Saturday, 28 March 2009

One Step Closer

As one school year ends and another one starts, I always wait with bated breath to learn my fate for the year to come.

HQ sends out preference questionnaires on where we'd like to be for the following year. I suspect they take this with a grain of salt, the same way I use the red man light for determining when to cross the street.

I was happy to get Iidabashi which thankfully is close to home, but in gaining that school I lost Ginza which was a similar distance on the same day.

Wednesdays are similar to before with some kids classes at Yokohama. It has a good vibe, and I don't mind being located here.

Sadly I've missed out on Tama Plaza, getting "rewarded" with an earlier shift on Saturdays, and further travel to Aobadai on the same line. Today was my last day there and out of all the schools I actually felt really sad to be leaving it behind. I saw some of my kids here, and the parents seemed genuinely sad that I was leaving this school.

I thought it couldn't get worse until I got notified today of a triple slap to the face.

On Mondays I'll be doing kindergarden classes, starting EARLY in the morning (a nicely packed in rush hour), at over an hour's travel to get there in Tama Center. I guess that's my "fix" from Tachikawa.

Let it be a good year, please.

Friday, 27 March 2009

The Vibrator

Today was the gf's birthday.

For a while I was thinking what would make the best present.. some jewelry, clothes, a kitchen appliance (joking), or let her choose something?

Then it hit me.. a vibrator!
No, not what you'd think. I got a massager. If I must let it be known, I am the worst at giving massages, and a bit non-plussed to get them done to me. She often complains about her back, so I thought it'd be appropriate.

To be sure I plugged in all the ones on display, and to my surprise one of simplest (a Panasonic) had just a hard and soft setting, but felt nicer and not too big. Unlike the others, this one has wheels to roll along your back.

From how much she's used it so far, I think I did pretty good choosing this present.

It has a funky black and green colour too. Cool huh?

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Goodbye Mr Young

It's coming to the closing of yet another school year.

With that, it's also the time where I have to say goodbye to yet another teacher moving on. To say goodbye and to have a drink or ten, we went to an izakaya.

The only thing I hate about these things is how they split the bill evenly.

I think tonight something was suss when I was solely asked to pitch another 1,000 yen after they originally got 3,000 yen from me. Sure I drank plenty of beer to keep up with everyone's share, but I didn't have any of the squid and scallops that they ordered so it seemed a little unfair to pay more and eat less.

I was fairly drunk so I didn't dispute it. Don't want to mess up the group harmony.



We finished up later than my connecting train so I crashed at a teacher's apartment in Shibuya. Before that though, we had two beers at Tasu Ichi until it closed around 2am (or was it 3am?). We hit the supermarket for some pizza flavoured chips and another drink to have while we watched some Seinfeld.

He has a great view into Shinjuku from being at the top level of the apartment building. Great location.

I went to sleep really quickly on the sofa.

Sure was comfy.

The Baby Goes Wah

Today I received my ZW-45 Zakk Wylde Crybaby Wah.

It came a day earlier than I expected at about 11:30am.

The seller didn't even put it in a box.

He simply wrapped it in bubble wrap and tape. It did the job. It's in one piece and most importantly, it works.



I bought a real cheap 9V battery when I was in Shinjuku last so I wouldn't have to wait to try it out.

It's in really good condition, not 100% new, but it looks the business in heavy duty chrome.

So how does it sound?

It sounds like a wah with a long range from bass to treble. The sweep of the pedal is quite abrupt for such a wide spectrum. It particularly suits a cranked up amp, but even clean sounded good to me. The on/off switch takes a bit of a push to bypass. I think I'm getting the hang of that though.

I checked these two Youtube video here and here to convince me this was the wah pedal for me.

Yahoo Auctions came through once again. I got this one for 6,000 yen. An absolute bargain! The postage only set me back 720 yen and of course the bank took a 262 yen "cut" for doing the transfer.

All in all, I'm really happy with it!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Acrylic Dreams

I had to see this one..

It's a Jem20th.

A limited edition 20th anniversary acrylic JEM. I have to say it looks better in person than any picture could do justice to.

I have to thank the shop staff for even letting me touch it.

