Sunday, 28 February 2010

Black Docs

I mentioned about the shoes I bought recently here. Although infinitely more comfortable than my last cheap pair, with quite a bit of rain and freezing weather I'm either feeling the chill through thin leather, or that rain water is finding it's way into my shoes.

Maybe I should've just paid a bit more money and got some better quality ones. You might remember back here I bought a pair of red Dr Martens. They were a size or two too big for my feet and consequently started doing nasty things to my feet. They kept my feet dry though. I brought them back home, so they'll probably end up on the 'bay.

My best friend, Yahoo Auctions came to the rescue once more. I saw a pair of 10 hole Docs for 9,800 yen. The pictures looked great and the descriptive heading stated proudly, "Super Beauty Item!", so I waited until the last five minutes and surprised myself to be the winning bidder.

The "owner" was a recycle (secondhand) store in Kyoto. They only charged 500 yen for shipping with Sagawa courier service. Amazing considering it cost almost double for my mic from only Kanagawa prefecture with Japan Post. Good thing too was they deliver on weekends. I won the auction on Thursday (25th), paid the next day and it arrived on Saturday. Fantastic!

I had to do the bank transfer with help from a staff member. She was surprised to find the lack of a "transfer" button in English. (Yes, me too..) UFJ took their 262 yen transfer fee for the "help" it gave me.

I tried the same shoes at ABC Mart in Shinjuku to make sure they'd fit me, and after a day walking around even in ankle socks, I can safely say I have a much better fit than the other pair.

It takes a bit of time to "laces up", so I'll still be wearing my other shoes, but it's nice to finally have another of black docs again too. Happy face :D

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Mic Check One Two

On Monday I broke my self-imposed UFO catcher ban, and tried for a kuma relative of "Huggy". Here I'm trying to give it some Macdonalds coffee. Not even a bear can stomach that..

It took 400 yen to get it. I've called it "Fluffy", full name "Fafa Fluffy"! I like this one better. It has nicer fur than the other one. I think I'm safe though. No urge to keep playing again for a while we can hope.

On Tuesday I made the winning bid on a practically new Rode NT1-A condenser microphone. For 12,300 yen the mic was mine. I noticed he lived near Yokohama and by chance I was going to be there the next day, so I asked if I could pick it up. Like the other guy, he insisted on posting it. This time 900 yen. A little steep for 3kg but I'm still pleased with the price I got it for.

It's strange that this Australian mic is cheaper here than back home. It arrived in a Shiseido box at about noon. I wasted no time opening the box. It looks great and I'm really happy with the sound. A big difference from a dynamic, especially compared to that cheap mic I bought for 1,000 yen way back. Ha ha.

I can't believe how sensitive and quiet it is. I have to be careful to make sure I don't record the outside sounds that could easy leak onto a recording. The package came with a long microphone cable, shockmount and a pop shield. Taking that into account, I virtually got the mic for free!

I might have found a new addiction with Yahoo Auctions. Today I also swung a pair of new looking Docs for a nice price. They're a few other things I'm keeping my eye on too. I'm pretty happy right now.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Somewhere Over The Whiskey Rainbow

I got an invite from InterFM to attend Whiskey Live! , at Tokyo Big Sight in Odaiba. Although during the course of the day I realised that this is not really my choice of alcohol, I had a really good time soaking in the vibe of a surprisingly packed joint.

I don't know about you but I never pictured the average Japanese person to drink whiskey and if they did, I imagined they might be old, crusty guys. There was quite a mixed range of people. Even quite a few not too unattractive ladies.


A few guys had pen and paper scribbling down the details of what they'd just drunk. To me most of them tasted pretty much the same. One felt like it was evaporating in my mouth, it was so strong of alcohol. Unfortunately most of the samples were given out straight, while I prefer a mixer. Thankfully Suntory and Chivas gave out their offerings as "highballs" (mixes with soda), which made it go down much easier.

It didn't hurt that they had a few booth girls to make Chivas even more memorable to me.

It was nice that along with the entry ticket I also had a meal ticket for a nearby restaurant. No good drinking on an almost empty stomach. With the ticket we got a Whiskey magazine and a nice glass too.

They had an interesting idea of allowing artists to paint something while drinking whiskey for "inspiration". The Japanese painter did something pretty cool. The token gaijin did.. well, I'll leave that up to you!

There was also a surprise celebrity, Konishiki Yasokichi who was a special guest. They got him to taste/judge a whiskey cocktail. You can see him here along with InterFM DJ, Guy Perryman and Mari Stone.

The event was on from between 11am until 6:15pm, so as you can imagine there were a LOT of drunk Japanese sleeping in the foyer. The security was going up to them periodically to see if they were still alive.

I arrived there about 1pm. I decided to go to Odaiba by walking along the Rainbow Bridge again. This time I brought my SLR to do much better pictures and video.
An easy way to get there is to catch a Yamanote line train to the Tamachi station. From there, go out the east Shibaura exit and continue in the same southeast direction in a bee-line to the base of the bridge (Shibaura Anchorage).

Once off the bridge, I walked towards the ferris wheel and then along the Bridge of Dreams. Hotel Trusty (yes, that's seriously what it's called. I don't know who makes these names up) is an interesting looking building. In the gap you can see Tokyo Big Sight.

