July 19, 2007
That said, holy crap has it ever been hot here! The last time I remember temperatures consistently around 28C for this long has got to be sometime around 2002. Of course, my memory and my math aren't so hot anymore, so if you really want to be sure, check and almanac or something ok?
Last week we had the Calgary Stampede. While I don't know if it's really true, it's always been billed as "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth". In terms of the amount of stuff to see, the number of parties and free pancake breakfasts to go to, and the insane number of people that come here every year...I might have to say it's probably a good name for the thing. I'll save the history lesson for how the Stampede came about to others (see www.calgarystampede.com if you're really curious).
Anyway, Friday was mom's birthday so we got her some tickets to the chuck wagon races and grandstand show. It'd been at least 10 years since I'd seen the show myself, and I was really impressed. There are hundreds of people singing and dancing and it's an amazing production. I can only imagine how much work and effort goes into preparing for that thing. And of course, there are always the fireworks. Japanese folks do love their fireworks, and while I was there I saw several mighty fine displays, but I have to say that none of them competed with these. It was well worth the seat fee simply to watch those go off as the show reached the finale.
So here are a few pictures. Naturally they don't do the fireworks justice, but at least I tried. Click here.
April 29, 2007
There were a lot of cool guests from the comic, animation, tv and film industries. Since I was manning a table I didn't have a chance to meet many of them. I did speak with Gail Simone for a little while. She's a very friendly and personable lady, and I would strongly recommend reading some of her work. My personal favorite was the 6-issue "Villains United" series that ran last year. She said she'll be taking over the writing for Wonder Woman beginning on issue 13 as well, so that is definitely worth a look.
Unfortunately, in my rush to get ready and out the door this morning I forgot all of the items I had hoped to take along and get signed. The main two people I wanted to meet for that purpose were Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. As chance would have it Bruce Timm walked by our booth shortly before the show opened and I was able to stop him and chat briefly as well. He's a very gracious and affable guy, and it was very cool that he stopped to talk with me for a few minutes.
The show was pretty interesting, and there was a lot of foot traffic. The lineup for the doors was already a few dozen people deep an hour before the show opened, and the volume really didn't die down until around 3:30 in the afternoon. I didn't sell a lot of stuff, but quite a few people stopped by to offer me compliments on my work and show me samples of theirs. I offered critiques where I could, and drew a few sketches when requested. It's strange for me to sit there and draw something while the recipient watches over my work, but it was good practice as well. The first few I put out were definitely not the best, so I apologize to any of you who got those. After I got a little more comfortable though they seemed to flow a little better.
As I mentioned I had a few color prints of my work available for sale. The GIJoe picture featuring Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes was easily the most popular of the bunch. My favorite one, of Beta Ray Bill, didn't sell many copies but I didn't mind. It had a good time putting it together on Saturday and was really happy with the end result. To take a look at some web-sized version of my pinups, click the links at the bottom.
April 04, 2007
If you want to check out Jim live he'll be in Calgary in July for the Folk Music Festival, July 27th - 29th. I know I'll be there! Other tour dates and info can be found on his label's website http://www.blackhenmusic.com/
March 25, 2007
The current state of your life, your body, your relationships and everything else is a net result of our thoughts up until now. If you're thinking about all the things you don't have, aren't, or don't want...that's what your life is now.
So ask yourself this question: What do you want your life to be?
March 21, 2007
Confused yet? The title of the article has a reason for being, honest! First, I'm talking about a point in time last week that comes before the wedding. Second, I'm talking about an event that kinda takes me back in time...at least in my mind anyway.
"What the f**k am yammering on about now?" you're wondering at this point right? Well ok fine, I'm talking about the Heaven and Hell concert on March 14th. The what? Yeah, that's exactly what I thought when I heard about it too. Well apparently due to some conflict with Ozzy Osbourne's control freak wife Sharon, the rest of the band Black Sabbath isn't allowed to use that name Black Sabbath unless Ozzy's performing too. Or something, I don't know all the details. Anyway, the concert featured the Sabbath line-up from the Dio years: Tony, Geezer, Vince and of course Dio. I have to admit I wasn't all that interested in seeing Dio, but figured it'd probably be the only time I'd be able to say I'd seen Black Sabbath in concert. I thought it'd be pretty cool to see them plus the openers Down and Megadeth all in one shot!
