Four Day Weekend, Day 4

In the morning, Tony and Andy played together. In the afternoon, Tony had soccer practice and Andy played with his loudmouth friends. While watching him and his friends play together, it made me realize that Grand Theft Auto is the adult equivalent of smashing trucks together on the living room floor.

Me, I scanned more photos (Tony’s birth, B&W photos from my time at Penn State), drank beer and reminisced about my college days. Out of the hundreds of people I knew back then, I can probably name about 15 now.

I can’t believe I used to go out in public wearing those enormous Harry Potterish glasses. No wonder I never got laid much back then.

Four Day Weekend, Day 2

On Saturday morning (day 1) I drove my wife to work so we could have the car to go to Navel Park. That was the plan, but when I got home I crawled back into bed and didn’t wake up until the crack of 1pm. I felt refreshed, but guilty for shooting our plans for the day to hell. The kids didn’t mind though, they had their fill of portable, TV and PC games while I was in lala land.

Sunday I was determined to get the kids out of the house to do something fun. As a parent I’m supposed to do that. My wife is a lot better at it though. It was easy to convince Tony to go to Navel Park with me, but try as we might we couldn’t convince Andy to come along. He wanted to stay home and play with his friends, who are a bit nutty but good kids. They think it’s funny to talk to me all the time in a fake American accent. It kind of makes me want to whack them over the head, but I just go with the flow instead.

Tony and I had fun together at the park. We played catch until his arm gave out, roamed around the tunnels below the roller slide, swung on the skyrope, and climbed the rope and log jungle gym. Afterwards we bought lunch at a food stall, checked out the outdoor tsuri bori lake then went home to make sure Andy was still alive. My wife would be really angry if I left him home alone and he got hit by a car or something. But Grandpa was home and so was his friend’s mother so I wasn’t too worried.

Four Day Weekend, Day 1

It turns out we have a four day weekend, not a three day one. Saturday was Constitution Memorial Day (kenpou kinen-bi), today is Childrens’ Day (kodomo no hi), tomorrow is Greenery Day (midori no hi) and Tuesday is a freebie because two of the holidays were over the weekend. That freebie didn’t show up on the desktop calendar I use at work, but somehow everyone else in Japan but me knew about it. I suspect it’s something genetic.

Yesterday (Saturday) I finally hooked up the flatbed/negative/slide scanner (CanoScan 8400F) that I bought second hand for 8000 yen months and months ago but has been sitting in a corner of my room still in the box. I stayed up till the wee hours of the morning looking through my slides from my year as an exchange student in Ecuador and my black and white negatives from college, and found the negative of the best photo I’ve ever taken:

Here are some of the photos I took while I was in Ecuador in 1985-86. Unfortunately most of my negatives are still at my parents’ house in the US. And really, they don’t seem so special anymore now that it’s possible to search for the most interesting photos on Flickr tagged “Ecuador” and find hundreds of images better than the ones I took.

While I was upstairs in my habitat home office reminiscing and playing with my scanner, Andy was outside playing MTV Jackass with his neighborhood friends:

Our new washer/dryer

I’m well aware that there can’t possibly be anyone besides my wife and me who gives a rat’s ass, but here’s the story anyway.

About 6 or 7 years ago we were in the market for a new washer and dryer. Back then I had a better paying job and money to burn, so I let my wife choose any model she wanted. (Plus, it was her birthday present. How romantic.) With the monthly salary I was receiving back then, it was easy to be generous. She had her heart set on a combination washer/dryer that went for 80,000 yen, so I bought it for her with nary a whimper. It was an exceedingly kind and selfless act on my part. I wanted a separate washer and dryer, and the man in me wanted to put up a fight about it, since if one of them broke we’d still be able to use the other instead of having to replace a single, very expensive dual purpose unit.

Flash forward 2-3 years and the dryer stopped working. Since then we’ve been air drying all our laundry. I never complained, and the words “I told you so” never crossed my mouth.

Last week, the washer kicked the bucket. Somehow my wife found out–maybe on the Internet?– that Sanyo was admitting a defect in our model and was offering to repair it for free. The repair guy came to our house, did something, left, but it broke again immediately. The second time he visited he told us the motor was shot and we’d be receiving a replacement completely free of charge.

