Sep. 24th, 2017 05:24 am[personal profile] dglenn
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)

"[...] one of humanity's tragic flaws is to take for granted the gargantuan effort needed to create and maintain even little temporary pockets of order. Again and again, people imagine that, if their local pocket of order isn't working how they want, then they should smash it to pieces, since while admittedly that might make things even worse, there's also at least 50/50 odds that they'll magically improve. In reasoning thus, people fail to appreciate just how exponentially more numerous are the paths downhill, into barbarism and chaos, than are the few paths further up. So thrashing about randomly, with no knowledge or understanding, is statistically certain to make things worse: on this point thermodynamics, common sense, and human history are all in total agreement. The implications of these musings for the present would be left as exercises for the reader." -- Scott Aaronson, 2017-01-01

[To my friends observing Tzom Gedaliah, may you have an easy fast.]

blatherskite: (Default)
Breakfast was the supermarket food we purchased yesterday. The okonomiyaki was pretty good for warmed-over supermarket convenience food, and I also sampled the dumplings, purely from a quality-control perspective. I judged them eminently suitable for lunch after a long walk.

Our plan for the morning was to finish packing, dump our bags in the left-luggage room, and walk as far around the lake as we could go in the time available to us, before returning to the hostel for lunch (the surviving dumplings) and a bathroom break before catching a bus to the train station.

The weather was perfect for walking, with low clouds brushing across the mountaintops and creating enough shade that it remained cool throughout the hike. There were enough breaks in the cloud to create constantly changing light on the mountains, which is always one of the pleasures of mountainous areas. We walked to the bridge that spans the eastern end of Kawaguchiko lake, crossed the bridge, then turned west along the lake shore. Lots of fishermen, feathered and otherwise, out for a morning fish. We paused to sit on a dock and watch a white stork (heron?) fishing amidst a flotilla of squabbling ducks, and a nice Japanese gentleman offered to take our picture. So there will be at least some documentary evidence that I was here.

We walked for a little more than 2 hours before reaching the end of the lakeshore walkway, then caught a bus back to the bridge so we could walk east and south around the part of the lake we hadn't seen yet. Where the western lake is less poplulated and more natural, this eastern part is the luxe hotel district, which contained the accommodations we hadn't considered staying in. They're undoubtedly more luxurious than our hostel, but also considerably pricier, and much farther from the station area, so they would have been logistically far less convenient. And K's House Hostel was a lovely space with very friendly staff, and easily walkable into town when necessary or convenient.

The walk back to the hostel was about another hour, and the dumplings were a nice light lunch, washed down with Kirin beer from a machine in the lobby. (We need more beer vending machines in the West. *G*)

Had a nice nap on the hostel couch after lunch, and took some time for blogging before we headed for the bus. We left our last gifts (maple sugar candy) with the hostel staff as a small thank you. We had one for the daughter of one of the staff, who was hanging out watching TV while her mother cleaned house for the next wave of guests. She was probably about 6, and knew enough to say "thank you" in English.

No significant trouble training to Tokyo. We caught one last glimpse of Fuji, coyly baring a shoulder through heavy cloud, then off to our last stop before home. Graham, if you're reading this, you really need to come to Japan and ride the rails. Japan is like Disneyland for railroad engineers.

This time, we chose to stay at Hotel Mystays Ueno. It's a chain hotel, about 100 times the size of any place we've stayed thus far, and nowhere near the swank end, but clean and modern and very convenient: about a 10-minute walk from Ueno train station, near lovely Ueno Park, and close to a great many restaurants and museums—though mostly art museums, as it turns out. Nothing against art museums, of course.

The room at the Mystays was tiny. No, really... Tiny even by Japanese standards. The double bed fills all of the room except a 6-inch gap between the foot of the bed and the window; a 1.5-foot gap between the bed and the wall that supports the world's smallest and cutest desk, hugging the wall; and a shoulder-width corridor leading past the bathroom to the door. On the plus side, the bathroom is one of the biggest we've had thus far, with ample head and shoulder space for me. And the shower is great: a ton of pressure and endless hot water.