When my friend and I got to the 'dome we saw a little piece of paper taped to the main doors saying that Down would not be performing, and that Down fans could get a refund. I don't know what was wrong with the singer from Down, but I was pretty disappointed that they weren't playing. I guess if it was serious enough that he couldn't sing there's not much a guy can do about that. The other two bands played longer, which made up for it a bit I suppose.
I was solidly impressed with Megadeth. They performed really well and you'd never know Mustaine's fronting an entirely new lineup, and has been at his game for something like two decades. It'd been a while since I had listened to any Megadeth CDs, so I had actually forgotten how damned FAST some of those riffs are! From a strictly technical point of view they were very impressive, and ended up being far more entertaining than the headliner.
As I pointed out earlier, I'm not a big fan of Dio. After seeing the real thing in person, I'm even less of one. The rest of the band was in fine form and played really well. In truth I can't even really fault Dio for his performance, because it was good too. The this is that he's just BORING on stage. He doesn't really talk much to the audience except to say "Thank you" in a funny way, and introduce the next song, complete with the album it came off of. I'd have been far more interested in hearing a little snippet from Tony or Geezer once or twice during the show.
Like most Sabbath fans I'm far more familiar with the Ozzy material and find Dio's fantasy lyrics rather um...stupid. I was actually waiting for them to finish rather than wishing they'd play another song, and that's not a good thing. The new songs mixed in with the old really didn't scream out originality or make me jump up and pump my fist along to the beat either. I just couldn't get into the swing of it while holding back the chuckles at the goofy lyrics being belted out with such sincerity up there.
Dio aside, the mix was good, the stage show and stage itself were great and I am very happy to have seen two of the most (if not the most) influential hard rock / metal musicians playing live in Butler and Iommi. That's something I'll never regret paying money for. With Megadeth's knock-out opening act and I'm a happy concert-goer. If Down had showed up I wouldn't have had a complaint in the world. :)
March 19, 2007
The location they chose was great. The weather was quite warm considering how high up in the mountains we were and there were no major problems with the day at all. Of course, a few small glitches popped up, but that's bound to happen with any event. All in all everything went great, a good time was had by all and my sister is now a happily married woman.
Congratulations to my sister and her new husband!
(Click here to see a few pictures)
March 04, 2007
じゃ。。。この ポスト の 中 には けっこ たくさん まちがう。 もし 見たら なおして ね？ 今日 ちょっと 書く の わだい を しらない。 時 に 書く したい だけ。 けど、 だれ が よんで います か？ それ も しらない。
にほん の いる 時 で ともだちたち は みじかい えいが を 作った。 今年 の 一月 で DVD は 来た。 ”たぶん ここ の ともだち は えいが を 見たい。。。” と 思うた。 それかか 先週まつ いろいろ 人 を しょたい した。 半分 （はんぶん） ぐらい は へんじ した、”ごめん。 もう ほか の よてい ある。” ほか の 人 は ”今 まで しらない。 その ひ に 電話 する。” と へんじ した。 その 日 に 一人 だけ 来た！
本当 に がっかり でした よ！ 前時 の ともだち は かわった と 思う。 日本 に 行った の 前 おたがい は よく 会う。 カナダ ヘ もどた の あと は ちがう。 いま、 もし 私 は だれか に しょうたい しなければ、だれも 会いない。 わずらわしくて きたいはずれ だ。
しかし すぐ いい こと が 来る。 さらい週末 で おねえさん は けっこん します。 する 場所 は とっても きれい。 あそこ で たくさん しゃしん を とる つもり。 あと で あなた に 見せる。 ：）
February 25, 2007
Since i also had to work full time, I didn't have much free time to show him around that much but I tried. Not having a car made it even more difficult! Rather than going into the details I'll just give a quick rundown of some of the things we did and places we went.
First weekend: Calgary Roughnecks season opener
Third weekend part 2: Calgary Hitmen game with Shuhei's classmates
Final weekend: Farewell lunch
The loss was followed by a very shocking move: the first and only head coach was fired, also resulting in the assistant coach resigning. They played the game in Toronto without a new coach and won handily by all reports. What will come from this point is anyone's guess now.
Today I spent a good part of my day walking around or on the local transit. Not exactly the most fun, but I was able to get all the items I was looking for and enjoy the sunny afternoon weather. Not tired enough from all the walking, I decided I needed to hang shelves around the house, do all the laundry I could find, rearrange all the furniture in two rooms, and basically make a huge mess. Maybe tomorrow I'll actually get something that I planned to do done.
