On web design

I’m expected in my office tomorrow—in spite of my being on a self-prescribed break—to meet, alongside my boss, with a prospective web design firm. The goal? A web presence that doesn’t leave the company feeling dirty and ashamed.

I’m tempted to ask one question that, I believe, will separate the wheat from the chaff in no time flat. I call it The Cederholm Test. The name pretty much implies the question:

Who is Dan Cederholm?

If the question seems like something akin to what is Fight Club?, then hopefully you aren’t a web designer by trade. (If you are, then follow that link stat!) I figure that any web design company who has half a clue about web standards should have heard of Dan, and I also figure that we’d prefer to hire a web design company that has at least half a clue.

I could be wrong about that, though. I’ve looked at the web page of our prospective firm; what it lacks in actual CSS-based design (i.e. it uses tables for all layout—and I hate how unreadable and/or unmanageable tables make web pages) is somewhat atoned for by a sense of style (the company at least has a graphic designer on staff, and uses him/her).

Some of the other people we’ve talked to actually gave us work samples that were created in FrontPage. ICK.

By hook or by crook, I’ll be headed to Sunriver this weekend with Andy & co. (Yes, it’s the second annual—I missed the first—belated Andy’s birthday party Sunriver trip.)

Andy is puzzled by my unwillingness to bring my PSP to Sunriver. He apparently hasn’t seen a man in the depths of a Lumines binge (I’d include women in that, but I haven’t actually seen any females similarly affected); the isolating power of that particular game is truly frightful.

Childhood: recycled

I spent the evening cleaning out a bunch of ancient user manuals from my bookshelf. Good books, and good programs—back in the day. I spent more hours than I care to count programming in HyperCard; today I tore apart and recycled my old HyperCard texts. Also soon to meet their maker are manuals for SmartSketch (the great-great-great-grandparent of Flash, believe it or not, and the only program that’s ever let me do vector-based drawing… Illustrator sucks, in comparison, for just whipping things out), RAM Doubler 2 (a lifesaver for Mac users BITD), ColorIt (used to be a good, cheap alternative to Photoshop), and a bunch of programming books for the Classic Mac OS.

The HyperCard books hurt the most, though. I spent many an hour with my nose buried in them, and they were the last tangible evidence (programs are never really tangible, at least to my mind) of that part of my childhood.

GreyDuck’s in a funk this evening, and I’m all but there with him. It looks like Brian might be headed up to Portland in a short period of time. I’ve all but worked myself out of work, now that I’ve finished my programming tasks. I tried looking at my actuarial text the other night, and discovered that all the probability has drained out of my head once again. I’m not even sure that this whole actuarial angle is really my cup of tea; it’s always been a convenient direction to head, since I’ve had no better direction in life, with a job description that seems to play to my strengths (not to mention my majors). It would almost certainly mean moving to a large city, though—whereas I love small towns—and there’s a good chance I’d end up working in the bowels of some insurance company.

My time here, of living life the way I have, is drawing to an end—and I have no clear direction to head next.

The lesson I’ve learned from observing others, for better or worse, is that it absolutely sucks to be the cog on someone else’s gear. When your priorities don’t mesh with those of the company you’re working for, the best you can hope for is that your work will allow you to enjoy your true passions around the edges of work. I’d prefer to have passion about my work, as well—to spend that much time of your life half-heartedly seems like a terrible waste.

Historically, it seems, parents would work hard so that their children could have a better life—and that better life would be seen by their children having a larger income than their parents did. My chances of besting my father’s income are slim; moreover, I don’t think I would have a better life, even if I did rake in the cash. It seems to me (and perhaps I’m just compensating for my inadequacy), then, that they way to do better is to find joy in the things that I do.

I just don’t have a clue where to start looking.

On a lighter note: House rocks. It’s a show featuring an antisocial maverick doctor (Dr. House, hence the show’s title)—who, incidentally, has the most disturbingly clear blue eyes I’ve ever seen (contacts?)—and his team, and their attempts to diagnose and cure a patient’s bizarre ailment. I suspect it airs at the same time as NCIS, though, which is the one thing that might make me dust off my VCR.

