Uhhh. So yeah this weird chick is standing a little too close for comfort, but there wasn’t much I could have done to get away from her. Here’s our brief conversation (translated from J):

Girl: “Excuse me”
Me: “Uhhh”
Girl” “Will you… go to Fuji Television with me?”
Me: “No, I’m not going there.”

Then she left. I finished, washed my hands (although of course like 90% of J-bathrooms there was no soap and nothing to dry your hands with), and went back out into the main area of the station to tell this story. The weird girl was roaming around, alternating between talking to other people and talking to herself. I don’t think she was drunk, but she was definitely crazy. I don’t understand what her deal was, but she was lucky I didn’t pee on her as a defense tactic.

Second Dinner

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There are still a lot of stories to share from China, but for now I want to show everyone tonight’s activities. We got back late this afternoon from a 1-night trip to Shanghai, where we did some fish work out there. Unfortunately, with less than 24 hours in Shanghai and all of those hours spent either working or sleeping, there wasn’t any chance to see the city or go out at all. But I guess I can at least say I’ve been there. I’m back in Beijing now and should be here until Sunday the 8th when I head back to Japanland.

The hotel breakfast this morning (Wednesday) was some gross eggs, tofu sausages, and 2 weird bricks of toast. Our lunch was plane food – a small dish of noodles, 5 cherry tomatoes, and a roll. Since we had such awesome meals all day, we headed out for early dinner around 5, going to some restaurant in a different hotel nearby. We had a half Peking Duck and some dim sum, which was really good. We were pretty full, but still ready to check out the night market in Wangfujing around 9PM.

王府井大街We had walked around nearby this area our first night in Beijing last week, but somehow we didn’t see the night market selling all kinds of food. I don’t know how we missed it, but as soon as our taxi pulled up tonight we knew we were in the right place. It’s just one stretch of road, about 3 or 4 blocks long, lined with carts selling food. All kinds of food. Most of it is on skewers and either grilled or deep-fried, but this isn’t just regular stuff like chicken or beef. While of course they have those, this night market is famous for having weird foods. Starfish, sea horses, blood cake, bee larvae, centipedes, and tons of other animals and animal parts were available for purchase. It was pretty interesting, and of course there were a lot of other tourists walking around, freaking out at seeing some of the offerings. We decided we should definitely try something new, and it took us a full walk down and up the street before we decided what to start with. Unfortunately, at 9:45 the main string of lanterns all down the street went off, prompting the cart workers to start shutting down immediately. A fire evacuation would have taken longer – these guys know how to pack up and go home! So we only had about 30 or 40 minutes to walk around and eat a little bit.

The “weird” things we ate tonight weren’t really that weird, so I want to head back at least one more time before I leave. We started off with deer and ostrich skewers, which were actually both really good. Neither were gamey at all, and the flavor was nice. I’d had deer before, but I think this was the first ostrich. We also ate some dumplings and candied strawberries, to ingest some non-strange stuff. The weirdest thing of the night was right at closing time:

Scorpion from Mortal Kombat II

Haha, that’s right!

eating scorpions in China

We got some fried scorpions on a stick, which really weren’t bad at all. But not really so great either. They’re fairly small, and deep fried, so there isn’t much taste or texture. But they are kind of expensive, mostly due to the tourist attraction-ness of it all. 3 small scorpions on a stick was 15 RMB, so just over 2 bucks USD. For 50 RMB, you can get the huge scorpions, but I didn’t feel like putting up that much money or biting into a giant scorpion.

Next time I definitely want to try some seahorse and/or perhaps centipede. Maybe the homeless guy with gangrenous legs will be there, and my dad can give him half a skewer of strawberries again.

Train Train

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This morning from my balcony, in addition to the drunken ramblings of the gang of homeless people that are always out in the adjacent park, I also heard a CHOO CHOO TRAIN! For real, heard the steam whistle and everything. This must be Goi

Molestache’s question was still retarded, though.

Stacked

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I can’t really think of any American toys that I have been really impressed with since perhaps the glory days of the double-barreled Nerf Ballzooka or the Lite-Brite. I quickly grew up from those toys and into the realm of Japanese robot toys and video games, a stage from which I have not yet managed to fully grow out of. Regardless, I was in Toys R Us at LaLaPort this past weekend, which brings us to today’s blog topic. I saw an American toy import, which, without even looking at the price, was immediately noticeable as ridiculous. No, wait, that’s being a bit too nice. This “toy” is pure crap, and to buy it would mean that either you or your kid is either a moron or just an asshole. Maybe both of you.

Here you go folks; behold:
not toy of the year for innovation
I couldn’t believe it either. This play set is pretty much what it looks like. A bunch of (12) plastic cups that you stack into a pyramid really fast. Oh man! You can tell this kid is doing it really fast because you can see the motion lines! But the fun’s not over yet! Then you get to unstack them!