February 14, 2007
It was sheer luck that I happened upon the show actually, and if one were a believer in fate this is as close as I've ever seen to it. Anyway, at work that day I had been talking about music with a couple of co-workers, and had mentioned one of my favorite blues artists during our chat. I had heard he had a new CD coming out and was sad that I had missed his show a few months previous, which had been a week or so before my return from Japan.
When I got home I was just settling in for what looked to be a quiet Friday night at home, and started flipping through the free entertainment paper. Nearing the last few pages I saw a picture of a guy who looked familiar, stopped, then stared, and finally clued in. It was Jim Byrnes, the guy I'd been talking about that very same afternoon. "When oh when was this concert?" I thought, "I absolutely have to go to this." So I made a mad dash to the calendar and came to the realization that it was TONIGHT.
I made some calls and couldn't find any tickets available online, or from Ticketmaster. Nor could I find anyone willing to brave the extremely cold weather to go. But, I decided to take my chances and head down anyway. Maybe I could get a ticket at the door, and if not...well at least I would have tried.
Turns out that the show was in a very small little community centre, and it was fantastic. I guarantee you I was the youngest person there but I honestly didn't care. For those of you who don't know who Jim Byrnes is, you've probably seen him on TV and never even knew it. His most prominent role was as Joe Dawson on the Highlander series, and he's done guest-appearances on tons of other shows, as well as a lot of voiceovers. On top of that, the guy is a standout musician too.
The show was easily worth my $25 and I haven't had that much fun in a long time. Jim's good natured storytelling between songs, and his love of performing were bright lights on a dark and icy evening. You could tell that he loves what he does down to the core of his soul, and it oozed out into the audience as well. I count myself extremely lucky to have had a chance to chat very briefly with him after the concert, and get a copy of his latest album House of Refuge signed. I'll never forget how friendly and approachable he was, even though you could tell he was obviously tired and eager to return to his hotel.
Now for the contrast. In January I was generously given some tickets to a band that I've liked for a long time: Evanescence. Needless to say, this performance was at a far larger venue, the Pengrowth Saddledome. From the moment we walked in the door, complete with security check, I just felt off. My sister and I thought the first act was quite good, but can't recall their names. I actually can't remember the name of the second band either, despite having heard a few of their singles on the radio. I must be getting old or something, because even I thought the guy swore too much during his exchanges with the crowd. Don't get me wrong, I'm not allergic to harsh language, and could certainly be blamed with using it a little too much myself, but I just didn't enjoy the act. Their music was very off-kilter as well, being either very radio-friendly poppish, or schizoid heavy. No flow to their act at all.
Much to our relief Evanescence finally took to the stage. Our seats were good, almost directly across from the stage and with only one row of people in front of us. While they were a little farther away than I'd have liked, they certainly afforded us a good view. The stage, lighting and everything were top notch. The band performed well and looked comfortable on-stage. My main complaint was Amy Lee herself. She pissed me off everytime she vocalized anything that wasn't part of a song.
Why, you ask? Her attitude was so, "poor tired, touring me" that it leeched any enjoyment I may have experienced right out of her performance. She simply didn't want to be there, and made it crystal clear every time she opened her mouth. Having performed live myself dozens of times, I just don't get it. I hated rehearsing, moving gear, setting up and all of that shit. But when it came down to stepping onstage and entertaining people with our music, that made it all worthwhile. If you as a performer find that part onerous, you're simply in the wrong fucking business. Your fans are the people who've made you famous (and probably rich), so don't go whining about how tired you are of the hit song they paid to hear you perform. Just bloody do it, and at least pretend you're happy to be doing it. Otherwise, find another damn job.
I can only hope there are more performers out there like Jim Byrnes. He may never get wealthy doing what he does, but he obviously loves it. And in that, makes everyone who's lucky enough to see him perform, a little richer in the process.
February 12, 2007
The first week was kinda disappointing, as one of my co-workers finished up his tenure and moved on to greener office space. Or something. Let's hope that it wasn't actually green unless it was the paint, because that would just be gross (and unsanitary) otherwise. With him leaving that leaves me as the only person in my department under the 40 year old mark. Now, I get along with the rest of the people easily enough, but it still isn't exactly all fun and jokes. Nor do we hang out during lunch or anything so it got a little boring. The time definitely passes more slowly when there's no one to laugh at, er I mean with, you.
I soldiered on though and finally made it to the meagre Christmas break. Only getting Christmas and Boxing Days off meant that we had a five-day break, then back to work for two days, and another three days off for New Year. That basically sucked in terms of planning or doing anything exciting, because it was all split up. I certainly missed having the two or three weeks off like back in Japan. I'd gotten really good at spacing out my holidays and using them at opportune moments to maximize the length of my breaks there.
