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Nagano and Yamanouchi, Japan, February 2014

August 31st, 2014

From our base in Matsumoto [confusion.cc], we made our way by train by train to Nagano [wikipedia.org] bus and then on foot through the snow to Jigokudani Monkey Park [wikipedia.org] in Yamanouchi [wikipedia.org]! To see the world-famous snow monkeys, lounging in the Onsen:

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It was bitterly cold, around -10° C. And very atmospheric with steam rising from the various hot springs along “Hell’s Valley” (Jigokudani). our first sighting of the monkeys was foraging in the snow near the visitors center at the apex of a, very slippery, two kilometer walk through the woods. Despite the cold and snow there were a number of visitors, many with impressively large camera’s and zoom lenses determined to get great closeup shots of the monkeys. After taking our turn with the monkeys near the visitors center we walked on to the actual hot spring. It was a bit of a letdown when we first saw it:

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It’s a man-made bath for the monkeys. Also according to Wikipedia the monkeys only started to use the onsen in 1963. Proof of evolution? I think so. I guess the nice setup for photographers was made later in support of the Japanese obsession with photography.

We also visited Nagano itself, though this was on a different day due to how short the days were. We didn’t do much since it was the off-season, just wandered around Zenkō-ji and its surrounding building. Including at least two trips through the pitch black, and freezing cold, corridor under the main hall in an apparently fruitless attempt to gain entrance to paradise.

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Matsumoto, Japan, February 2014

June 28th, 2014

10 years ago, in March 2004 I visited Japan for the first time. One of the stop on that trip was Matsumoto, in Nagano prefecture. We didn’t spend much time there – one afternoon and the night. I really only remember three things from my first visit:

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  1. How cold it was in Matsumoto-jo, one of the few original castles still standing in Japan, where we had to remove our shoes as we walked up to the top, everyone had frozen toes and it was snowing when we left
  2. A used Kimono shop on Nakamachi-dori, where we spent a long time browsing the beautiful kimonos
  3. The sound of the recorded woman announcing arrival in Matsumoto on the train as it pulled into the station

Ten years later, in February 2014, I visited Matsumoto again. The goal was to go somewhere where my daughters could see snow. Turns out Matsumoto was not really a good choice as it apparently does not get that much snow. We used Matsumoto as a home base to and went to Kambayashi Onsen in Yamanouchi — famous for its snow monkeys as well as seeing Zenkō-ji in Nagano and taking a bus to Hida-Takayama for an afternoon.

Matsumoto is an even quieter town than I remember and the early sunsets a late sunrises of winter made it seem ever quieter. But some things don’t change:

Even though it was quiet, we all enjoyed ourselves; my wife had a good time eating, including horse sashimi and more soba then you can shake a limp buckwheat noodle at. We took advantage of my mom and sister being with us to leave my daughters with them in the evening so we could go out and try different restaurants since my wife is really the only adventurous foodie in the group. My daughters enjoyed the soba too but their favorite things were ham from Lawson’s and the popcorn from 7-11.

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As for snow, we got some in Yamanouchi when we hiked up to see the snow monkeys and we drove through a lot on the way to Hida-Takayama but none in Matsumoto until the last morning. On the last morning we got a lot of snow we had to catch a train at 10AM but we know the forecast was for early snow. So I woke up at 5AM and sure enough there was about 10cm on the ground. I woke Tori up and we walked to the castle to take some photos and play for an hour or so.

Atrocities

June 17th, 2014

If this photo is real, the world should go to war:

ISIS Execution

Because we said never again to this image:

Einsatzgruppen

The debate now is if the ISIS images are true. But that will quickly become a cover for not going to war. We said “never again.” But what did never mean? Never in Cambodia? Bosnia? Rwanda? Iraq?

The internet is for porn and so is VR

May 11th, 2014

I had coffee with an ex-colleague the other day who now works in a firm that has access to information from Deep Packet Inspection tools in various ISPs around the word. He said he was shocked to learn that more than 80% of traffic was pornography related — images or videos.

I’m not surprised. The internet is for porn [youtube.com] and porn drives innovation — see the VHS for reference.

Further to this general line of though we discussed a great idea. Take the Oculus Rift [oculusvr.com] mix in the GoPro [gopro.com] camera, some paparazzi and some CGI artists and you Total Porn Recall. In which a highly motivated Porn company records a library of green-screened, Point-of-View sex with various models using the GoPro and then purchases some good Paparazzi photos of famous actresses which are used by their CGI artists to replace the porn actresses heads with the head of your favorite actress. Bingo – instant billionaire! (And you’ll need it to pay the lawyers!) Hell, throw in a mechanized Fleshlight and go for broke.

Pavlovian Conditioning

April 23rd, 2014

Robotic vacuums clean your house in two ways… By driving around and vacuuming and by forcing you to pick up your mess so they can drive around and vacuum.

Then again every surface out of reach of my little friend is developing stratified layers of… Stuff.