Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Japan Trip XVIII: Railgun Sushi

After our day full of interviews, hair cuts, and cutlets, we decided to go on one more adventure with Xan and Steven before they headed back to Fukushima. Specifically, we decided to get dinner.

I don't know who knew about this place or even what it was called, but from then on we just kind of referred to it as Railgun Sushi

Monday, April 28, 2014

Sky Harbor

The airport in Phoenix, AZ is a pretty major hub. It's the home base for Southwest Airlines, and huge numbers of people travel in and out of that airport every day, due to the fact that everybody in America has at least one relative (an aunt, a grandparent, a sibling, a second cousin) who lives in Phoenix. This is a universal truth, and if you don't think it's true for you, then you're simply not that familiar with your family tree.

That said, I want to take you on a magical trip to the Phoenix airport: the place known as "Sky Harbor."

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Japan Trip XVII: A Day at Home

First, holy crap, I've been doing most of these posts completely from memory, not really sure of the timeline. But then, I just remembered I brought my Techo with me for the trip and, sure enough, I took note of everything I did, on the days I did them.

I love it when I impress myself, but it's funny how I remembered all these thing (pretty accurately, according to my Techo) but completely forgot that I actually kept record of it all. Memory is weird.

Anyway, we spent most of the fourth day at home, but not idle.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

D&D Session #38: It's a Hard Dretch Life

After the party rested in the safety of the tunnel, they continued through, knowing that at the other end was safety.

What would have been an arduous and dangerous trek through hundreds of miles of tunnel for anyone else was simply a boring, easy trek for the party. It still took three weeks to traverse, though, so the characters found ways to amuse themselves along the way.

Friday, April 25, 2014

On Celebrity

Sometimes on Facebook I spend an inordinate amount of time responding to a friend's status update, constructing (what I hope to be) a well-thought-out response to the subject that, honestly, is way more than anyone expects of a comment on Facebook. Unless you're discussing philosophy or something, in which case it's the norm.

That said, I've decided to salvage a comment I made on somebody's Facebook status, since it pretty effectively conveys my stance on celebrity.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

PAX East Survival tip: J.Pace and Son

One of the best rules about surviving a convention on a budget is to avoid eating the food at the convention center at all costs. The food is all way too expensive, unhealthy, and unsatisfying to bother with. I have, at times, been desperate enough to fall for the temptation, but I'm here to tell you it's not worth it.

In Seattle this isn't a problem at all: the restaurants in the Washington State Convention Center are all common restaurants with normal prices, like the two Subways and a crappy pizza place. More importantly, though, you're in downtown Seattle--you can easily want to a much better restaurant nearby with less of a crowd.

The Boston Convention and Expo Center, on the other hand, is in a sort of desert, with nothing apparently nearby except for an expensive hotel restaurant. What's a starving con-goer to do? The answer, of course, is J.Pace and Son.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Japan Trip XVI: Palette Town

As I said last time, we were going to Odaiba, a touristy area of Japan. Being someone who rarely tours places, though, I'm not really sure what that means. I guess there's lots of things to look at and take pictures of there? I'm not sure.

That was certainly the case here, though I guess that sort of thing doesn't interest me much. Still, there were a few interesting things to see there.


I've now officially visited Boston five times now. Each time I go I feel like I get a little more familiar with the place.

That said, I've never been there for vacation or anything. Every time I'm there it's for PAX. Still, even though I spend most of my time in and around the convention center, I feel like I've seen enough to form a few opinions.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Japan Trip XV: Chinese Food in Japan

It seems like every time we travel somewhere, someone we know is there to meet us and have lunch or something. This makes sense, because Starmen.Net has members pretty everywhere across the United States.

It just so happens that a few of them live in Japan as well. We started meeting up with them on the third day.

The PAX Pokemon League

A few years ago, when conventions were something new and exciting for me, I simply couldn't get enough of PAX. The exhibits, the panels, the games, the concerts... there was way more there than I could ever find time to do.

After 10 PAXes, though, most of the excitement has worn away: the exhibits have huge lines for games I'm not terribly interested in, the panels are all of things I've heard before, there's only a couple of bands I really want to see, etc.