Christmas was nice. I went to visit my Grandma in the hospital on Christmas Eve, and certainly brightened both my spirit and hers. She's always so much fun to talk to, because she has great stories and is happy to tell them. I better go visit her again soon. After visiting with gran I drove out to my sister and her fiance's place in the mountains to spend Christmas day with some of the soon-to-be inlaws and various other relatives.
The food was great, the weather and view decidedly Christmas-y and all round it was a good time. I also got some of the best gifts I can recall in a long time. It was a shame that dad was unwilling to drive out to join us after work. He works a variable shift type of thing and didn't come out after his 12 hours on Christmas day, so we all trooped off to the parent's house for another feast on Boxing Day. By the time I had to go back to work on Thursday I felt like I needed to fast for a year and take a vacation to rest up from all the driving.
Unrelated to the holiday season I went out with for dinner some of my newfound friends from work that same week. We had a good time (at least, I think we did!), but I did feel bad that one of the girls fell ill the next day. She'd never had Korean barbecue before so it was a little like maybe we'd poisoned her inadvertently. Thankfully she bounced back without too much unpleasantness, and is still talking to us so I think we're all forgiven. Korean barbecue hasn't been suggested since though!
Disappointingly I spent New Year's Eve at home by myself. The few friends I had gotten in touch with since coming back were all out of town or already had plans arranged. So, I did my best not to feel too bummed out, watched some stand up comedy on TV and went to bed shortly after midnight. I'm not prone to depression, but I can certainly see how a lot of people must feel really down during the holidays. If you didn't have friends or family to share time with year after year, the holidays could easily become an unpleasant and stressful time, rather than the fun and happy time most of us get to enjoy. So remember that the next time you're sitting around having a good time with the people you care about. Savour every second with them that you can. A lot of other people aren't as lucky as we are.
十二月 と Christmas の しゃしん を とりました。 下 の link で あります。
February 07, 2007
Most of the people I know are more than cool with the fact that I'm basically a big kid who sets his own allowance. Once in a while though someone asks the question "what do you do in your free time?" and is a little taken aback by some of the answers. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then this post is for you.
First as you may have already noticed by some of my previous ramblings and pictures. I collect toys. I collect a lot of things, but for now let's stick to that. Over the course of my life I have amassed a very sizeable collection, and it often gets raised eyebrows by the unitiated. Admittedly, I've been buying a lot less and have been actively trying to downsize, but it's still hard to find space for everything sometimes.
So what do I do with all this accumulated plastic? Not much really. Most of it stands on a shelf or is packed away in boxes like almost every other man's collection, whether he's single or not. That's not to say women don't collect things too. I've seen a lot of wierd collections in my time, ranging from the relatively standard shoes and bags all the way up to Hello Kitty and Minnie Mouse trinkets. I guess us guys don't exactly have the market cornered on the collecting-of-things, but I digress...
Talking about toys, I was sitting around one day after sorting through yet another box and thinking to myself, "What the hell are you going to do with all of this stuff?!" While I didn't come up with an answer for that question, I did come up with an idea. I've always liked creating things, whether it be drawing, painting, animation, writing music or whatever. So I thought I might as well try making so toys of my own. You may have seen my first attempt a few posts back. Which brings me back to the title of my article.
Whether you think collecting toys (or anything for that matter) may be a little on the wierd, freakish or downright childish side; it can be a creative outlet as well. If you don't believe me, take a look below and tell me that sculpting and painting these figures is any different than building models or trains. It's not, but most people just are just ashamed to admit that sometimes they wish they could let go of all their adult hangups, plop down on the floor and just play once in a while. Er...not that I do that. I'm just taking pictures of my latest creations. ;)
- Guardian - leader of the Canadian superhero team Alpha Flight.
Construction notes: I made Guardian out of two figures (parts of a red figure and a white figure), hand painted the maple leaf / uniform, and used a microman Batman figure for the head. Of course the ears got cut off and resculpted to look right.
- Nemesis - immortal agent of retribution.
Construction notes: This was a pretty simple paintjob; black paint over a red figure. The tough part was creating the cape. It's made from a piece of old umbrella, painted, glued and stitched in place. Lot of work that thing!
