2011 Aug 31
This past summer I was trying to describe to my family in California this wonderful shamoji (rice spoon) that we’ve been using, but I guess it came out sounding gimicky. I think I mentioned that it had feet which is why it sounded like a toy or something. So I decided a blog post was in order since I really love this shamoji and it deserves a better explanation! We’ve had a few different kinds of shamoji through the years, from a plain black plastic one (used when I was growing up) to a white plastic one with “teeth”, and then shomoji with the small raised dots. The small raised dots work great to keep the rice from sticking. But our latest shamoji goes a step further by having a nice base that it balances on when not in use. This is super-convenient! No longer do you have to look for a place to rest the spoon, whether it’s a spoon holder on the side of the rice cooker, or just laying it on top of something (and getting that something dirty). Even if there are some grains of rice still stuck on the spoon, they won’t get stuck on anything since the spoon is standing vertically. It’s so simple but so convenient. I love it! I’m not sure where you can get one, but I think it is definitely worth the effort to seek one out. Ours looks like a little fish, doesn’t it? Or a smiling cyclops…
2011 Aug 30
I’ve had my eye on the REI Transit laptop bag for a while now, and since it went on sale a few days ago I couldn’t resist! I took my old bag into the store and proceeded to “test drive” the new bag by throwing in my laptop, charger, mouse, Kindle, and p&s camera to see how everything fit, and the bag swallowed it all up nicely! The padding is really plush, even the shoulder strap pad and carry handle are nicely padded. This bag is great because the main compartment is accessed from the top via a zipper. As I mentioned in a previous post, I don’t really like having to lift up the big flap to get in there. Anoher nice feature of this bag is that the zippers have a nice waterproofing seal on the outside. Of course it’s not waterproof like a Pelican case, but it seems like it would hold up in a decent rain (not that we’ll see rain ever again in Texas). I got the greenish-brown/orange one instead of the boring black/grey version.
Another bonus is that the little clip has holes in it which seem perfect for attaching a cell phone strap. I went through our collection of keitai straps and found this Totoro strap. The colors match nicely, I think! BTW, I gave my other two laptop bags to Bay and Koa. Luckily there was no fighting over who got which one since the each took a liking to different bags. Whew!
On another bag note, I ironed on my Ravenclaw patch to my canvas camera bag. The colors don’t match so well, but I like it anyways.
2011 Aug 22
I’m not a huge fan of the Muppets, but Animal just cracks me up! I’m hoping this movie is good.
2011 Aug 18
Cycles South appeared in my Netflix queue and it looked pretty fun so after the kids went to bed I watched it. It’s a travel movie made in the early 70’s and has the feel of a Bruce Brown film like On Any Sunday. The plot is basically three friends take off from their jobs and ride motorcycles down from the west coast of the US (maybe Northern California?) all the way down to Panama. They complete the journey spending about $60 each. It’s a fun journey and extremely interesting in how it shows how much times change.
From the view of motorcycling, the bikes are small UJM streetbikes. They look like Honda CBs. They ride them like dirtbikes, going off jumps, off pavement, bushwacking, and on railroad tracks. I hardly ever seem them standing on the pegs either! They mainly just bounce along. Kind of cool that they don’t worry about the machine or gear so much (or at all), unlike these days when there is so much focus on the type of equipment and bike you have. I like that kind of “ride what you got” attitude.
Culturally, the movie is funny and potentially disturbing (depending on your lifestyle) when they happen upon an old town/commune and proceed to “recreate” with the locals. There’s quite a bit of free-love and partaking of illegal drugs going on. Then they go out on a psychedelic joyride on their bikes. It’s all pretty amusing, but that joyride scene went on for way too long, and had some really annoying “spacey” sound effects.
I really enjoyed the movie after they traveled south of the border. They camped on the beach and went spearfishing for their food. Kinda strange when they killed and ate a sea turtle, but it just goes to show you how times change. There are a couple really cool scenes where they go surfing and hang out on the beach playing with fireworks. Looks like so much fun.
I’d recommend checking this movie out especially because it’s available for streaming. It’s not as polished or charming as a Bruce Brown classic, but it’s still a fun flick.
2011 Aug 15
There’s a watch store called Mr. Time in my old hometown of Torrance. It’s located on the corner of Sepulveda and Crenshaw and just about always has a “20-50%-Off Sale” sign hanging outside of it. It’s kind of a running joke between myself and Mariko because I always remind her that next time we visit family in California, I’ll buy a new watch. I’d estimate that it’s more like half of the visits we make to Torrance I buy a new watch and the other half of the time I just window shop. Well, this past summer I decided that I wanted to get a watch with a metal wristband. This would be a first for me! I’ve always prefered a black plastic/rubber wristband and the guy at Mr. Time always offers to switch the bands on any watch. When I bought my Waveceptor watch I had him replace the metal wristband with a black one. But I was looking in my drawer that I keep my watches in and I noticed that there were a few in there that were kind of just dead-in-the-water now because the original black wristband had broken and the replacement wristbands either did not exist anymore or didn’t fit too well. Because of this, I decided to go for a metal wristband.