Took time to shower and relax a bit, then headed out in search of dinner. Shoshanna checked TripAdvisor in search of good local places, and conveniently, the one that was both top-rated and close to us was an okonomiyaki place. Only about a 15-minute walk too. So we headed there through the gathering dusk, and found ourselves at a tiny old wooden home, with room for fewer than 30 people. It's one of those places where you squeeze your feet under a low wooden table, and cook your meal on a grill mounted in the table right in front of you. That means it's hot—particularly with a dozen or so open grills scattered through the one-story structure. And they have no air-conditioning. They have a warning at the door to warn off anyone who might have troubles with the heat.

It was cool enough outside that with whirring fans everywhere, the temperature wasn't too uncomfortable. After ordering, you're handed a bowl of glop: an egg, the ingredients you specified, and some batter. You mix 'em up, drop them onto the grill, flatten everything out with a spatula, and then relax while it cooks. Periodically, you peek under the edge to see how it's doing, and when it starts browning, you flip it. When you're done, you quarter it with the spatula, scoop a quarter onto your plate, and leave the others to stay warm on the grill. You paint the pancake with tangy BBQ sauce, squirt on a little mayo, and then devour it. Excellent, and washed down nicely with Sapporo beer.

Fractured English of the day: the menu states that the staff will deliver your beer, but that you have to "make your own water". We assume they mean that you have to fetch your own pitcher of water, as there's a rack of pitchers at the back of the restaurant, but the purpose of not serving water eludes me. Maybe they hope you'll buy more beer?

Wandered home through dark, mostly deserted streets, very glad to know that Japan has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. I wouldn't call the area "seedy", but it is dark, not well populated after dark, and off the beaten track.

Sunday Secrets

Sep. 23rd, 2017 10:46 pm[syndicated profile] post_secret_feed

Posted by Frank


Dear Frank-
Years ago I started writing notes and putting them in random places like behind paintings in hotels, between the pages at book stores and in Sky Mall Magazines on airplanes. While browsing through a PostSecret book, I found one of my notes. That small ripped piece of paper is featured above. I attended your event last week at CMU. I’m thankful for your ability to speak to people in their broken places.

lavendertook: (Default)
Happy belated Birthday to [profile] ibilover!!! Here is your promised spam. A collection of some of the fauna I saw this year around Greenbelt Lake:

A pair of wood ducks in the early spring.

Read more... )

Posted by Laurie

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This white supremacist sculpture in front of the Museum of  Natural History has outraged my brother Mike for a long time. It’s in front of a major museum in a very prominent place on Central Park West.  I remember being angry every time I saw it, when I went to the museum from the time I was a child….Laurie

Mike says:

Statues of Confederate generals are not the only official symbols of white supremacy.

When you walk into the Museum of Natural History from the Central Park side, you are greeted by a statue of Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt is astride a horse; he is leading a half-naked Black man and a half-naked Native American man, both of whom are grasping his legs as he points the way.

To call this status racist, jingoistic and extremely offensive is to understate the case. The City of New York and the Museum of Natural History are reminding every visitor every day that they believe in white supremacy, that white privileged people like Roosevelt are appropriate leaders of “inferior” races. The statue says clearly that they are inferior: he’s dressed and they’re half-naked; he’s on a horse and they’re on foot. Thank God that in 2017 we still have powerful White men to show you Black people and Native Americans the way.

Theodore Roosevelt was a white supremacist. In 1913, he referred to Blacks as “degenerates breeding,” In his book Africa Game Trails, Roosevelt referred to Black people he encountered as “ape-like naked savages.” Native Americans fared no better: “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are dead Indians,” Roosevelt said in an 1886 speech, “but I believe nine out of every 10 are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the 10th.”

Is this how we want to represent New York City at one of its finest institutions? Is this how Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Black director of the Hayden Planetarium, should be greeted when he gets to work?

When I have approached New York City (who owns this statue) and the Museum of Natural History about removing the statue, the Museum said the statue would not be removed because it is historic and highlights Mr. Roosevelt as an explorer. Let’s take that apart.

First, historic: Using that flawed logic,“historic” ads and images depicting Black and Native Americans should still be okay. Why not keep the old Uncle Ben’s Rice or Aunt Jemima’s Syrup packages showing them as slaves/servants? Maybe we should have kept the old “Colored” and “White” drinking fountains down south. They are gone because they are wrong and are offensive, and depict a white supremacist ideology whose time is long past.