Still moving—somehow

Yesterday’s dance practice was crazy, and had me out on the floor quite a bit. Ae-Young discovered that she could brute-force a double-spin into my cha-cha, and went to town with that (declaring, in the process, that she’s going to dance every cha-cha with me in the future). After the second cha-cha, we almost had a modicum of control over those spins. Sophie and I rediscovered how quick a west coast “Shambala” actually is; Sam and I had fun chatting during a more peaceful waltz. Charles danced a tango with Britta, while Emerald rode piggy-back; Jenny enjoyed outwitting me, in another west coast, with her fancy breaks and other advanced move trickery.

I made it home just before my legs gave out.

I ditched work early today—as in “before 11:00 am” early—which was frankly the second-best thing I’ve done all week (behind attending dance practice). I recently implemented a data-entry program that blows the pants off of the crappy import that my office had been using, so I figure now’s about as good a time to take a break from work as there will ever be.

I’m still horribly out of it, so I didn’t actually get all that much accomplished with my free day. I did stop by campus, though, where I discovered that Woodstock’s Pizza is still selling a slice and a drink for $3.25—the price I was paying back before I graduated. They’re also the only place in town that still has Vanilla Coke, so I indulged my hunger and got in line. Delicious! I have many a fond memory of eating at the MU with others, and it was nice to reminisce.

I also put together my first somewhat-serious Ruby function today, which recursively scans all the files in the directory you pass it, adding up file sizes and also calculating MD5 hashes for each file. (I have an idle scheme of creating a backup program, and comparing MD5 hashes can tell you if a file has been modified.) It works, too, until it gets to files with weird characters in their name…. Still, it’s far from the worst start I’ve had with a programming language.

Ame ga furu

It has been another massively wet day, and the evening’s entertainment—a new episode of NCIS—is only twenty minutes away.

I fully expect that we will lose power in fifteen minutes, just like last week. Stupid weather.

Out of the loop (again!)

I haven’t actually had my head on straight the last couple weeks. I’ve not been sick enough for anyone to actually notice, but there’s just been this disconnect between my head and the outside world that’s a couple orders of magnitude larger than it normally is.

While playing games at Jay’s this weekend, I left my wallet in my car. I filled my gas tank, but was surprised when the tank seemed full sooner than it should have been—and then (a day later) was surprised again when I only had three-quarters of a tank. I strained the liquid from my soup into the garbage can.

GreyDuck updated the underpinnings of his blog, and in doing so changed the location of his RSS file. I, being the sharpest cookie on the block*, didn’t notice that my newsreader had failed to give me a new post from him—a far more regular blogger than I’ve been—for the last two weeks. That blackout period also happened to coincide with his notice of National De-Lurking Week (the only such notice I think I would have seen, in my daily browsing)—which was last week. I’ll have to wait until next year to hang with the cool kids, I guess.

[*My mixing of colloquialisms (and metaphors), however, is congenital.]

Pretty much the only productive thing I’ve done all weekend was to help put together the elliptical trainer that my sister bought on the cheap. To prepare room for the elliptical, we junked our old treadmill whose tread had been catching or slipping or something; in the process of doing that we discovered that its motor had worn through the base of the treadmill and taken out a good chunk of the underlying carpet.

Using the elliptical is actually kind of fun, which is a weird thing (at least for me) to say about exercise equipment. Hopefully I’ll use it regularly; I’m certainly not getting any exercise sitting behind a computer programming all day, and my dancing (it’s all about the dancing!) has suffered for it.

Now that I’ve declared this new design final (at least until I learn of something else that breaks), I’ve turned my attentions to my woefully untouched Links page. It’s dangerous to go over there right now; I think a giant (web) spider has made a nest and raised offspring (!!!) there, and I haven’t gotten around to cleaning it out yet.

Drama surrounding the Links page is high: will I actually update Jeff’s blog from nowhere to Betsu ni? (He only changed blogs a year ago.) Will GreyDuck end his two-year streak of being the blog I intended to add next, but never got around to doing?

No comment.

