September 23, 2004

The Longest Run (So Far)

Ran 22 miles yesterday.

I've been training for the Chicago marathon for the past 14 weeks or so. I've intentionally avoided mentioning it here, because many would-be marathoners I've known seem to contract a strain of newparentitis. Newparentitis is that weird neurological disorder whereby new parents can only talk about their spawn: what it ate, what it regurgitated, what it pooped, how it pooped, how inspiring the poop was, etc. In that same vein, many marathon-runners-in-training seem to steer all conversations towards running, marathon training or how their knees feel like they are about to explode.

The root cause is the same: trying to stop a newborn baby from accidentally killing itself and running 50+ miles a week are both major time committments that take you away from the things that a normal human should be doing. Like, say, sleeping. This makes you into a less-than-stellar conversation partner.

This was the climax of the training I'm doing. From now until the marathon (October 10th), the mileage decreases every week until you finally stop running entirely several days before the race. I didn't get a real sense of accomplishment from having finished the run, but the thought of it being downhill from here until the race was very, very pleasant.

Be on the lookout for another self-indulgent post after the 10th.

Posted by pmk at 7:22 AM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2004

When we lived in the US, my firm would throw a party once a year. The parties themselves were fairly straight-forward affairs, but I worked hard to make the invitations entertaining. The coolest invite, by far, was for the party we did in 2001.

The idea was to launch and kill a startup in a single evening. Folks would come to the party, be issued titles based on their order of arrival and receive soon-to-be-worthless stock options. Of course, any new startup needs a Visionary Idea [tm]. My idea:

An excerpt from the marketing materials (aka the party invitation) explains it better than I could:

    In this high-speed, digital era, we still find our dogs like we have for

    Until now.

    At, we are changing the way our customers think about finding, purchasing and caring for a dog -- one puppy at a time!

    With our easy-to-use website, you can input information about your lifestyle and our CANiNE (Canine Artificial Neural Network Expert) intelligent agent software will help you find a dog that will fit into your busy day. Select from our huge inventory of dogs, carefully choosing your new dog's gender, color and temprament. Once you have found the perfect dog, will rush it to you, the very next day, thanks to our high-tech shipping technology.

The party was a smash and the invitation itself went on to win some design awards, which was cool (all kudos there to Erik Olsen Graphic Design for their incredible work).

But why mention this now? Last night, Randall IM'd me to let me know that a legitimate, real world company was doing business at They are clearly doomed -- they've set their shop up in a startup graveyard! Someone should warn them.

Posted by pmk at 7:54 AM | Comments (2)

September 20, 2004

Dining in Japan

One of the frustrating things about dining in Japan is the dearth of information available in English on restaurants. Many restaurants simply cannot be found in English guidebooks or on the Interweb. When information is available, it's often cursory or of dubious editorial quality.

If you can read Japanese, the situation is entirely different. Entire genres of magazines are devoted solely to resturant writeups. These reviews regularly feature full-page photo spreads of the restaurant's specialties ("food porn"). While the independence of some of these reviews is a little questionable, the sheer volume of available information is undeniable.

Since we dine out fairly regularly, I figured that I could help do something about this lack of information. Over the past few weeks, I've been taking a notepad with me when eating out, jotting down notes on places and meals that we've eaten at. So, expect some additional restaurant-related content on over the next few months.

My eventual goal is to spin off the reviews to a separate site, but one step at a time, I guess.

Posted by pmk at 7:55 AM | Comments (2)

September 17, 2004

Fire Drill

We had fire drills at Georgetown. Well, not fire drills really, but massive dorm exoduses each time a drunken fratboy would pull a fire alarm. At one point, the false alarms came so frequently that the University started fining everyone in the building, figuring collective punishment might flush out the guilty parties. Sadly, I can't remember if this worked or not.

I mention this because our apartment building put up posters this week announcing an upcoming fire drill. This thing puts puts our Georgetown exercises to shame. During this fire drill, folks will get to:

1) Exit the building in an orderly fashion using the stairs. Booooring.
2) Practice using fire extinguishers!
3) Feel the earth move under their feet in an Earthquake Simulation Vehicle. Woohoo!

Of course, they've scheduled this thing when I won't be here, so I won't be able to practice my fire extinguishing skills. If our building catches fire and I can't rush to the rescue, I intend to blame our condominium association for planning this thing without consulting me first. The nerve!