Second, exploring: how does this racist depiction show exploration? Are we supposed to assume that a White man fully clad and on a horse is exploring with his two companions who happen to be on foot grasping his legs? Exploring what? If he is exploring the US, does that mean the Native American needs White Teddy Roosevelt to explore his homeland? If he is exploring Africa, are we saying that native Africans need a rich privileged White man to explore their own continent?

In post-Charlottesville America, we cannot tolerate this blatantly offensive relic in front of the Museum of Natural History. Take it down now!

lavendertook: (tea with cat and books)
I had 2 wisdom teeth pulled this morning due to an abscess that developed a couple of weeks ago in the lower tooth. The top one had to go, too, just for balance, or some semblance thereof. I had lovely nitrous oxide while their broadcast played the Moonlight Sonata, which was perfect, but all that did not manage to dull the pain of the roof of the mouth novocaine shot when it came--I involuntarily eeped high, followed by a growl, but fell back into the nitrous oxide calm in a few minutes. The dental surgeon was nice and quick and I was surprised when he told me both teeth were out. Now I'm on antibiotics. It's been 4 hours and the novocaine isn't completely worn off, but I suspect I won't need the percoset they gave me. I am slightly head achy.

I am in particular solidarity with Tuxie because the poor baby had 2 teeth pulled on Monday and a dental cleaning, and he was given a shot of bupronephrine (narcotic) for pain and covenia (antibiotic), and I gave him onsinor anti-inflammatory pills for 3 days and he was in bad shape for those 3 days. I don't want him in pain, but I suspect he was over medicated and that may have been as bad as dealing with pain for him. He was restless, and probably didn't get a wink of sleep for at least a day, constipated and not eating well, and alternately head-butty affectionate and terrified hiding from me--I suspect fearing I would take him to the vet again. It was very sad-making. Since I don't seem to need the narcotic, I'm wondering if he would have been better off without it. I don't know if he would have had that reaction anyway to the drugs he was put out with for the procedure. He is thankfully all back to normal now. We're in it together, little boy!

I am now sitting comfortably on the sofa with Tuxie curled against my left side, and Moo with her head on my lap on the right side. For my reward I get this wonderful company, I will do nothing this afternoon but read my book--I'm in the middle of the second book in Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow duology: it's excellent--and, alternately nap when ready. It's sunny through the trees out my pretty window, but the world outside will have to carry on without me. As soon as I finish typing this, I get to have cake. I deserve cake for surviving those needles. If I feel up to it this evening, I will finish the eclipse post.

Awwww, Tuxie's little hot pink paw beans! And Moo's little fuzzy head! (-:
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Which is creating the Amazon and Chapters links for the book being review, I know one particular book is $19.19 if you buy it from Kobo and $11.71 from Kindle....
sartorias: (Default)
Sometimes I really need to escape from the news, which seems more horrific every day. And my escape needs a dose of blithe fun.

So I trundle out photocopies of student papers, missing chapters from Robin Hood, as gleefully penned by eleven year olds.


Sep. 23rd, 2017 05:24 am[personal profile] dglenn
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)

"It is the most GOP thing in the world to create the Kimmel test for p.r. reasons, fail it, and then blame Jimmy Kimmel for being political." -- Brian Beutler, 2017-09-22

lavendertook: (Default)

Pickles the Hobbit Cat celebrates the Bagginses birthday in typical cat fashion. Party on, you crazy cat!

Here are pre-quest Bagginses bonding by Atariel on DeviantArt.

Happy Bagginses Birthday to all the hobbit-hearted here! Yes, you!!!! <3
blatherskite: (Default)
Neither of us was terribly fond of the food at Gusto, so we skipped breakfast. It's not as if we were suffering, as we were still stuffed from last night. If we weren't doing so much walking and luggage carrying, we'd need to stitch together two outfits into one to fit into our clothing. Also, we figured we'd get food along the way as we toured, since most tourist sites have at least vending machines for coffee and an assortment of snacks, including samples of all or many of the sweets for sale in the gift shop. When we travel, we adopt the hunter–gatherer lifestyle.

