Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sites I Like

Here are a few websites/blogs that I have been paying a lot of attention to recently.

I usually only plug charities that I like, as well as Japan-related sites such as TPR and JEN, but I thought I'd add a bit of variety this time and highlight a couple other sites that don't fall within those genres.

You probably already know that I'm very fond of Korea, and I spend a lot of time
reading through posts over at The Marmot's Hole. The whole spectrum of life in Korea gets covered over there, so it's definitely worth a visit every now and again.

Re-Entry Japan is a new addition to the blogroll and is a site that shines a spotlight on the new practice of treating long-term residents in Japan like criminals (fingerprinting). Wait, please remind me once again why I'm paying taxes?

65-years-old and still storming around Mt. Everest. That's my friend Mr. Ota who lives just down the Seibu line from here. He has posted a treasure-trove of beautiful photos from his travels, and I'm sure that the collection will grow and grow because he has more trips in the works. The site is primarily in Japanese, but it's quite easy to navigate just by clicking. I'm not nearly as rugged as he is, but looking at those photos makes me want to head to Nepal. Tomorrow!

And this site is just plain fun (thanks for the heads up, RFD!).

Nothing I say is ever original, so now you know where I steal stuff from. Enjoy!


Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

Garrett's contribution to the discussion.

The damage.

Post-dinner eyebrow-raising competition.


Thanksgiving 2007: it got a little wacky

The tiara on Adam.
Dave's rendition.

Kel's version.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

Difficult Storefront Decisions

What's better than one plastic awning above the entrance to your clinic?

Why, two awnings, of course!
(photos taken near Kami-Shakujii station)


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

iPod Pricing

I found this old receipt while cleaning.
It's from April of 2004 when I got my first iPod.
The reason why I'm posting it here is because of the price (sorry if it's hard to read).
A 40GB iPod (3rd Generation?) cost 55,440 yen back then!
Throw in the dock connector and the total is 57, 960 yen ($531 according to the current exchange rate).
I'm glad that I forked over the extra cash for the iPod protection plan because last April I was able to trade in my original iPod and get a new one for free. The replacement is now semi-permanently attached to the stereo in the living room.
In September I upgraded to an 80GB iPod Classic. If memory serves, it cost me 29,800 yen ($273).
Funny how that works.
At this rate, in April of 2010 the price of a 160GB iPod, which will probably be the size of the current Nano by then, should be around 16,000 yen ($147).


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Terrorists, Foreigners are One and the Same...Oh My!

If you arrived in Japan today, then you were one of the first to get fingerprinted and photographed just before shuffling off to collect your bags. Yes, Japan has gone back in time and brought back the xeonphobia of yore in an unexplained and ill-advised attempt to prevent terrorism non-Japanese from re-entering the country after being kicked out for overstaying their visas.

Japan Economy News has a good discussion going on this very topic, so if this issue affects you or someone you know, then please head on over and check it out.

Hey, I have an idea. If they're going to treat us like tourists, then maybe we should pay taxes like tourists!

Just a thought.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Fall Foliage

The leaves are turning.
This photo was taken at the university where I teach.
I just think it's pretty.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Gamjagol" Restaurant in Shinjuku

Gamjagol (감자골 in Korean; ガムザゴル in Japanese) is a Korean restuarant that we've been to a number of times to eat gamjatang. It's not far from Seibu-Shinjuku station and Kabukicho (three to five minutes on foot).

Gamjagol has many reminders of the Korean-boom plastered across its walls and windows. All the famous faces of Korea's cross-border cultural infusion can be found on various posters and digital printouts that seem to grow both in variety and the amount of wall space that they cover (the walls of the toilets are now decorated as well!).
According to the photos on the walls, Yomiuri Giants first-baseman Lee Seung-yeop has been to the place at least a couple of times. I'm sure that he agrees that this place has good eats.
We routinely get a bowl of dongdong-ju (a type of milky rice-wine) with our gamjatang (potato and pork stew). The stew boils in front of you on a burner that is built into the center of the table. Like many Korean restaurants in the Shin-Okubo area, Gamjagol does Korean food proud, and the bottomless bowls of side dishes (kimchi!) are enough to fill you up before the main course even arrives.
Gamjagol is on the second floor of the building (only a stone's throw from the Shin-Okubo Don Quijote), and one feature that might take some by surprise is that a menu from the restuarant downstairs also sits on the table.
The restaurant downstairs is a chicken joint, and you can have them deliver a plate of yangnyeom fried chicken to your table on the second floor.
I don't recommend calling Domino's to deliver a pie to your table, but that's kind of the same idea. The people downstairs will bring it right up! We often get a plate of chicken to nibble on while we're waiting for our gamjatang to cook (be sure to stir it occasionally).
The vat of veggies and pork above is how gamjatang looks when it's first delivered to the table. You can eat well and have a couple of drinks for 3,000 to 4,000 yen.
For more pictures of the place click here.