I looked at a few really nice Seiko models but they were too expensive so I fell back on good ol Casio. I like the designs and they are pretty inexpensive. Quality is good as well. The Casio name isn’t going to impress anyone but I like them anyways. The model I decided on isn’t anything special but it does have analog hands and a digital face which I like. It’s also simple to use. I think I can adjust most everything without having to break out the manual, which is something I have to do whenever I want to adjust my Waveceptor. The new watch also has markers for North South East and West, but there’s no actual compass on the watch. The letters do make it look a little more sophisticated at least. It’s also waterproof down to 200 meters.
Like I mentioned above, I’ve never had a watch with a metal watchband before so it took a little while to get used to. But I really like it now and the peace of mind that it will last much longer than the rubber watchbands is a real plus. Now I am thinking about trying to find a metal watchband for my other watches. I bet Mr. Time could help me out. If anyone can do it, he can!
2011 Aug 08
In the past year I’ve been on three trips that required flying and I’ve been packing lighter and lighter. So far, it’s been great. In the past, I’ve taken probably too many clothes, and too many gadgets. Besides the practical aspects of not having to carry as much stuff (space and weight), it has also freed me up to enjoy the vacation more. I spend less time worrying about what lens to put on the camera (since I haven’t got any) and more time just snapping a photo which is “good enough” and then enjoying the scene using my eyes and ears.
Camera gear: This is the big one for me. Although I took a lot of photos using my big dSLR, it put a damper on my traveling experience. If I bring my dSLR around, then I feel I have to bring at least four lenses too! This adds up in space and weight (and shoulder pain). Plus, these items are not just things that I could throw in the suitcase and unpack at the destination, but stuff that I have to carry with me at all times. Did I mention shoulder pain earlier? Now I have slimmed down my photo equipment to just my point-and-shoot Panasonic camera and my cellphone. The Panasonic is small enough to wear around my neck or thrown in a pocket. It’s also waterproof and shockproof, so I have less worry about breaking it. I guess it lightens the burden on my mind as well! I may go back to carrying a larger camera in the future (my eyes are on the Sony A77), but for now I am enjoying the P&S.
Clothes: I’ve also really cut down the amount of clothes I take. Basically it’s one pair of shoes, sandals, a pair of jeans (and/or khakis), synthetic boxer briefs (they pack smaller than cotton), a couple pairs of synthetic socks, synthetic shorts, a light jacket,boardshorts if I am going swimming, and a few shirts. I really like the synthetic clothing because you can basically just wash them in a sink (or the shower) and by the next morning they will be dry or close to dry. No need to pack one for each day! In the winter, I bring a heavy jacket, gloves, and a scarf, but if I throw in a synthetic long-sleeve tshirt and synthetic long underwear (both pack super-small) I find that I can handle winter in Japan with ease. The synthetic base layers are so important. They keep you warm in the winter, but also cool and dry in the summer. (I wear them under my riding gear when I ride my motorcycle) Plus, these layers can be washed in the evening and will be ready in the morning.
Computers: On the computer front, I now use the Dell Inspiron 11z, which is thin and light and I also have a Microsoft Arc Mouse which folds flat. I don’t actually need the mouse but it’s so small it doesn’t really make much of a difference. I carry both of these in my shouder bag. The charger is relatively slim as well. It also helps that the battery still holds a good charge so I don’t have the mental burden of worrying if I have enough juice to do anything (like write this blog post!). Although I have my charger in the bag, not having to break it out every time I wan to use the laptop is nice!
Other Stuff: I bring my Kindle with me too. It is so light and hardly takes up any space. I’ve got a large variety of books I can choose from, and don’t need to worry about battery life since it seems to last forever. Even though paperbacks are light, most of the ones I have are still too thick.
All of my clothes and toiletries can easily fit in a rolling carry-on bag with space to spare. I can pretty much go for any amount of time with this setup. A couple of caveats here, however. I realize that being a guy has it’s advantages to packing light since we are happy with towel drying our hair and using whatever shampoo (or soap!) is available. No make-up bag to bring either. And since I am a married dude with kids, I feel less of a need (or none at all) to dress-to-impress. As long as what I wear isn’t an embarrassment, it’s good enough. (My windbreaker comes close to crossing the line, soliciting a couple “Members Only” comments on the last trip)
Another thing that packing light does to make my traveling more enjoyable is that I spend a lot less time worrying about my own things (since I haven’t got much) and more time making sure the kids and wife have all the things they need. I guess it’s a form of being selfless? Who knows, but I do like it, and I do get fulfillment out of caring for my family. Hooray for traveling light!
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