We hiked down to bus station to get a bus pass, since we'd be on and off the bus several times in the coming day, not to mention on Sunday when we need to haul our luggage to the bus and train station for our return to Tokyo. There are three Kawaguchiko bus lines (red, green, and blue) that let you hop on and off the bus to visit the many small tourist attractions scattered through the area. The blue route goes much farther afield, and is more expensive, so we opted for the less expensive pass that covers only the red and green lines. There was too much to sea for one day's touring, so we picked a couple sites that we figured would be most interesting, and decided to focus on them. We'll just have to return again some day to see the others, and particularly to see if we can spend some time on one or more of the five lakes.

We took the green bus along Lake Kawaguchiko (the "ko" part means "lake", so the name's a bit redundant). It's a large and lovely lake, nestled among mountains that look like someone took a vat of mashed potatoes and doled out huge lumps in the land surrounding the lake. Covered in green forest, so perhaps the food metaphor is best not overextended. Had we come during the summer, I think we'd have made an effort to find kayak rentals, though they may not exist; we saw no brochures for any water excursions other than an overpriced 20-minute power boat ride around the lake. And most of the boats on the lake seemed to be either powerboats or fishing rowboats.

Since the land around Fuji has periodically been buried under lava flows, there are many caves that developed within the lava. Not so many caves back in Montreal, so we decided to fit in a couple caves that seemed most interesting and logistically feasible. We started with the oddly named "bat cave", as there was no evidence any bats had ever lived there. (On the plus side, the guest shop did have several vintage posters from the 1960s Adam West/Burt Ward TV series.) The managers will provide rubber boots (wellies) if so requested, but we had good hiking boots that were sufficient. And the cave floor is sufficiently rough and wet that I do recommend bringing good boots for both safety and comfort. They do insist you wear a plastic helmet, which is a wise choice; the roof is quite low in places, and despite my best efforts, I occasionally straightened out too fast and tapped my helmet on the ceiling. You get to the cave via a 5-minute walk through a beautiful forest that has developed atop the lava. It was a gloomy day, with dark clouds and rain threatening throughout, but still a beautiful forest. It would have been spectacular in bright sunlight.

Despite the lack of bats, it was lots of fun scrambling through the cave. There are several galleries with enough room to stand, but more areas where you have to bend over or even squat down and crabwalk to get through narrow passages. Not even remotely like real spelunking, which often involves crawling through gaps too narrow to pass with a lungful of air, but close enough for my tastes. I'm not claustrophobic, but suspect I might be with both my belly and my back scraping along stone simultaneously. Very different from the caves we've visited in Australia (much limestone, so a fascinating range of flowstone types) and Hawaii (volcanic, but seemingly with more soluble minerals to produce baby stalactites). Nonetheless, it was still a pleasure to be poking about underground in something that once carried lava hot enough to fry you from a distance.

Our next stop was at Saiko* Iyashi no Sato Nenba, which is a reconstruction of a Japanese village that was wiped out by a landslide in the aftermath of a typhoon in 1966. Now, its mostly a shell of its former self, though the buildings are beautifully restored and some of them are still used by community groups or for meetings. Now, there are stalls selling foods grown or created by locals, and a great many crafts (paintings, paper, silks, mobiles, ceramics). There's some beautiful stuff and some really yummy food. We ate far too many samples of mochi (sweetened glutinous rice with various fillings) and cookies, but also had a nice corn on the cob (for about $3, which is high, but far less outrageous than the corn on Fuji, at twice that price) and a mochi filled with bean paste and a herb whose name we can't recall. We need to remember to use the notebooks we both carry to record such details.

* "Saiko", the region name, is pronounced "psycho", so I amused myself all afternoon about visiting the psycho village and the psycho bat cave. Fatigue has clearly begun to take its toll.

