Friday, August 31, 2007

Sorry for the dearth of updates. Not much happening except work lately. I will be headed back to the US next weekend for a 10 day tour escorting some Japanese to different places in Atlanta and Washington, DC. Unfortunately, since it's business, I probably won't be able to catch up with friends and family there for more than a short time. Zannen desu...

Other than the crazy hours, I've recently gone through training in Lean Six Sigma. A quality assurance/improvement type of course, it was interesting, but difficult to grasp at times. It is heavy on the business language and case studies didn't necessarily translate well to my day to day work. Still, it gave some good techniques to organizing projects and focusing on what really makes a process tick and become something that adds to the end value of your product/service, etc., vice detracting from it. Now, I just have to get through my project, and I'll be officially a "Green Belt," with all the rights and privileges afforded me because of it...Near as I can figure it, that means that I'll get more work. Of course, the street value of such a course is rumored to be on the order of $16K, so that's nothing to sneeze at. And, apparently, it looks good on a resume, and may benefit me in my future life.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New Flavor - Kirin Nuda Grapefruit and Hop

One of the best things about living overseas is that you get different soft drinks. After 2-3 years Melody and I love green tea much so, that when I was in Hawaii last year, I willingly paid $3.00 per bottle just to get some. I know, I might be an addiction. Well, to that I say (in the words of an old drug rehab center commercial from when I was a kid),

"I don't have a problem...YOU have the problem!! Maybe it just walked out of your purse!"

But I digress...

My current favorite is a seasonal drink by Kirin, called Nuda. For some reason, you only see it during the summer time. Normal Nuda is basically soda water. But now, they've come out with Kirin Nuda Grapefruit and Hop flavor. It's great. So great that I've been stopping by one particular convenience store to buy 4 bottles at a time. They must think I'm nuts. Who puts grapefruit and hops together as a flavor? Where did that idea come from? Chalk it up to another one of the wonderful things about this country.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Last Saturday, Melody and I stayed up at Zama to catch a 4 AM bus to Mt. Fuji, probably the singular symbol of Japan. Despite the early departure, it took over 3 hours to finally get there due to the holiday traffic (the Japanese Obon holiday just started), everyone trying to escape Tokyo.

After arriving, we spent a half hour or so at the 5th Station, getting a bit acclimatized to the higher altitude (around 7000 feet). We also bought our hiking sticks, which would get branded at the different stations as we ascended.

Since we got a late start, we decided that we wouldn't try to kill ourselves to get to the summit. The bus left at 6 PM sharp, and it's a long series of train rides to get back. Much better to ride. So, we decided that at about 1 PM, wherever we were, we'd start heading back down.

The climb up is a steep hike, punctuated by different "stations" where you can get snacks at ever escalating prices. We saw bananas for 500 yen on the way up (though the night before, back in civilization, we saw a watermelon for 15000 yen, or about $150...insane).

It was a lot of steep climbing, scrambling over sharp lava rocks at different parts along the way. The stick really helped, but there were a few parts where it seemed pretty precarious and exposed. Nothing really dangerous, but you wouldn't want to fall because you'd be chewed up by the rough terrain.

After about 5 hours, we made it to the 8th Station, at 3100 meters (over 10000 feet). It was about 1:30 then, so we cut across to the descending trail, and began the series of switchbacks all the way back to 5th Station. The descent took almost 3 hours itself, and though on a trail, was so steep that both of us fell a couple of times. I ripped my pants and skinned my knee up, but we made it down with enough time to grab a plate of curry rice before getting back to the bus. While we had time to spare, we were glad we didn't push it. 4 of our bus didn't make it back by the appointed time, and got left behind.

The whole day was great. The weather cooperated and was gorgeous. Even up at our high water mark, the temperature was only so cool as to have us don a long sleeve shirt. It was quite a long, hard slog up though, and we certainly slept well later that night.

Since the season closes at the end of August, I'm going to head back again for another attempt at the summit at the end of the month. Will keep you posted on what happens...