Seems like this place is quite popular with cosplayers. It wasn't too hard to find young people dressed up.

By the time Whiskey Live! finished up, I was nicely intoxicated. Until March the Rainbow Bridge is only open until 530pm. I COULD have caught the monorail back, but being me, I walked to Shin Kiba station to catch the subway directly back home.

Actually I could have got on at Tatsumi, slightly closer but I didn't know, nor see the station entrance there. I strongly discourage going this way though. I walked about an hour through a highway wasteland of nothing. Not much to see around these parts. Lucky I was too drunk to care.

Nevertheless I had a great day out. I want to extend my thanks to Guy and InterFM for the tickets. If they read this I don't mind if they throw tickets to any other upcoming functions my way. *hint hint*

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Ao Oni

Ever since I tried this beer, I'd been looking for it everywhere.

It's called Aooni ("Blue Demon") or India Pale Ale. I tried it at one of the parties, and I thought it wasn't bad. It's a 7% strong beer that's quite easy to drink.

I managed to find it in the Tokyu supermarket in Aobadai. I went in at opening time. If you've ever been there then, it's the strangest experience. Walking past EVERY aisle I got bowed to by ALL the staff.

It was so awkward. It happened so much it felt like they were taking the piss. I've noticed the same thing happen at department stores at closing time as well. To give you an impression what it felt like, watch this video.

On this second tasting, this beer didn't appeal to me all that much. It cost close to 300 yen, but I think the much cheaper Suntory draft 8% Strong tastes not a whole lot different, and an extra 1% makes all the difference ;)

Likely this will be the last time I get this, AND the last time I go to a supermarket at opening time.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Oni wa soto. Fuku wa uchi!

It's been a while since I've been to Akihabara and Ochanomizu. It's my day off, so guess where I'm going?

The weather has been absolutely freezing. On Monday it snowed, and on Wednesday day night it was 1 degree! I'm not used that chill at all. Back home it used to rarely get below ten. Anyway, today I made sure I was rugged up enough to endure any cold that might set in and made my way there.

In Ochanomizu I found a nice used Sony microphone stand for only 980 yen. It was quite heavy so I asked them to hold it for me and I'd pick it up later.

In Akihabara I looked around for a USB hub for my Air, and since they gave me those rechargeable batteries, I figured I should get a charger so I can use them with my stereo recorder. I tried out an old secondhand 50mm 1.8s lens that was pretty cheap, but I didn't buy it. I took a few maid pictures while I was there too.

When I got home I tested out the hub. Unpowered, it JUST managed to sync and charge my iPhone. My external hard drive didn't show signs of life until I powered up the hub externally.

The big mistake I made was pulling the power plug off while my SD card was connected and it corrupted my card bad. Damn.

I looked for a few (free) utilities to recover a whole lot of my photos and videos.

If you're on a Mac you should use Photorec. It's an easy to use Terminal based program that not only rescues photos, it grabs other files as well including AVCHD videos I made from the Panasonic, and even mp3s.

On a PC, PCinspector worked great and showed a familiar file tree structure of my memory card to get my files back.

Yesterday was Setsubun. Instead of throwing the beans, we just ate them for good luck. Seems these days I'm getting the bad with the good, so any reason to rid myself of my demons is worth doing. Quite tasty 'dem beans..

Monday, 1 February 2010

Lighter Than Air

I think I made it clear how much the iPad was a big letdown for me.

I really like my Mac laptop, but carting it around is actually quite straining on my shoulders. Last week I saw a small netbook selling for a quite reasonable 25,700 yen. I wanted more time to think about it, and knowing that the iPad was coming, I held off.

Last Saturday I went to the Shibuya Apple store and had a play with the Macbook Air. When it came out, I didn't see the point of it. Actually it was just really hard to see the value behind the extraordinary price tag. BUT.. just picking it up got me thinking about it again.

Today the stars must have been aligned because I saw a Macbook Air, albeit an old 2008 model, in good condition for a GREAT price. In fact it was a comparable price to the competition. I checked out the going rate and confirmed this was a good deal. I put it on hold and later I went to get it.

I'm really happy with it. Sure, it has it's limitations, but much less I think than the iPads and netbooks. I got a good 5 hours testing out the battery today too. Better than my one and half on my other laptop.

A relative recently bought a nice Sigma 50mm 1.4 lens which got me curious about a possible addition to my camera. I'm primarily interested in the low light benefits and sharp pics, but some narrow depth of field definitely wouldn't go astray.

So, armed with my SD card I went to Yodobashi to take a few samples. I tried a Nikon 50mm 1.4G and 1.4D, and a Sigma 50mm 1.4.

I only took a few shots at 1.4. The G and D were nice lenses. Auto focus on this lens makes a huge difference. With such a narrow depth of field, manual focus was quite difficult.

I preferred the Sigma out of the three. The Nikons were quite similar to me, and much darker than the Sigma which came out noticeably brighter on the same settings. I'm no photography expert though. That's just my opinion from my brief play.

If I find one of these at the right price, it might be a good impulse buy. Oh no.