If you haven’t already, you should check out the Falling Sand Game. It possesses a sort of whimsey not oft seen, where you do what you want for the sheer joy of doing it and seeing what results.


Longtime Mac aficionados might remember the name Guy Kawasaki. He had his hands in Emailer, a program that used to be the Mecca of mac email clients, and later went on to become a “Mac Evangelist” for Apple back when things weren’t looking so hot.

I mention him, now, because he recently posted a kick-ass speech: Hindsights. It’s a great read, much like Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement address.

Stupid lawyers

I had the misfortune of having to interact with a patent attorney today. The guy was so sleazy, I honestly did (just as the saying goes) want to take a shower afterwards—and this whole interaction took place over the phone. He literally had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up.

In short—when he wasn’t avoiding taking any sort of position whatsoever—he advocated a “grab the money” strategy that involved deliberately screwing over people. You leave yourself an out somewhere in the agreement, so it’s OK.

Here’s my official response to his idea: fuck that.

How in the world did we let the lawyers create a system where we need their services precisely because of what they do? And, more importantly, why do I keep getting selected for jury duty? That’s also because of what they do.


I’ve had lots of cruft building up in my mind lately; now is the time, and this is the place, for me to start cleaning out those thoughts.

On Christmas Eve I opened my front door and discovered an old sock tied to the handle. Inside that sock I found two bottles of beer and a bottle opener that plays the OSU fight song when you open a bottle with it—and a (slightly modified) Christmas rhyme about how the kids were hoping that the Beer Man would soon pay them a visit. I’ve now queried everyone I know who might have been responsible, and have come up short—thank you, Beer Man, whoever you are.

For New Year’s Eve, Brian and I joined Nate, Kevin, and Brooke for a small party that turned out to be a blast. Brian and I savored some “pearl” sake that Brian discovered at the co-op (I’m a fan of sake; I admit it); the others didn’t seem so impressed by it. Kevin and Brooke had both bought Nerf dartguns that more than paid for themselves in the fun they enabled throughout the evening; the prize-winning shot was by Nate, who somehow got one of his darts stuck into the barrel of Brooke’s gun. Pretty much the only somber moment of the evening was when we turned on the TV for the traditional ball-drop, and discovered what that stroke had done to Dick Clark. Damn.

I recently had a dream that I actually remembered after waking up. [This is a big thing for me—I practically never remember my dreams (assuming, of course, that I have them), and those I do remember I generally forget soon after.] I was driving to work, where work was in some giant gray-box building (think Staples), and noticed that we had a new slogan hung (in light-up-lettering typical for stores) on the side of our building, large and very bright: FAILURE IS NOT. I was quite puzzled, until I remembered an event from a few days ago where I kept getting pestered, via email, to fill out some annoying form. I assumed the form was the result of an online purchase I had recently made, and so finally caved and gave smart-ass answers to make the questionnaire go away. Upon further reflection I realized that the form was from Corporate Headquarters, and my response to “what is your store’s motto?” had been failure is not an option. They consequently fit as much of the motto on the side of our building as they could.

(Again, the fact that I remember the dream is the most notable thing, for me. One of my more “recent” remembered dreams was of playing tennis on a court filled with rubber chickens that were running around. Instead of a racquet I held a sword (I would hit the ball with the flat of the blade); each swing would chop off rubber chicken heads—and the decapitated rubber chickens would then ran around spurting blood. That was the entire dream. I asked to have it analyzed in my high-school senior-year psychology class; not surprisingly, I never got a result.)

My neighbor called us about two days ago, to warn us of this odd guy who seemed to be spending an inordinate amount of time in the park directly behind our houses. She had also seen him slowly wandering around our street at other times. He’s supposedly (I say this because I haven’t actually seen him) a clean blonde in his early thirties; last time he was seen he had on orange gloves, a small backpack, and a tent. Homeless guy? A clean homeless guy with only a small backpack of stuff? Burglar casing joints? He’s awful stupid to draw attention to himself with what he’s done. City worker checking out water drainage in the park? Why carry a tent? Color me nonplussed, regardless of what he’s actually doing.