Next stop was the "wind cave", a lava tube that occasionally has significant air movement that the signage claimed was driven by differences in relative humidity between the inside and outside of the cave—before electric lighting was installed, the wind was strong enough to blow out the candles that were often used for illumination. I've studied boundary layer climatology, so I understand how environmental gradients can move air, but I don't have any clear idea of how that humidity difference would generate significant wind. Maybe on really dry days outdoors? I suspect it's really the temperature difference that drives the wind, as it's very cold (near 0°C) inside the cave. Cold enough that even now, in September, there were significant deposits of ice that formed in the previous winter still present in one of the lava chambers. It's cold enough most of the year that local peoples used the cave to store silkworm larvae to delay their development (to allow silk production during a longer period of the year) and to warehouse seeds against future need. It's a much smaller cave than the bat cave, and requires much less stooping to get through narrower passages, but it's also much deeper in the Earth—maybe 30 feet below ground at the start, and a bit deeper in other areas.

By now, 10+ days of walking and touring had tired us out pretty thoroughly, so rather than trying to squeeze in another tourist site, we gave up for the day. Instead, we got off the bus at the Ogino supermarket, foreign marketplaces being a tourist experience in their own right. It's about a 10-minute walk from the hostel, so very convenient. I needed to stock up on snacks (chocolate, of course; my first potato chips in Japan*, because why not?; cookies because we found chocolate chip cookies good enough that even Shoshanna ate a batch**) and we also wanted to explore the possibilities for tomorrow's breakfast***. We settled on two packages of gyoza (Japanese dumplings), with no idea what the contain (because there was no English on the package) and a similarly mysterious okonomi. Tomorrow, we'll nuke them in the microwave, and anything we don't eat, we'll bring onto the train for road food. The hostel apparently sets the coffee machine in the commmon room on a timer so that it brews up a fresh pot every morning at 7, so we'll be well caffeinated. Wish we'd noticed this earlier.

* Unremarkable, but satisfied a craving for crunchy potato.
** Shoshanna maintains a wary distance from snacks.
** We belatedly got a clue and remembered that Japanese supermarkets sell a wide variety of ready-to-eat foods.

Back to the hostel for a nap and shower, then off to the local tempura restaurant for a feast. They had a wide selection of ingredients, including a few unusual ones, and also provided sashimi (raw fish), but the real attraction was the tempura. We each ordered a dozen or so servings, mostly vegetables (squash, green pepper, eggplant, onion, boiled egg!, cherry tomato!, mushrooms, and shrimp for Shoshanna). In addition to the usual sweetish dipping sauce, they had a lovely sesame paste/mustard sauce combination and a sweet but moderately hot chili sauce that went very well with the food. Shoshanna also tried their lemon salt, but reported there was too much salt and not enough lemon.

Home and preliminary packing, since tomorrow we head to Tokyo in mid-afternoon, where we'll spend two nights and our last full day in Japan. Where the heck did all the time go?

September 21: Kawaguchiko

Sep. 22nd, 2017 07:50 pm[personal profile] blatherskite
blatherskite: (Default)
We started our day with breakfast at "Gusto", which reminded me a bit of a Denny's or Friendly's in the U.S.: undistinguished food in a bland setting. But they offered three stellar virtues: they were open at 7, they were a 5-minute walk from the hostel, and they offered bottomless coffee. Hallelujah to the latter! The cups are still too small, but you can have a great many of them. I had a salmon set meal, with a small but tasty slice of broiled salmon and the usual pickles, miso soup, and rice. Nothing to write home about (present missive notwithstanding), but tasty, filling, and economical.

Our goal today was to reach Mount Fuji and do some hiking. The weather dawned a bit hazy, but with bright blue skies—enough so that the summit of Fuji was clearly visible, which is not something to be taken for granted as it's more often concealed by clouds than not. So we carpe'd the diem and rushed to catch the first bus, a little before 10. In theory, you can climb Fuji—if you're young and still have young legs, or old and have spent your life climbing mountains. But in practice, it's nearly 3800 m tall (more than 12 000 feet), and though it starts out as a gentle slope, it rapidly steepens. One map we saw of the trails to the summit zigzagged like the trace from a seismograph. Such switchbacks would be only slightly less painful than the parallel route that climbs straight for the top. Sane folks do the climb in 2 days, with a stopover just below the summit on the first day, rising the next day to catch the sunrise, then descending. I think I'd opt for 3 days.