Why I won't be growing a mustache anytime soon...

I recently did a bit of ballroom dancing in a period drama that is going to air at the end of this year.

I daresay that the tux looks normal, but the 'tache...well...not so much.

I think I kind of look like a younger version of my high school physics teacher.

Or maybe a conductor (of a symphony orchestra--not a train)?


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thai Kickboxing

This is a clip of my buddy, Christophe Mertens, fighting in Cambodia earlier this year.

His next fight is scheduled for next month in Thailand.


Monday, November 12, 2007

NPB Climax Series

Head on over to Trans-Pacific Radio for a quick podcast dealing with the Pacific and Central league editions of the Climax Series (Japanese baseball playoffs).

Yes, I recorded it myself.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Global Domination

I don't know what other markets Starbucks has moved into, but I have read that they are on a worldwide expansion mission of McDonald's proportions. There are currently somewhere between 13,000 and 15,000 Starbucks shops around the world, but last year they publicized the fact that they are aiming for 40,000 locations. To put that number in perspective, the golden arches of MickeyD's can be found in front of around 30,000 storefronts globally.
While looking for a bottle of my favorite Scotch, The Balvenie Doublewood 12 Year Old, I happened upon the two bottles of liqueur pictured here. The asking price, if I remember correctly, is in the 3,000 yen range (US$30-ish), so you can bet that I'll be saving my cash for future bottles of The Balvenie, but I have to say that the pair of Starbucks liqueurs only just barely surprised me.
Coffee and spirits have long been mixed (although I rarely, if ever, dump my gin into my after-dinner coffee), and pricey bottles of coffee-flavored liqueur are a logical extension of the Starbucks branding of low-key sophistication.
Shinanoya's Shinjuku branch carries the Starbucks offerings, if you are so inclined, as well as a whole lot more.


Monday, November 05, 2007

This Caught my Attention


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Big Bucks for Freelance Audio Transcription

I occasionally peruse the job ads. Just to see what kind of opportunities money is out there. I don't know about you, but I often find myself wondering about any differences that may exist between the published hours, responsibilities, wage, benefits, etc. and reality.

While cruising through this morning, looking for interesting tidbits on nothing in particular, I noticed a job ad for audio transcription. After clicking the link, I found that the company in question, Urban Connections, a "language solutions" firm in Tokyo, was hoping to add more freelancers to its network of audio transcribers.

An audio transcriber, just to be clear, is anyone who puts what is being said on paper. What is being said can involve everything from the minutes of a meeting to an interview to governmental press conferences, and the typing might be done live (on site) or while listening to a recording of the proceedings.

Anyway, Urban Connections is looking for freelance transcribers who would have the option of working at home, and the published wage is 8,000 - 10,000 yen per hour (US$70+/hr) of audio transcription. They ask that applicants have some free transcription software, an internet connection, Skype (which is also free), and a transcriber's foot pedal (which can be purchased for between fifty one hundred dollars).

Wow! That's a lot of cash for typing. So I dug a little deeper.

I googled "Urban Connections, transcription" and was led directly to the company website. Sure enough, they do a lot of conference organization, translation, interpretation, and transcription. And they're looking for interns, by the way.

The first two sites returned in the Google search were part of the company's site. Number three, however, linked to a Metropolis interview with Urban Connections founder Larry Greenberg.

Summary of the interview:

"We rarely outsource transcription work for people to do at home."

"We pay by the hour, which starts at JY2500 for a qualified person."

And what about a highly-skilled transcriber who brings
more value to the job?

"A 70-word-per-minute typist who is very knowledgeable about current
events, for example, could expect JY3000 per hour."


It looks like this is one of those rare cases where both the job ad (ie. false advertising) and the reality (ie. about one third the published wage for experienced transcribers) have been made public at the same time.

Either someone at Urban Connections is trying to bait a bunch of people into applying so that they can search for the proverbial diamond in the rough, or some staffer really goofed on the wage over at when they posted the ad.