Posted by pmk at 5:28 AM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2004

His Day in Pictures

My arch-nemesis, Patrick "Slurmfactory" Wagner, had a cool idea that turned out really well. The SD card in his camera phone can hold up to 1,516 thumbnail-sized digital pics, so he decided to try and take as many pictures as he could during a single day.

He got 691 before his Symbian-based phone got too slow to use, but the resulting mosaic is pretty cool.

Now, Patrick had to take his pictures by hand, but it wouldn't be hard to rig up a system that took photos or video continuously, sending it back to a server for (possible) review and archiving. But I'm not so sure if I would want a visual archive of most of my days.

One thing I am sure of, though, is that Patrick's days are more interesting than mine. As evidence, I present the following excerpts:

Posted by pmk at 3:27 AM | Comments (1)

September 14, 2004

Revenge of the Snack Gangsters!

You think you're safe from the Snack Gangsters ? Think again.

Three weird new children with food strapped to their heads have hit the streets and they are thristing for blood. Especially evil PepperBoy. So evil.

Posted by pmk at 12:22 AM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2004

Sexist Snowdozer

My brother dragged me to the Honda Collection Hall while he was here. This museum features all sorts of Honda products, including bunches of race cars and motorcycles. It also takes FOUR HOURS to get there from Tokyo, via train and bus, but that's fodder for another post.

Anyway, while oohing and aahing over all the exciting Honda stuff, I came across the dozer below, with its vaguely sexist description:

A new lifestyle tool that features minimized-noise, cleaner and easier operation, and designed exclusively for people living in snowy regions. Considering that the tool is often used by older people as well as women, it sports a fully covered design eliminating any mechanical image, which to the eyes of such operators is sometimes seen as adverse and seemingly less friendly.

So, no worries girls! If the exposed mechanical bits on your current dozer have you frightened, Honda has just the thing. Sheesh.

(Thanks to dug for pointing out this is a snowdozer, not a snowblower.)

Posted by pmk at 5:19 AM | Comments (1)

September 12, 2004

Bike Friday Encounter

A week or two ago, I was riding back from the Imperial Palace, totally shot from having run 18 miles as part of this marathon training program I'm doing, when I passed a gaggle of folding bikes, including a few Bike Fridays!

I assaulted them with my incredibly bad Japanese and then went on my way. Turns out, one of the folks in said gaggle found my blog and posted about it. I just noticed the post today in my trackback list.

Then, to make this whole small world thing even more apparent, Yukari and I bumped into the president of the college that my brother and his girlfriend went to while running around the Palace again yesterday. Spooky!

Posted by pmk at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2004

Silly Restaurant Post

We had dinner at a place last night that was seasonal almost to the point of absurdity. Small place, about 20 seats, 8 at the counter and the rest split between two private tatami mat rooms. The restaurant itself is linked with a small, fancypants hotel about two hours outside of Tokyo. The hotel is like an Italian agriturismo -- the vegetables and meats they serve in the restaurant come, by and large, from the farm that the hotel shares the grounds with.

So, this farm ships vegetables to the restaurant in Tokyo. Before they begin service, they bring you a wooden tray full of what you're going to be eating that evening. More than a little precious, but the product looked great.

We had some grilled mushrooms that were a standout. They were charcoal grilled halfway, then put inside a "houba" leaf (cannot find a translation, some very long, but fairly narrow, tree leaf) on top of red miso paste. This whole packet was then grilled again for a bit. Packet is actually a bit misleading. It wasn't really cooked "en papillote", because the leaf was just pinned together at the top. The sides of the leaf were open.

When it was done cooking, they took a bamboo bowl, put some water in the bottom of it, then filled it with hundreds of tiny hot stones. The leaf packets were put on top of this and served. The smell of the grilled mushrooms, miso and leaf together just screamed Fall. An interesting twist that reminded us of some of the "hot stone" preparations at Trio.

We got one other small treat with the sashimi course (madai (red sea bream), hamo (no idea) and aji (horse mackerel)). They had taken the top of a rice plant from the harvest that is just beginning and held it in an open flame briefly. This popped a few of the rice kernels. It was like the best puffed rice I've ever had -- toasty and nutty. Cute trick.

Posted by pmk at 9:27 PM | Comments (0)