One thing I wasn't prepared for was the weight. This thing weighs an ton! If I had the money they're asking, I'd LOVE to buy it. There isn't any other guitar that looks like this.

What does it sound like? I have no idea. Who cares?

Still if I had a choice I'd pick the Chromeboy if only the finish wasn't so sensitive to instant depreciation. These guitars are collector's pieces, so what's the point?

MY G.A.S. has no sign of abating. I feel incredible urges to buy more music gear!

Last night I won another auction. This time it's a Zakk Wylde ZW-45 Crybaby wah pedal.

I was telling myself no, you don't need it. But my impulsive click finger said "screw that, yes you do". Surprisingly I was the sole bidder, so I got it for 6,000 yen.

A sweet price.

What does it sound like? Click here. Sounds like a rockin' pedal to me. All I have to do now is play the waiting game, until I get that box in my hot little hands.

You'd think I'd stop now wouldn't you? Oh no.

While I was at this guitar store I tried out the latest Boss GT-10 multi effects unit.

It's loaded with a heap of nice effects, but the distortions sound absolutely horrible. It was like the exact opposite of my valve amp, brittle and fizzy. I'm sure with a bit of tweaking, it has the potential to sound better, but how hard is it to make it sound good "out of the box" to entice people to buy it?

In another store I tried out a Line 6 M13 stompbox modeler and a 535Q Crybaby wah.

This was a different story. The effects were more raw and warm (I was playing this through a JC-120!) What got me curious about this box was the DL4 and FM4 boxes. I saw some vids on youtube and they sounded nice. This box has both of them and more!

I got so carried away with this box that I forgot about the wah pedal, and only gave it a very brief demo. I'm hoping that my wah sounds as good as this. From what little I tried of this one, my ears said "yum".

And that has to go the same for this little pedalboard too.

So little time and not enough money.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Goodbye Yokohama Kids

Today at Yokohama I had to say goodbye to the kids I've been teaching all year.

While at times the kids wear me out like you wouldn't believe, I'm going to miss every one of them. It's amazing how you can see their little personalities come through. This is the way these children will be their whole life. (Although I'm sure the Japanese system will put them in their place as they get older).

It's like I'm the ringmaster of a crazy circus in these classes, and can sometimes feel a little thankless.

Being the last class, I was overwhelmed with gifts from the kids mothers.

I got a whole lot of cakes, biscuits, flowers and cards. There was so much, I didn't have much room for them in my bag.

A little bit of a sad goodbye.

Thank You!

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Blues Coffee

A few disappointments this week :

- I was asked for help to teach a former housemate how to play a song for his girlfriend. I thought it was kinda sweet on his behalf. Only thing is.. he dissed me pretty badly on his blog some time ago.

I was willing to do it if he removed my full name from the post. He said he thought of me as a different person now, but he STILL has refused to take it off! Not cool..

- The next biggest downer was that I found some really amazing discounted fares to Australia for about 37,800 yen RETURN.

What's so bad about that? HQ won't grant me leave for the time I want.

It's really disappointing because since I have been in Japan (since 2007), I haven't requested any days off, using four ALP days only when I was sick. Makes one feel like just a number 'round here.

While I have a little reprieve that they have let me taken this Saturday off, giving me a four day weekend, I really wanted to take that time off before Golden Week. It would have helped me even to bring some of my music gear back home.

- That lazy Japanese lard-ass who sold me the Frogskins on Yahoo Auctions still hasn't reciprocated the feedback I promptly gave him to his profile. The sunglasses though are fantastic. No more squinting for me!

- I brought in my Swiss watch for repair once more last Saturday. I can't wait to find out how much they're going to rip me off for that.

The Blues coffee in the vending machine seemed strangely appropriate as I walked home from the station tonight.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

White Day Number 2

The clock struck midnight. I said "Happy White Day", and remarked that I hadn't bought any chocolates.

She thought she had me worked out when she found my "hidden" Wonka chocolate in the fridge.

That WAS going to be my White Day gift, but even that felt a little lame to me, so while in Yokohama I saw a jumbo box of Crunky with a love heart on the front. At first I thought even this was cheesy, but she would "get it".