Yesterday, mere minutes before my family was going to gather to watch a brand new episode of NCIS (the only TV show I actually watch, now that The Amazing Race is finished), the power went out on us. I was backing up Marin’s computer—and copying files on my computer—at the time. Woo. After lighting some candles and digging out flashlights, we wound up sitting in the living room with darn little to do. Marin asked Mom and Dad what they used to do when the power went out in the past (my answer, for them: sleep), which somehow got me thinking… and I broke out my PSP. I successfully completed a mission in Metal Gear Acid (and made numerous references to head-shots with tranquilizer rounds) before the power came back, and I was able to resume my usual evening routine.

Speaking of yesterday, how about that MacBook Pro? What a godawful name for something that seems to be pretty nice; I do note, however, that previous claims of “5 hour battery life” have been replaced with a footnote about how battery life is a function of the computer’s settings. I’d be worried about that, if I were looking at buying a PowerBook. (Hell, Apple called its portable the “PowerBook” long before the PowerPC was a glint in the AIM alliance’s eye! What are they thinking?)

Today my month-long dance exile was ended, and so I got to spend an hour and a half (I’m always late; the actual practice runs two hours) dancing and chatting this evening. Not much to report, there, other than the Judo club appears to be practicing in the adjacent room during the dance practice. Barry suggested we start a club exchange. Oh, and the club is open to “guest” DJs for the practices; some of my group want to arrange of evening of nothing but polkas and viennese waltzes. (In the great word of Mr. Reid: brutal!)

I’ve begun learning how to program in Ruby, having finally chosen that over Python. (This goes against Eric’s counsel: I am now, as he put it, learning a marginal programming language on a marginal platform. …And loving it!*) My first function returns the fourth word of the string you pass it. It’s a pretty sweet function.

[*Award yourself bonus points if you remember Get Smart. Remove bonus points if you confuse that with the McDonald’s slogan.]

Secrets and Lies

Two nights ago I was fiddling around with NES emulation on my PSP, when I discovered that I had a whole folder of Japanese NES ROMs that I had completely forgotten about. While poking around there, I made two shocking discoveries.

Final Fantasy IV (J) (what was originally Final Fantasy II, in the US) was nowhere near the leap forward that I thought it was at the time. Over the years, Square has gone back and re-released every Final Fantasy game they’ve ever made—except for Final Fantasy III. (I’d always wondered why it got the brushover, when even FF I and FF II were re-released—though now it appears that it will be remade and released for the DS sometime.)

FF III was among the ROMs that I uncovered, so I jumped in to see what was what. It was the last of the NES-era Final Fantasy games, yet actually is the missing link that connects earlier Final Fantasies to the (breakout) FF IV. [I’ve never actually played FF II, so I’ll mostly be talking about transitions from FF I to III.] You start out with four pre-determined characters, as before… but you begin (I’ve discovered via the web, since I still can’t read Japanese) as four children poking around a new cave, not as the four who know that they are Light Warriors from the start. Battles feature auto-targeting, so that if you tell two people to attack one enemy, and the first person kills it, the second person will actually attack someone else instead of just standing around useless until the next turn. (I hated that aspect of the first Final Fantasy!) At the end of the cave, you find a crystal—not an orb—that (again, apparently) tells you about Bad Stuff going down, complete with an 8-bit version of the Final Fantasy IV spiraling crystal sparkles.

You then return to an overworld map that looks similar to those of earlier games (no Mode 7 for the NES!), where you wander back to your town.

And ZOMG what a town it is! The whole town experience is exactly like Final Fantasy IV’s, just crammed into 8 bits. People wandering around everywhere? Check. Tall grass that obscures the lower body of your character? Check. Water, trees, “secret” paths, inns with attached taverns that you wander through, dancers that lock you out until they finish their dance? Check check check check checkity-check.

Final Fantasy III may well be the first Final Fantasy that is still really playable today—a position I earlier believed was held by FF IV. I’m honestly amazed that they did what they did with the original NES.

Old-school NES players will almost certainly remember a little title named Bionic Commando. The game was notable because your character had no ability to jump—instead, he had a grappling hook cannon for an arm, and could use that to latch onto “ceilings” (really higher floors) and swing around.