All of which is to say that we had no plans to summit. Instead, we took a tourist bus to the highest point reachable by road, which is the 5th station. There are 10 stations in total, at roughly equal spacing, so we were at about 5400 feet above sea level. From the 5th station, you can hike for hours at roughly the same elevation, parallel to the contours, or hook up with one of the summit trails. (By September, the summit trails are closed because the weather is too unpredictable and it's routinely too dangerous to use them.) We opted for the Ochuro trail, which runs west for about 2 km, followed by a pause to rest and then a short sashay along the Yoshida trail to the summit, just to say we'd done it.

The tourist centre is huge and sprawling, and designed to separate tourists efficiently from their cash. For example, there's a stand where a young woman was boiling sweet corn—at about $6 for a small cob. And we bought a couple steamed pork buns for about $4 each, roughly twice what I'd expect to pay in any non-tourist town. Even though it was mid-week during the off season, the place was swarming with people. There must have been 30 tour buses parked in the lot nearest to the visitor centre, and more farther downslope, not to mention the city buses that arrive every hour or so. I can't imagine what the place is like during the summer high season. Oddly enough, not a lot of people were on the trails; we only met a couple dozen hikers once we were out of sight of the visitor centre.

The weather was still excellent by the time we'd hit the bathroom and gotten ready to start our walk, with beautiful blue skies, cool but not cold air, and little breeze. Clear views of the peak throughout, which was a special blessing. As noted earlier, the peak is concealed by cloud more often than not.

The Ochuro trail is a lovely hike, starting out in woods filled with Japanese larch, fir, some species of paper birch, alder, willow, and lots of low greenery, including barberry with pretty orange-red berries, moss, and lichens. The trail is paved with crushed lava, with occasional chunks up to baseball size but mostly smaller than a pea or bean, and with flat paving stones (about 12 by 8 inches) running down the centre. I suspect these are present to help keep you on the trial if you're unlucky and a fog or heavy rain descends. Easy walking for the most part, with the lava pebbles relaxing on the feet after much time spent walking on pavement—a bit like walking in sand.

You soon leave the woods and begin catching glimpses of the long, sweeping slopes leading to the summit. (There's a clear demarcation between the forested slope, which extends a bit past our present elevation, and the scree slope above it.) It's awe-inspiring to realize that you're still about 1800 vertical metres (more than a mile) below the summit, and that all of the surrounding mountain ranges, which are impressive enough when seen from ground level, are at or below your height.

But what's really impressive is the scree slope that rises above the trail once you reach and pass the tree line. If you know what to look for, you can see landslide tracks everywhere—and they run the length of the slope in places. We saw slides that had buried the trail (leaving only a few paving stones projecting under a metre or more of scree) or swept away a 10-m-wide (about 30 feet) swath of forest as far as the eye could see. The biggest looked (judged using the distance to the summit as a crude yardstick) to be about half a kilometre wide, and stretched from just below the summit down a couple kilometres (measured along the slope) and well past where we were standing.

At this time of year, hiking on Fuji at our elevation isn't an extreme sport, or they'd close the trails; I suspect most landslides occur in winter, during heavy rains, or during earthquakes. Nonetheless, the folks who manage the site have installed landslide diversion structures—basically, oblong steel-reinforced bunkers that rise 3 metres (10 feet) or more above the surrounding slopes. They're mostly there to protect patches of regenerating forest, since the odds are slim of reaching one of the widely separated shelters if a landscape happens without warning.

When we reached the point where the trail began to descend towards the road, well below the visitor centre, we paused to consume our last pork bun and some trail mix and cookies before heading back. The disadvantage of an out-and-back hike is that you see fewer things than you'd see in a loop; the compensating benefit is that you get to see the same things from both sides, and spot things you'd missed. Both have their merits; I don't regret not doing a loop.

Back at the visitor centre, we stopped for a light lunch, keeping a cautious eye on the weather. Mountain weather is (in)famously changeable, and you need to keep your wits about you. We shared a bowl of roasted pork and cabbage on rice, with a small bowl of miso soup as clouds began to roll in. Pleasantly recharging. We still had an hour and a half before it was time for the bus we wanted to catch, and the clouds weren't looking too menacing, so this time we headed east along the Yoshida trail—only to find that after a couple hundred metres, the part of the trail that ascended towards the summit had been closed for the rest of the year. We debated for a moment about whether to go anyway, but when we spotted another hiker descending the trail, we figured it was worth the small risk. We'd continued to keep an eye on the weather, but as the dark clouds were showing no signs of raining yet, and the forecast had been for no rain, we agreed to walk only until we saw signs of rain—at which point we'd get the hell out of there asap. (There were many large erosion gullies running downslope, and the trail itself showed clear signs of scouring by running water. This wasn't a problem in the areas of packed lava gravel, but some of the steep parts of the trail were rock-covered, and would have been impassable because they'd be too slippery to be safe with water running downhill across the stone.)