However, one thing still gets me excited for every PAX, especially PAX East: The PAX Pokemon League.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Japan Trip XIV: A Family Restaurant

I'm not sure exactly what "family restaurant" means in Japan, but as far as I can tell it means a place that can seat more than 4 people at a time.

Regardless, the place we went to after this long day of walking was primarily chosen for its closeness to home, the fact that it was open late, and because it could seat all nine of us no problem.

D&D: Keeping Track of Reputation

It's rare to find D&D players who truly seem to respect the world and the characters that the dungeon master has created for them. More often, the players are preoccupied with the accumulation of wealth, getting more powerful, and chasing whatever strange, unplanned goal they've decided to pursue, and any inconvenience (object or NPC) will likely be destroyed without a second thought.

In both cases, it's good to have a system in place to keep track of a party's actions, so that their deeds both good and bad will be remembered by the world's inhabitants. A reputation system allows the inhabitants to treat the party appropriately, depending on what they've done to or for the people in question.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Japan Trip XIII: Shibuya/The Loft

As the Japan trip fades into memory, it's getting harder to recount the trip with total veracity. We're already limited to things that stood out in my mind to begin with. And it doesn't help that I'm still recounting this day in which I was mostly out of it due to motion sickness.

Regardless, I'll try to remember what I can about our first trip to Shibuya.

The Truth About Ice Cream

Jeff and I have a really bad habit of picking up half-gallon tubs of ice cream when they go on sale. My first advice regarding ice cream: don't buy ice cream. Just go ahead and cut that stuff right out of your diet. Trust me, you'll be much happier in the long run.

That said, I recently discovered something incredible about ice cream that I feel the need to share. At the time, the revelation kind of blew my mind. It could revolutionize the way I prepare ice cream.

D&D Session #37: Ninja Ex Machina

As they watched the titans destroy the orc village, the party had to make a decision: would they head north through the titans to get tot he airship that would take them out of this realm? Or would they escape south with the few orcs that remain?

To head toward the airship now would not only be dangerous; it would mean abandoning their spiders (Arial Black and Webdings) as well as giving up on their tyrant skull, which Robert was presumably still dragging along the path.

In the end, the party began to head south.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Japan Trip XII: The Pokemon Center

I remember being excited to play Pokemon even before the game came out in North America. Nintendo Power really hyped the game up with comics and features, and I'm not sure but I think the TV show even came out before the game? It's all kind of a blur.

My relationship with the games were off and on after the first generation, though it's pretty much just been "on" since Pokemon Pearl. So, when the opportunity came to visit a Pokemon Center while traveling around Japan, I was... well, not as excited as I expected to be.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Battlestar Galactica

A few weeks ago I finished watching Battlestar Galactica (the remake). I had a lot of thoughts on the series, but between PAX, catching up on Japan blog posts, and other priorities, I've been slow to review it.

Short version: It's a fun series, worth watching. I'd say a full half of the episodes are really good, with the rest being at least engaging, if not exciting.

Japan Trip XI: The Ghibli Museum

I've already reviewed two Ghibli movies this year, and I have several more to go before I feel truly caught up. Can I truly call myself a Ghibli fan?

Well, yes. Yes I can. You don't need to be completely familiar with all of an artist's work to be a fan. Just as many people are fans of George R. R. Martin despite having never read Armageddon Rag or watched the Beauty and the Beast soap opera, I would consider myself a Ghibli fan based on my love of Kiki's Delivery Service alone.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

PAX South

I've been going to PAX every year since 2009. That's about five years of PAX, with me at every one except for the recent one in Australia. Probably won't be attending that one, I'm afraid.

Anyway, for all ten PAXes I've attended I've had to fly or drive across the country one way or the other. Finally, though, they've announced PAX South, a much closer event: in San Antonio, in fact.

And I've got mixed feelings about it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Japan Trip X: The Maket and the Park

If you ever find yourself alone in a strange land, lacking any method of communication with anyone you know as well as any way to really communicate with the native people, the last thing you want to do is panic.

On the second day of our Japan trip, I found myself alone in an unfamiliar part of Japan, my entire party having disappeared. I'm not terribly predisposed to panicking about anything, but if I were that might have been the time. The great advice given by the cover of the Hichhiker's Guide to the Galaxy are kind of wasted on me, though.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Title, Either Intentionally Vague or Overly Descriptive. Sometimes Misleading?