Isn’t this the kind of game that poor kids play when they’re home alone? Or what hobos do with empty cans of Ice House? Well poor kids and hobos won’t be playing this new NEON and X-TREME (asshole) version of stack-the-cups, because it costs 5000 yen*! That’s right, almost 50 dollars for a bunch of plastic cups that you could get at the grocery store for a fraction of the cost. Oh but wait, you also get the STACK MAT, which is a flat surface on which to do your extreme stacking. It has an extreme timer built into it, so you know how long it takes for you to stack these extreme cups. It’s a really good thing they include this extreme mat, because it would be impossible to stack or time your extreme skillzz without it (cough*table and a watch*cough). You also get a DVD, which shows you how to stack the cups. I’m willing to bet most kids with an IQ of over 10 would be able to figure that out on their own. Then again, kids who are playing with this Speed Stacks set might not necessarily meet that prereq.

I was so intrigued by the idiocy that created and marketed this product that I sought them out on the web. They indeed have a website, and unsurprisingly you are greeted by some extreme music and a video with a bunch of kids stacking up plastic cups really fast. This is also apparently “The all-new sport of speed and skill.” I’m looking forward to seeing this on ESPN, aren’t you?

*To be fair, I checked and in the US this game is apparently only $30. That doesn’t make this any less assholish.

Earlier this afternoon I went with my Dad to my Grandma’s place to clean some old junk out of the basement. Most of it was just old boxes and cleaning supplies from the 1970’s; one of which, a bottle of ammonia-based dishwashing liquid, had an old Walgreens pricetag on it that said it was 39 cents, showing how old this stuff was. Among the rubble, however, was a box of old booze. Inside was two bottles of gross and likely rotten champagne from 1973 and 1974, which I first thought about trying to sell on eBay or Craigslist but decided it would be more fun to shoot at with a pellet gun in the backyard. They hadn’t been properly taken care of, and I think the box of booze was sitting next to the laundry machine and dryer or something. That was the boring half of the box’s contents. The other half at first looked like 2 different bottles of whiskey. Then I noticed that they were partially gone, and had grains and weird particles inside. Then there were the Chinese characters ?酒 written on it, which means like wine or medicinal booze/wine. But of course the most odd things about the bottles were the masking tape-made labels marking the two bottles as “Coon + Herb Wine.” What in the world?

Ancient Chinese secret of food poisoningI assumed that they were both whiskey, but upon closer inspection one is a bourbon bottle and the other is gin. I assumed the same liquid was in both, which may be true; who knows. Brown gin with particles in it is even scarier than old bourbon with particles in it. That doesn’t matter. I asked my Dad what in the world was up with these bottles and I got the full story. My Grandpa’s uncle, we call him Yi Gung (Great Uncle), is the one who made this stuff. Quick historical lesson: Yi Gung is the one who raised my then-8-year-old Grandpa when he came from China over to the States way back when. He apparently used to make his own medicinal booze, because according to Chinese culture (meaning, really old people), certain parts of animals have health benefits, and apparently one way to harness these mystical effects is to infuse it in alcohol. Oh, and don’t think Yi Gung brewed his own whiskey down in a lab or basement or brewery or something fancy like that. No, no. Apparently, his method was to just buy a bottle of whiskey and then throw some mystical ingredient into it. There was probably some kind of stirring or shaking involved as well, maybe a lemon wedge. Since these two bottles were labeled “Coon + Herb Wine,” my Dad says the special ingredient in these is probably raccoon gall bladder. This probably dissolved and is responsible for the grainy particles I see in the bottle now. Let’s hope it’s just that. Other ingredients Yi Gung had apparently used were snakes (habushu?), tiger parts, and bear gall bladder, which my Dad saw in person as a kid, and said it was just like a hunk of meat in a bottle.

Judging by the fact that both bottles were almost all the way full, and since my dad says that my Grandpa had them around when Dad was a kid, these bottles are likely at least 30 or 40 years old. I don’t know if they were ever really used much, or if the medicine inside ever did anything beneficial. When I was talking to my Dad about whether or not weird animal parts in booze actually helped, he said “well, Yi Gung died.” Uh…. I guess that’s a no. I don’t think he meant that he died from drinking this stuff, just that it didn’t have superhuman regeneration abilities.

This stuff just looks absolutely disgusting, especially with all the parts and stuff floating around in it. I can understand tequila worms and habushu snakes I suppose, but just making your own doesn’t seem to make sense to me. This stuff almost surely tastes like death, and NO I will not be trying it. If any of you would like to come over and give it a shot, please be my guest. They’re in the blue trashcan in front of my house. Don’t blame me if you drink it and go into a coma. In the words of my Dad,

“Drink it, if you’ve got balls.”

I now know why my Grandma was so adamant about telling us to throw it away, and telling me over and over again not to drink it. I thought it was just an anti-alcohol rant. Likely, it was an anti-death water rant. Thank goodness for grandparents.

Click on the image up and to the right to see a larger pic of both bottles.

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