The Japanese name of that game? Hitler no Fukkatsu: Top SecretThe Resurrection of Hitler: Top Secret. In America, you were fighting a random enemy; in Japan, you were fighting neo-Nazis, under the command of a cloned Hitler. The ROM is peppered with swastikas, too, that were—along with all other Nazi references—stripped from the US release.


Pac Man Vs.

Over the weekend I made the mistake of bringing my PSP over to Nate & Kevin’s place, where Lumines fever quickly consumed Kevin and Andy. (Speaking of Lumines: its follow-up game, Every Extend Extra, looks like the portable version of Ikaruga I never had.) Also making waves were Mario Kart Double Dash—hard to believe I’ve been playing Mario Kart games for over ten years, and I still find them fun—and Pac Man Vs. The new Pac Man lets four players play at once: three as ghosts, and one as Pac Man (the goals of each are unchanged from the original Pac Man, as you might expect). The ghosts end up having a very limited view of the board, while Pac Man gets the whole picture courtesy of the use of a GBA as one of the four controllers.

Beating a level in Pac Man is bloody difficult when the ghosts have actual intelligence behind them. Of course, that same fact makes the feat of clearing the board that much sweeter. The ghost players can (and generally need to) communicate with each other in order to catch Pac Man—but the fact that Pac Man’s player is in the same room means that (s)he too is privy to whatever schemes you think up.

Theoretically you play for points, and whoever reaches a predetermined point level first wins—but in reality you play for the chance to be the one person smart enough to outwit his/her friends, so you can gloat in their faces.

I haven’t lost friends over Pac Man Vs.



I’ve been possessed by another odd inclination, now that my redesigned blog is (somewhat) up and functional: I’m of half a mind to rip all of my CDs into a lossless format, and burn the results onto DVDs. They would be a handy backup should a CD ever get misplaced, and they’d also be the end of the need to ever re-rip CDs again in the future. New format? Copy your DVDs, and do a batch transcode while you go out for the evening.

Worth it? Debatable. Am I still inclined to do so, regardless? Yeah.

This must be something akin to madness.

New layout ahoy

I missed my target by a day or two. Oh well. Thanks to Marin for the new sidebar idea, as well as for help picking out pictures.

Feel free to hit “reload” on your browser if a giant ! didn’t just appear over your head.

[*giant ! may also be due to a fubared layout. In that case, hit “reload” until a different giant ! appears over your head.]

Internet Explorer users don’t get all the lovely alpha transparency that everyone else does (pssst! Use Firefox), but at least it still looks OK there.

Update: I now see the shortcoming of my IE/win workarounds, in sidebars that don’t extend all the way to the base of the window for short entries, and when the window is so small that horizontal scrolling is forced. I’ll have to work on those later; right now it’s time to sleep.

Japan – Day 1

[Monday 12 September 2005] The nice thing about being a twenty-something traveling to Japan (at least, from the west coast) is that 7:00 am Japan time is something like 3:00 pm your time. Acclimating to Japan time, in short, was a non-issue for all of us.

Actually, I think this day was the first day that I ever woke up before 7:00 am feeling extremely well-rested and ready to take on the day.

We began our venture into the Tokyo wilderness by wandering around to find something edible. Fortune smiled upon us, and we ran into a Pronto café (essentially a coffee shop) in short order. Fortune did not, however, give us an instruction manual: we were left wondering about all sorts of little protocol that we would take for granted here. Pastries were arranged just inside the front window, along with trays, plates, and tongs; after grabbing the food, we were left holding the tongs (so to speak)—put them back, or take them to the counter where we pay? (We opted for the latter.) The people behind the counter (as would be the case with most of the people we interacted with) were hip to our combination of meager Japanese, English, and body language.

