Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Great Escape

This might look a little familiar. It's another one of Bandai's solar powered LCD series released way back in 1982. I've got a sudden urge to chase that retro nostalgia once again.

This one's called Daiddasou ("The Great Escape") that I picked up on Yahoo Auctions. Again there are two screens. The first our prisoner (that's you) is making a breakout by sneaking up to the bars to saw them out to escape without being caught by the prison guard.

Having successfully done that he's now outside where he has to dodge bullets and guard dogs to make his escape to the van. The second screen is quite similar to Nazo No Pyramid (instead there were spiders and mummies to get to the gold). If I had to say which was better though, I'd say the former.

I had the chance to buy another one but I hoped it would be in better condition for the price. Also in Funabashi I found a "Mr Franken" but there was no sound and I have to say Nintendo's D Pad feels much better than the control on this.

Still on the look out for more of these. Time to hit up the junk shops and auctions.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Schoolgirls With Guitars

I never get a Saturday off. Today's Autumn Equinox day in Japan. It's nice to get a full weekend off for a change.

I haven't been to Nakano Broadway for what seems like ages, so it feels like a good time to return there. The last time I went to Akihabara, I saw another Nazo No Pyramid, and even a Galaxy Invader 1000. I figure you can't have enough of a great game, but I held back. The later was 5,000 yen, and had a few scratches. Maybe for 2 or 3,000 yen I would've taken it for nostalgia's sake.

Well if you like Akiba, then Nakano is more of the same times eleven. I got there at 3pm and struggled to look around in less than four hours.

I bought a Yui Hirasawa (lead guitar) anime doll from the K-ON! series, a long time ago in Funabashi. Shortly after I got Ritsu Tainaka (drums) in Shibuya. I figured since I started this I may as well get the whole band, right?

In Shibuya and Akihabara, the prices were quite high, but I bought  both Tsumugi Kotobuki (keyboards), and Azusa Nakano (red rhythm guitar) here today for a reasonable price. Here, and in Akihabara you'll see shops with items in clear stacked cases. The shop leases the boxes to the sellers. Quite a good idea. This is where I found them.

I've never watched the K-ON! anime. I just think rock chicks are pretty cool. Assembling them takes a bit of time. They usually come in pieces with dismembered head, arms and torsos so they can be put into smaller boxes and cushioned.

 I've got them displayed in my glass cupboard. I've only got Mio Akiyama, the bass player, left to complete my "band". Then I'll stop, and find something else I don't need to buy.

Friday, 21 September 2012

iPhone Five Is Alive. Is It?

I've had a run of bad luck starting from losing my phone. They say bad things come in threes. It felt like it was getting close to five or six. (Even with all my updates of posts, I didn't mention the 750g of meat I left out overnight. I did give them to the seven or so stray cats in the carpark of my apartment though).

Anyway I'm thinking positive. I ditched Facebook for a start. I got sick of the political issues, the whinging of needy people, the food pictures, and the so-called privacy issues Facebook couldn't care less about. 

I watched this video. While parodying the mythical iPhone 5, I think it also sums up the general feeling of Facebook itself. I'm going to miss my Italian friends. Sorry guys.

When I bought my replacement phone, I did have in mind to update eventually to the new iPhone 5. I, along with probably the rest of the world followed all the leaked pictures with religious fervour to find out what it was going to have and look like.

The early news was not so good. Oh, a nano SIM card. So somehow I'm going to have to work out how to cut my prepay into one of these. Fantastic. And, a new proprietary dock connector to deal with. It's not so long ago I bought my nice Apogee Jam guitar iPhone interface. Thanks Apple!

Today I had a chance to have a look at one in the flesh, so to speak. Even though it was raining, there weren't many people in the Softbank store, and it was easy to play with it.

The four inch screen is such an subtle screen update. It still does NOT feel much bigger than the 4S. Being thinner is nice, but it lacks that certain WOW factor I want. If Apple made it at least the 4.8" size of the Galaxy S3, I would have let Apple have my baby, and do what they want with me. This just makes me annoyed. No doubt I'm sure Apple will make the "real" size a feature, when they release their best phone yet in a year or two, or five from now.

While functional, the UI needs an update. It looks boring. I was very curious how Apple was going to handle their own maps. In 3D it sounded awesome. In reality it doesn't have the polish of Google Maps, and Street View is not here. Hello Bueller?

I've lost count of how many times Street View made finding a street SO much easier to locate, especially here in Tokyo.

I've been looking at the S3 and even the Galaxy Note. While I'm used to the iPhone interface, I am loving the bigger screen. Android is very close to the iPhone experience now. The forthcoming Note 2 looks to be amazing. The way Apple is doing things, there's a pretty good chance Samsung is going to take my money this time.

It hurts to say that. If I forgo the Galaxy phones, I'd rather pick up the 4S for compatibility to what I have, than the iPhone 5. I even prefer how the metal band goes around the phone. That's if I can get over that screen size.

Apple's suing of Samsung to me shows that they are threatened by the popularity of the Android phones. Instead of doing that why don't they give the people what they want? Please?

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Yoshi's Semi Acoustic

It looks like my beach days are over this year. It rained for about five minutes. We took our umbrellas and caught the train, but it was to be the last rain of the whole day. It seems like this is the way it is. Forget your umbrella, you're screwed. I HATE carrying an umbrella for no reason.

Today's plan was to go to Ebisu to check out two exhibitions, Sound & Vision (Masayoshi Sukita), and Light of Dreams (Akihide Tamura), at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.