Let me emphasize that last point. Without any hassle at all they offered to replace our old and broken 80,000 yen washer/dryer that had only a one year warranty with a brand spankin’ new 110,000 yen model chocked with the latest technology for holy frikkin’ completely free, AND they hauled away the old one free of charge. Keep in mind that there’s no way I could have afforded to buy a new one, let alone pay to get the old one fixed, and as luck would have it, it turns out we’re given a better model than the original on Sanyo’s dime. Right now, I could not be happier. Normally I hate doing laundry, but I’ve already gone through two loads tonight. If I didn’t have to work tomorrow I’d stay up all night tossing load after load of my entire wardrobe into the machine.

I must say, the next time I buy a home appliance, I will definitely give whatever the Sanyo version is of said appliance some very serious consideration. I owe them a big one.

Holiday Photos

This week is Golden Week, when a slew of national holidays fall within days of each other and the entire country takes off work en masse. Unfortunately, this year next Saturday and Sunday are two of the four holidays, so the only days I have off are yesterday and next Monday. It’s better than nothing, so I’m not complaining.

Yesterday was a beautiful day and Tony, Andy and I were home. There was no way I was going to let the kids stay inside playing video games (Tony: Monster Hunter for the PSP; Andy: Animal Crossing, Super Mario Brothers, Yoshi’s Island, and Bimoji Training on the DS), so I dragged them kicking and screaming to the local park to play catch and wade barefoot in the little man made stream.

There’s nothing like the smile on Tony’s face when we play catch. I need to put more effort into playing outside with him. It sure beats the zombie-like expression he has on his face when he’s under the hypnotic spell of his PSP, and the guilt I feel for letting him zone out like that for far too long. Andy, like me when I was his age, can’t catch a ball to save his life so he either watches from the sidelines or goes off to do his own thing. It doesn’t bother me in the least that Andy isn’t athletic. He likes to make up his own games and enjoys playing with other kids, as long as whatever they’re doing doesn’t involve ball catching.

While they played together, I foraged through the park for things to take pictures of with my new camera. There aren’t too many flowers in the park this time of year, but I did find a few bushes with bees buzzing about. Up a path through the wooded hills in the middle of the park there’s a restored 17th century house called the “Old Nakayama Family Residence,” designated as a cultural treasure by the Ibaraki Prefectural government. I won’t go into details about its history. Basically, it’s a big, old house that people come to see and there’s some old stuff inside it from that era. I waited with my camera on a tripod for about half an hour for a chance to take an HDR shot with nobody getting in the way.

Before heading home, we stopped off at the little restaurant on the park grounds for some overpriced eats. $1200 yen for two soft ice cream cones and three bottled drinks. My fault for not being able to deny my kids their right to ice cream on a spring day. What a racket they’ve got going there.

We went home and I made the boys a late lunch of their favorite spaghetti (Prego sauce out of an industrial sized jar bought at Costco). Tony, when you put food in front of him, has to be reminded a hundred times to shut up and eat. Man, that kid is skinny. Afterwards I fell asleep until 11pm, then stayed up till 3am messing around with Photoshop and uploading photos to Flickr. The end.

In other news, our washer/dryer is broken and laundry is piling up, but the good thing is Sanyo recently announced a defect in that model so we’re getting it fixed replaced for free. As a homeowner, it feels a bit like winning the lotto.

Weekend Photos

On Saturday while the boys were taking swimming lessons I spent around 45 minutes walking around the neighborhood in search of stuff to shoot with my new camera and lens. It’s been so long since I’ve used anything other than a point-and-shoot camera that my eye for photos is not what it used to be. I HDR’d the best shot:

On Sunday Tony and Andy’s elementary school held classes and invited parents to come and watch the last class of the day being conducted. I brought the camera, figuring ya’ll might like to see what a schoolroom looks like.

First Pics!

With the money I just received from my parents for last Christmas (we’re a pretty laid back bunch), I bought a Canon EOS Kiss Digital X camera, also known in other countries as the EOS Digital Rebel XTi or the EOS 400D. It’s the most popular model among users of, so choosing it over all the other cameras on the market was a no-brainer. Also, I already own a set of autofocus lenses from my 20 year old 35mm EOS, so upgrading to digital wasn’t too expensive. For over ten years I’ve been looking forward to the day I finally own a digital SLR that takes pictures equal in quality to 35mm film.

Here are the first pics from the new camera. (Click thumbnails to enlarge.) This is how my family spends every night at home before bedtime.