If you haven’t been to Japan, you might not know that you pretty much pay cash for everything there. (We only used our credit cards when paying for hotels—and only some hotels accepted them.) Cash takes the form of coin in denominations up to 500 yen (really roughly speaking, $5), with bills for larger values. It’s a bit weird, coming from a society where the largest commonly-used coin is worth 25 cents, to have coins worth $1 or $5 in your pocket; it’s more than a bit irritating when you drop one of those coins and lose it (or, in my case, have a vending machine eat a 500 yen coin). Courtesy of the low crime rate, you actually do end up walking around with hundreds of dollars in your wallet—this was also weird, to me.

After Brian paid for us (with funds he had exchanged at the airport the night before) and gathering our first (of a whole lot of) change, we made our way to some open tables at the back of the restaurant. Here we discovered another fact about Japan: smoking is big. (Smoking inside is also legal, unlike in my hometown—I’ve gotten used to smoke-free environs.)

A third fact: those little cornucopia-shaped pastries filled with chocolate are damned tasty.

Our next mission for the day was to acquire funding for our continued operations. I had a credit card in desperate need of an ATM; Marin had done some research for me beforehand, so I knew that CitiBank supposedly had an ATM in floor B1 of the Metropolitan Building nearby our hotel. The catch wound up being that floor B1 is actually the train station level, which was a vast maze to our n00b selves. It was also the morning rush hour, so we were searching for an ATM in a veritable ocean of bodies. We failed horribly.

Luckily, the staff of our hotel came through for us (me), and informed us that the CitiBank—on the ninth floor of the Metropolitan Building—would open at nine.

With a good chunk of time to kill, we decided to wander around for a while. Small signs pointing towards a garden caught our eye, so we followed them into the Tokyo back roads.

I don’t know if this was the exception to the rule or not, but the area we found ourselves in felt more like lazy countryside than bustling Tokyo. We followed narrow, one-lane streets lined with small houses—all invariably with some sort of garden—and were passed by more people on foot and bike than by cars. The biggest hint that we were in a major city was when we had to cross railroad tracks, and had to wait for trains—trains chock full of people—to pass by.

Waiting for trains to pass is something I’ve seen in a good deal of the anime I’ve watched (well, the anime taking place in the pseudo-real world), and it pretty much is as they depict it.

The intersection we waited at was T-shaped, with the train tracks running parallel to the stem of the T. Due to the one-laned nature of the streets, and the ninety-plus degree turn you would make if you were turning, a large mirror had been positioned so that you could see what was beyond the bend.

(Something akin to the above, though this shot was taken in Matsue.)

We should have taken a cue from the handful of others who were similarly stopped, and sidestepped the train gate after the first train passed. We decided to wait until the gate rose, though, and so had to wait for a second train.

After a decent bit of walking, we finally arrived at the garden—only to learn that it is closed on Mondays.

Thwarted—though having passed the time we needed to—we returned to the Metropolitan Building and hit up the CitiBank. A uniformed man greeted us as we entered (as in he was standing, by himself, front and center when you walked through the sliding glass doors); I made my way to the ATMs, and Andy took the chance to cash his traveler’s checks.

We had never bothered to set our schedule in stone, beyond listing the things that each of us didn’t want to miss, so we found ourselves back in our hotel room trying to decide what to do with our day. The TV featured footage of political candidate after political candidate on various stages shouting banzai! while bowing, hands raised and interlocked with others (ostensibly their staff). We had flown into Japan on the day that the Japanese were holding elections, and the morning after was filled with jubilant LDP candidates celebrating the landslide victory voters had given them.

The hotel staff had somehow divined that we spoke english, and so provided us with an english newspaper; in it I discovered an article on “budget Japan,” and in that article the (apparently new) Ghibli Museum was mentioned. As we all respect a good Miyazaki film, we elected to head there.

The Ghibli museum is in Mitaka, a suburb of Tokyo, so this proved our first real test (we had taken the Yamanote to our hotel the previous night) of the Tokyo train system. Brian’s ability to read basic Japanese, coupled with other signs that provided names in English, made navigation all but painless.