Strong opening sentence that may only be tangentially related to the point of the post. A brief set up, perhaps an explanation of why I felt like writing the post.

A statement or question designed to hopefully convince the reader to keep reading after the jump break.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Japan Trip IX: Public Transportation

I feel like a full third of my waking time in Japan was spent on the train system. And while I think I could have possibly found my way home if I got lost somehow (depending on where I got lost), I'm grateful that Lindsay was able to navigate is through all the stops, switches, and transfers to get where we needed to go.

How non-Japanese speakers get about in Tokyo is beyond me.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Movie Review #15: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

The fourth movie I watched on the way home from Japan was Ender's Game, but the movie was cut short as the plane was landing in Los Angeles. Since I never saw the end (it stopped right at Ender's last mission), I've decided not to review the movie nor count it as one of the movies I've finished until I've actually seen the rest.

That said, this weekend Laura and I went to see the new Captain America movie. Short review: it was very fun: a movie with guts enough to shake up the Marvel universe with style. I recommend it.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Japan Trip Part VIII: Convenience Stores

7-Eleven stores have always kind of confused me. I simply could not imagine how a convenience store could survive without fuel stations attached. Obviously people go to these places, but why? They're like grocery stores, but more expensive and with far less variety, especially if you want something fresh. What's so convenient about that?

Japan is the largest market for 7-Eleven, having nearly twice as many stores in that tiny country than in all of the United States. As it turns out, convenience store means something a little different in Japan than it does here.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

D&D Session #36: Consequences

We managed to fit a D&D session in between the Japan trip and PAX somehow.

This was one of those sessions that wasn't really long (<3 hours) with no real, pull-out the grid battles, yet it felt like a lot happened.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Dark Ages, Book 1: Chapter 4, Part 1

(Continued from Chapter 3, Part 2)


“Will you come to the yard and train me, ser?”
Reace looked up from his book at the sound of the brat’s voice. Practically everyone knew better than to disturb him in the study. He came here for the solitude, and nothing this boy had to say could be urgent enough to warrant this intrusion.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Japan Trip Part VII: The Coffee Shop/Communicating Without Words

I'm never been so into Japan that I've wanted to move there. In fact, until a few months ago I was content with the idea of never even visiting the place. It simply wasn't a priority.

That said, having spent time there I couldn't help but take note of how well I would be able to survive there, assuming that employment was not an issue (a big assumption). Having spent some time without Lindsay there to interpret for me, I actually think I would be able to make due despite the language barrier.

Japan Trip Part VI: The Onsen

There are few things as Japanese as hot springs. Sure, there are plenty of places where you can find hot springs outside of Japan, but Japan is such a volcanically active place that hot springs are pretty much everywhere. They're so numerous and popular that they've become a part of the culture.

Given that, we spent most of our first day at a public bath house: the Yokohama Onsen.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Movie Review #14: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was the third movie I watched on my flight east over the Pacific. It was directed by and starred Ben Stiller, which doesn't say as much as I thought it would before I watched it.

Short review: I really liked it. The vibe was like a combination of The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Stranger Than Fiction, leaning more toward the latter.

Japan Trip Part V: McDonalds

I have a theory that as you spend time with a person the probability that they will tell you about how McDonalds outside of the United States uses real beef in their burgers approaches 1.

That said, spoiler: I didn't eat a McDonalds hamburger in Japan. However, I did eat there a few times.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The "Be Yourself" Fallacy

One of the most common pieces of advice I hear for most any situation is to "just be yourself."

There's something to that advice, but like any phrase that begins with "just" it's never as simple as people make it out to be, and I think it's irresponsible to assume it has universal application.

Japan Trip, Part IV: The House

To cut a long story short, I recommend just getting a hotel if you're visiting Japan. It's probably not cheap, but there are a number of comforts that a hotel provides that make it worth the price.

That said, we attempted to save money by renting a house for the week.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Movie Review #13: Star Trek Into Darkness

Oh dear, spreading out these reviews this long after I've seen the movies might not be a good idea. I'm having trouble really remembering most of what this movie was about.

But then again, maybe that's just saying something about the movie. In fact, consider that my short-form review: the movie didn't stick in my mind very well, and I doubt it'll stick in yours.

Now I'm going to dig deep and see if I can recall how this all went.