Both exhibitions were pretty interesting. Sound & Vision had some very cool rock photography. Quite a lot of David Bowie. I didn't know he had something unusual with his eyes before. Akihide's photography had a lot of locations around Tokyo and Yokohama, with earlier shots of the construction of the Yokohama Bay Bridge, Rainbow Bridge, and the pre-Minato Mirai.

After Ebisu we decided to walk to Shibuya.

I found a Yoshi that will go well in my Super Mario plushie collection, as well as a semi-acoustic guitar. I know yes, ANOTHER guitar. Inspired by Heth and Jed in New York, I was thinking of getting a pickup for my acoustic, but the price of a built-in preamp WITH a guitar was too hard to pass up.

Now that the weather is due to turn cooler, and the beach days over, I'm thinking of my park picnic drinking, and it's going to be a good opportunity to finally get that amp, and stomp boxes out there! Carrying the guitar on my shoulder if going to be much better too.

So, my other steel string guitar is up for sale. If anyone is looking for a cheap acoustic guitar, post me a comment. I'll keep it anonymous if you want to leave a return email. I'll throw in the hard case as well.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Tooth Hurty

It was just another night. You know making a pizza, eating it, then finding a hard, small stone in your mouth after finishing the last bite. I didn't remember adding anything like this to my secret recipe?

A piece of my tooth had broken off.

Before this happened, I noticed that if I bit on the left side of my mouth, I felt the slightest jolt of pain. Touching the teeth there was nothing, so I couldn't exactly locate which tooth it was.

It was before I came to Japan that I last saw a dentist. Yeah I know, bad, bad me. If it isn't scary enough seeing a dentist in your native country, imagine how bad it could be in Japan?

Like I said in a previous post, it's HIGHLY advisable to find an English speaking doctor before you get sick. And so too, a dentist is a very good idea as well.

As my never-ending "luck" would have it, this happened on Friday night. I thought finding a dentist on a Saturday would be close to impossible. The following Monday was a public holiday, and I didn't feel comfortable to wait till Tuesday. Fortunately there was a fluent English speaking dentist available for an appointment at 430pm.

Only problem was I finished work at 415pm, and making my way from Tokyo station would be a challenge. I didn't have any students from 350pm, so I asked if I could leave a little earlier to make my appointment on time.

Instead of making it a simple, "ok, go ahead, get better soon", it was such a difficult task. They HAD to call HQ, no one "in charge" was available. Instead of an easy executive decision, I was questioned relentlessly so much that by the time I got off the phone it was my normal punch-out time. What a runaround!  Only in f*ing Japan!

Anyway, enough of the that rant for the time being..

Dental clinics in Japan are a little unusual in that they usually see more than one patient at a time. Here, there were three chairs in close proximity. Although in the same room, no-one faces one another. Luckily no one was screaming in pain while I was there.

The head dentist was the only one that could speak English, but I didn't have too much trouble. When it needed explaining he told me what was going on. They even let me hold two mirrors to see what was the problem. Nice.

For an X-ray, a filling and a little clean, it cost about 3,700 yen. A follow-up appointment cost 550 yen. Pretty good!  The dentist is covered by my National Health Insurance, so it's a rare moment that I am very thankful for having it.

He did ask me to recommend him to my friends, so if you're living in Tokyo, it's Yamaguchi Dental in Yotsuya. Their address is , 東京都新宿区四谷1-5 東交ビル3F(put the address in Google Maps), and their phone number is 03-3358-0894.

Keep um, smiling!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Jellyfish Kiss

I loved going to the beach last summer. The last time I went last year was Sept 16th. I made a conscious decision that this year I would go as often as possible. I lost count, but it was about fourteen or fifteen times.

The weather had been great and there was always plenty of eye candy on the beach. Once it reached the end of August though, and the end of the summer holidays there were far fewer people on the beach, and it was much easier to find a private plot of sand to assemble my blue tarp. (Although this didn't stop a Japanese guy from sitting down within two metres of me).

The last time I went was the 12th of September. It was humid and hot in Tokyo, so another dip in the Japan Sea was still inviting. It was quite sad to watch them pull the beach huts down. It felt like the end of Summer was here.

Nevertheless  it was relaxing. I arrived at 1pm. I quickly went into the water, and alternated between drinking a chu-hi and eating, then getting back in again. By 5 or 6pm I had two and a half chu-his. I felt hot, so I thought I'd jump in once more.

So.. with my gung-ho intoxication, I leapt through the water, and dived head and arms first into the water. And then it hit me. As soon as I went under the water I felt a warm, tingling sensation.

It was a familiar sting. The only thing was it was on my face, and all over the whole torso of my body. I had dived into the path of jellyfish. I quickly got out of the water, and went to the toliet block. My body had distinctly red rashes, and what looked like a tentacle welt line running down both sides of my face down to the middle of my chest. Mostly it looked and felt like sunburn.

I was cursing my bad luck sitting on the tarp. Feeling sorry for myself I drank the rest of my chuhi before leaving. I guess I should be mildly thankful. The jellyfish in Australia are much more deadly. IF the same thing happened I'd most likely have been screaming in agony.

The next morning when I woke up, I felt my right eye was heavy. Overnight it had become swollen enough that I could only keep that eye have open. I guess it was time to see the doctor.

My doctor said, "You know it's jellyfish season?" Of course I knew. I had little stings before and made nothing about them. If I didn't go into the water so quickly, I think I'd have avoided this.

It only cost 1,100 yen for the appointment, and 790 yen for the creams and allergy tablets he prescribed. In a week, my face looks normal, and the rashes have subsided. If the weather had not turned rainy in the days after, I'd even have attempted to go to the beach one last time.

Want to see an example of what a jellyfish kiss looks like? Here you go!