Just in case, I got some Napoleon Brandy bon-bons as backup.

I couldn't wait till tomorrow, so I told her to look up and see them on top of the cabinet. Surprisingly, she wasn't really into Brandy chocolates, thinking the alcohol would be too strong?? Crunky to the rescue!

I made a coffee to compliment the chocolates with the water-flavoured low fat milk I bought earlier in the week. Last time I buy that crap.

Not only is the Crunky in a big box, but the pieces are jumbo sized too.

They reminded me of Toblerone.

So that's another White Day taken care of. I think I did ok. Mission Accomplished!

While on the subject of chocolate, I may as well mention the Pocky Men's chocolate I bought for 100 yen at a drugstore in Nakano on Monday.

Yes, that's right, MEN'S chocolate.

What makes it particularly manly?

Supposedly it's the use of slightly bitter dark chocolate that women must find unpalatable. It doesn't taste all that different to me, although it DOES make me think of the Pocky girl, and that catchy Oshare Banchou song.

Finally, "sign on the week" has to go to this one in Yotsuya station. If anyone can tell me what "Primitive Air" means, please let me know!

I think this has been put up to promote White Day for the stores in the Atre building above the station.

This is what all girls in Japan look like. "Dere's gold in dem hills".

Charity is worth it when it looks that good.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Four Eyes

I called off the search a while ago looking for original Oakley Frogskins once I finally got one of the limited edition reissues.

Looking through countless recycle shops, they only had more recent models.

I've become addicted to Yahoo Auctions the same way I was with eBay back home. There's just SO much cool stuff to be had, looking from the comfort of my futon!

I happened upon a pair of original, first generation Frogskins for a quite reasonable 5,000 yen on Sunday night. In the last ten minutes I bid on it and, unlike other auctions no smarmy Japanese tried to overbid it, so it was mine all mine.

The next day I went to the ATM to transfer the money. I REALLY hate how the UFJ bank charge, (in this case 262 yen) just to do a bank to bank transfer.

Those THIEVING birds!

The auctioneer didn't have the greatest feedbank, nor the best communication skills either. With his lax attitude, I didn't get my package until today. He sent it COD in a box about five times bigger than the sunglasses, costing me 640 yen to just go across the city.

Unwrapping the bubble wrap I have to say I'm quite happy with the condition of them. For over twenty year old glasses they were in great condition. Not perfect, but almost as good as my new ones!

I stepped outside in the brighter light to compare the two lenses.

I was surprised to find out the old ones aren't as dark as I remembered. The old lens is Bronze Iridium which they don't make anymore. It has a nice warm brown tint, which may have given me the impression of being more dark.

On my new glasses I have a Fire Iridium lens, which has a greenish tint that my eyes don't like as much, but still cuts out plenty of bright light. My preference is still the older pair. The Fire Iridium shows scratches and smudges really easily and has plastic hinges (Like the 2nd generation did), while the other ones have metal rivets instead.

I had to go into Shinjuku today so I tested these new, old glasses and they have the big thumbs up from me.

I had to sort out a form about my Resident Tax that I was confused if I had to fill in or not. HQ wasn't 100% sure, and the ward office person wasn't that clear. Either way I just filled in the parts I thought I had to, to be sure.

Resident Tax is one of those little surprises you get once you stay in Japan over a year. I'm sure you'll be as happy as I was once they send those little payslips.

I bought some purty and colourful Dean Markley guitar picks from Rock Inn today for a measley 53 yen each (Tachikawa's 52 yen, meh..) That's about half the price of the average pick, if anyone cares.

For strings I recommend Ikebe. Just a tad cheaper in these parts.

We got pretty hungry so we had some Okonomiyaki, near the Rock Inn. Yummo!

Friday, 6 March 2009

Mesa Boogie F-50 Review

I waited half asleep for the courier to knock on my door.

After uselessly getting up twice thinking someone was there, he finally came 'round about 10:45am.

I couldn't wait to take it out of the box and plug her in.

Seeing it for the first time I was really impressed what amazingly good condition this is in. It's bigger than it looks in pictures, and quite a weighty 25kg! I had to hunt around the amp to find the footswitch and power cable.