More painful than getting to Mitaka, however, was getting to the Ghibli Museum. We finally made our way to a stop where a special Ghibli Bus would pick us up—and then realized that we couldn’t buy tickets to the museum at the museum. Brian asked about tickets, and got directions to a travel agent that would sell them—and then took a classic play out of my book, and forgot the directions. (Glad I’m not the only one who does that.) Consequently we wandered around Mitaka for a while, and then decided to grab lunch when we realized we were collapsing more than walking. In the process of collapsing we passed a pseudo-underground restaurant, and made our way inside.

The place was set up in (as far as I can tell) a more traditional manner, with low tables on raised areas of the floor. Your “chair” is a mat on the floor; if you were hardcore, you would sit on your legs (knees bent, feet sticking out behind you).

We tried being hardcore. We all failed in a matter of minutes.

Of course, you remove your shoes before stepping up to the table areas. Once at the table, you’ll generally be presented with a moist washcloth to wash your hands with. Then you get to order.

Ordering, if you are lucky, consists of pointing at things and nodding your head. Many Japanese restaurants will actually have models of meals encased in glass outside of the building, so you can see if you’d like what they serve; others use menus with plenty of pictures; the rest (the hardcore) use text-only menus. The restaurant we were in used picture-menus, so ordering was easy.

We then proceeded to drink lots of ice water. Our waitress figured out that we needed a pitcher of water when we were draining our glasses in all but a single drink (glasses in Japan—and Europe, in my experience—are awfully small). Our meals arrived, and Brian and I discovered that we got something else than what we ordered; rather than try to sort it out, we dug in—and discovered that it was spicy. Good, but spicy. As in, “dang, this is spicy” spicy.

Refreshed, we returned to the streets in search of this travel agency. Shortly thereafter, we discovered that it was in a place we had already looked—but had been overshadowed by the neighboring Mister Donut.

Tickets in hand, we made our way back to the Ghibli Bus.

(photo by Andy) After a short ride on the short bus, we arrived.

The museum itself was cute—part history, part attempt to make the Ghibli fantasy tangible for little kids—the most impressive room was a recreation of where Miyazaki works, with the walls plastered with various drawings, from sketches to full-blown cels. It appeared that the cels were actually painted on both sides (something I didn’t expect): the basic color was painted on the back of the cel, while shading and whatnot were painted on the front.

Also impressive was an animation room, where strobe lights were used to convert rotating models into 3-D animations—the most memorable being an animation of (what I assume are—I haven’t actually seen the movie yet) Totoro characters, people jumping rope on the ground while cat-busses and birds fly around above. Another memorable one was one of a robot standing in the middle of a flock of birds that spiral upwards in flight.

I confess that I actually haven’t seen the movie that the robot is from, either—but a giant statue of the robot was featured on the roof of the museum.

Upstairs featured a Totoro cat-bus; one of the kids who was on the neko bus wasn’t on the niko bus. Also upstairs was the gift shop, where I wound up buying plush Kiki and Totoro dolls. I’m such a sucker.

The final attraction of the museum was a 20-minute short about the journey of a dog who escapes his yard (I’m assuming gender for convenience) in search of his owner, only to get completely lost. It was quite cute, and introduced to Andy the first bit of Japanese that he would abuse for the rest of his trip: chibi-chibi. [The scene in the movie: the dog is walking by a fenced-in school, and kids are on the other side of the fence trying to get him to come near, so they can pet him—calling chibi-chibi.]

Before hopping back onto the Ghibli bus to head home, we walk through the neighboring Inokashira Park. Most notable there was a little girl who dropped her sandwich—and so rinsed it off with a water fountain faucet before eating it and heading back.

You will also note the little sun-hat this girl is wearing. The sun-hat is a tool used by the Japanese young to channel and magnify the power of their cuteness by orders of magnitude.

We finished our day by returning home, watching crazy Japanese commercials on the TV (my favorite: a cell phone so easy even Grandpa can use it; the phone is made easy by the presence of a giant green button), and then grabbing dinner in what was apparently a Japanese fast-food joint. We sat at the counter, where pre-wrapped moist napkins were available for use; I ordered fried rice and potstickers. Andy ordered a Sapporo beer; I had a sip, and it was actually pretty tasty. (This detail, FYI, is setup for a payoff that won’t arrive until I get to Hiroshima, in about six trip-days.)

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