We topped out at a landslide diversion structure that was also a shelter; the downhill side was a tunnel with open arches looking downslope, where you could hide to wait out rain or a landslide with some hope of returning home to tell about it.

The weather continued to hold, but we needed to return to catch our bus, so we made our way back. A pleasant, though sleepy, bus ride back to town. We'd been walking for about 4 hours in total, but the air was thin enough at more than a mile above sea level that we both felt a bit breathless during the hike. Reluctantly, we were forced to admit that we were not even close to being in good enough shape to summit, at least not without considerable long-term training. We both exercise as often as we can (usually several days each week), and it's served us well during our hikes, but clearly not enough intensity for such an expedition.

Back to the hostel for a shower*, then off to dinner at a local izakaya called "High Spirits", run by a Japanese chef who had studied in the U.S. and who therefore had excellent English. Like many of the places we'd eaten, a tiny place: three tables with room for 12 people, and a bar that runs alongside the kitchen. Itseated 6, including us. The chef was all alone in the kitchen, and he raced back and forth between his various preparations (frypans, refrigerator, spice racks, bowls of prepared stuff, a dozen or so bottles of various alcohols, etc.) like a martial artist practicing kata. Fun to watch someone really good at their work performing.

* The bathrooms in Japan tend towards the small side. The hostel bathroom was about the size of an airplane bathroom, but with a tub and shower added. The tub is wide enough that my shoulders only touch the wall or the shower curtain (not both) simultaneously, but there's only about 2 inches between my head and the ceiling. I've also noticed that my legs are too long for me to fit in standard bus seats; as a result, I have to sit sideways, with my legs sticking into the aisle. I'm not particularly huge (just 6 feet), so really bug guys beware! Japan is not built for people like us. On the other hand, the Shinkansen trains have ample legroom and headroom; I spotted one Westerner who must have been 7 feet tall who fit comfortably.

The chef did have someone helping out with the dishwashing and food delivery, but the guy was a trainee on his second day, and not yet up to speed. We had "Cajun" pork ribs, which were delicious and tender enough that I could pull them from the bone with chopsticks, but not very spicy, and a side of cold sautéed eggplant, also delicious and nicely al dente. Shoshanna had five pieces of sashimi that she loved, along with real wasabi that packed serious heat (not the diluted stuff we get in the west). We liked it all so much that we ordered an additional main course: lettuce leaves that we used like taco shells, stuffed with savoury roasted ground beef with a delicious oil/spice sauce mixture. Messy to eat, but amazingly good. The evening's alcohol was potato shochu (like sake, but made from potatoes), which was interesting but not nearly as good as sake, and Kirin beer.

Home to bed to prepare for another day of hiking tomorrow.


Sep. 22nd, 2017 05:24 am[personal profile] dglenn
dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)

"This is a time for action -- not for war, but for mobilization of every bit of peace machinery. It is also a time for facing the fact that you cannot use a weapon, even though it is the weapon that gives you greater strength than other nations, if it is so destructive that it practically wipes out large areas of land and great numbers of innocent people. " -- Eleanor Roosevelt (b. 1884-10-11, d. 1962-11-07), My Day (newspaper column) 1954-04-16

Friday's story!

Sep. 21st, 2017 10:56 pm[personal profile] murgatroyd666 posting in [community profile] girlgenius_lair
murgatroyd666: (von Zinzer Distraught)

You know ... I would not like to have Ivo Sharktooth angry with me.


Sep. 21st, 2017 10:53 pm[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll
james_davis_nicoll: (Default)
Haven't been around long enough for an adult to reference the technology as something around when they were kids. That's just crazy talk -- 16 years ago, you say?

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