The power cable has 3 prongs with an additional ground pin. First problem was that all the power points in the apartment are only two pins. I pushed it into one that gave the slightest bend on that third pin (Later on that night I got an adapter from Yodobashi for 380 yen. Solved!)

The amp has two channels, CH1 a clean, and CH2 dirty, as well as an additional fixed EQ "contour" switch on CH2 that gives it a VERY sweet push into a smooth, but chunky overdrive.

The controls are very different to any other amp I've tweaked.

At first I thought there was something faulty with the clean channel. With all the EQ controls zeroed, there is hardly any sound at all. Turning them up, the EQ is incredibly sensitive to subtle adjustments with sweet, chiming clean tones and tasteful reverb. Much different to say, the JCM 800 Marshall I had, where the EQ seemed to do not that much at all.

I think once you've tried valve/tube sound, it's hard to go back. In the mix I've been quite impressed with the sound quality, and flexibility of amp sims (although there's a bit of computer fizziness). With this amp, it's like having a sound that feeds off the subtle nuances of fingers on strings and wood. It's hard to describe how "alive" it feels with a harmonically rich sound. It makes me feel like I'm a better guitarist too, which is not a bad thing. As well, pinch harmonics are easy with this amp!

Although it's been superseded by the newer Express series, from my try-out last week, this amp sounds better to my ears. Still, this demo of the newer 5:50 amp gives you an idea of the kind of tones you can pull from this amp as well.

I found some very nice chunky demos here, here and here. Now that's what I call ROCK!

If it sounds like I'm gushing, I am. I think I found a worthy replacement of my very much missed JCM 800. Even my broken, twisted umbrella today couldn't bring me down.

Another signal of changes I've made is that my "booty call" phone is now going mainstream.

I've ditched the old number so I don't have to haul around two phones anymore. Oh yeah, baby!

You can call me now on 1800-F50-ROCKS.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

My Second Win(d)

It all started when I saw a local eBay auction for a guy selling a newish Mesa Boogie Express amp in Brisbane.

I can't remember why I was drawn to that particular amp, but most guitarists in Australia know that Mesa Boogie put a big premium on the price of their amps down under.

The amp didn't sell during the auction, so I decided to make an offer by email to see if he'd accept it. Short of $100 he turned it down. I thought $2100 for a 50w combo amp was more than a reasonable price to pay.

Anyway, I did manage to try the lower wattage version in Shibuya on Saturday and I have to say I was pretty impressed. It made an overdriven strat sound very nice. One thing I noticed about my rig back home, was that my strat sounds better clean than overdriven. It just takes a bit more work to drive those single coils.

It was funny watching a Japanese metal guy test driving a Marshall double stack standing right up close in front of the amp. You had to be there. Anyway..

After trying out some amp sim software on my Mac, I have to say valve sound just FEELS better and smoother. I really miss my old JCM 800! What got me to sell it was how I hated carting around that stuff in a little hatchback. A combo is more my style these days (or a rack).

Next option, Yahoo Auctions Japan!

For bigger purchases over 5,000 yen, you have to be registered for Yahoo Premium which is 346 yen a month service. If you have a foreign credit card you just can't do it. Another Japanese wall to bang my head against. That's where a J gf comes in handy.

THANK YOU!!

My only win previously was an old Zaxxon LCD game. It was easy, just a "buy it now" option. When a bidding war happens here, Japanese are tough nuts to bid against.

I bidded against only another person for a Mesa Boogie F-50, but it made the initial 50,000 yen go up to 56,000 yen. After a lot of cursing he finally let me have it, the SOB! Including courier shipping, I have to pay 57,690 yen.

The F-50 is the previous model to the one I tried for from Australia. The price in Australian dollars is currently only $920, so I think I made a good deal. The amp's in Shizuoka prefecture, ironically only streets away from the gf's hometown high school.

Weird.

It's had some great reviews, so here's hoping it sounds as good as they say. Bringing it back to Australia will be interesting. Looks like I'll have to ship some of my junk over by post. I'll have to get a step down transformer for the different voltage too.

meh..

Stay tuned for pics and more info in a few days. Come to Daddy..