日本語 で 少し せつめい します：
こども 時 から おもちゃ を しゅうしゅう して いた。 だらか さいきん figure を つくいました。 上 の しゃしん は ぼく の 二番目 と 三番目 つくった の おもちゃ です。 たぶん ちょっと こどもーぽい な しゅみ けど おもしろい も ね！ どう 思ういます か？
February 06, 2007
The first event that I skipped over would have to be my friend's wedding out in Banff. Yes, I've been there a few times since I came back. I can certainly think of less scenic places to hang out, so uh...yeah. Anyway, it was really cool that they invited me up to see them exchange vows and have a good time. The ceremony was nice and it was good to see them both after well over a year. They're a good match.
I was also able to see some other friends, one of whom was kind enough to give me a ride TO the wedding. It's a long walk from Calgary so I probably would have just stayed home. It was a nice change to be able to actually go to a wedding I'd been invited to. I missed a lot of them while I was away which was a real shame. I certainly would have liked to be there for more of them.
On the topic of weddings, an old friend from high school also tied the knot in December. Once again, I was unable to attend the ceremony but was able to make it to the bachelor party. The best man had the great, yet extremely disturbing, idea of dressing the groom-to-be up in a dress and taking him out to get shot. Well, with paintballs anyway.
We had a good time inflicting some much-deserved pain on our friend (all in preparation for the greater pain of married life, if you ask some people). Afterward we tried to dull the pain of the welts and bruises by getting him as drunk as possible. While we were sitting around the table we realized that it had been over five years since all of us had been together in the same place, which was rather sobering. But only for a minute or three. We've been friends a long time, and that's something you can't replace, no matter where you all end up in life.
February 05, 2007
Well since the last post was on the topic of going back in time (without the fancy DeLorean sadly), I might as well continue on that track. I think I've pretty much covered September and October. For all you calendar-challenged out there that would bring us to *gasp* November!
Plain and simple, not much of note occurred in November. At least, I certainly can't bring to mind anything terribly momentous other than the company Christmas party in Banff. That was a pretty swanky setup. Hosted at the Banff Springs hotel in (you guessed it) Banff, it was very cool. Unfortunately I forgot the camera I had borrowed in order to take pictures of the place, which was really disappointing.
The hotel is fabulous. They actually give you a map of the place when you check in, because it's so incredibly huge that there is a high probability of getting lost in the myriad of corridors, stairwells, halls and lounges. The party was a lot of fun, and I had a chance to chat with several of my co-workers outside of a work setting and actually get to know a little about some of them. I certainly would have liked to talk with some more people, but there was only so much time in the evening, and many people were with guests or family, so I didn't want to be too intrusive or interrupt other conversations.
I was able to go back to the hotel in January and finally take a few pictures. The Christmas decorations are long-since removed, but it's still worth a look. Click the links I've included here for a small glimpse of the grandeur!
February 04, 2007
Of course there are only so many new jobs posted everyday so it wasn't like I could sit and apply for stuff for hours and days on end. I needed something to fill my time. There were a lot of books read, most notable being the final volume in Stephen King's Dark Tower series. I have to say I wasn't that surprised at the ending, but it was probably the most suitable ending. There's a prequel comic book coming out very soon that should be well worth a read, and I'm pretty interested in checking it out.
The other major things I started doing were sorting through all the junk I'd been storing in my parent's basement (saved a ton of money rather than renting a storage space) and drawing a short 6-page comic for a friend upon request. While I can't show you photos of the stuff at mom and dad's (how exciting would a pile of boxes be anyway?), I can show you the story I drew. I believe it's slated to be colored, but I don't know exactly when, so um...yeah. Here is a link to the story:
享年 の 九月 と 十月 で あたらしい しごと を さがしました。 けど 毎日 もし それ だけ したら つまらない。 だ から ともだち は ”マンガ の おはなし を かいって ください” と ききました。 上 の link には わたし の え です。 見て ね？
February 03, 2007
The cool thing about Micromen figures is that while they do come as unique figures with their own backstory (don't ask me what it is, I can't read enough kanji to figure it out), there are also male, female and girl model blank figures available in like a trillion colors for people who want to make their own characters.
So, I thought I'd give it a try and start with something easy: Symbiote Spiderman. I actually made this guy a little over a year ago, but was never able to take very good pictures of it until recently. It is just a black micro-male that I painted with a less-than-accurate Gundam marker. I think he still looks pretty cool though, and I even made a few little weblines for him to swing around on.
I made a cheezy little story out of some pictures last week. The other figure is Green Goblin from the Marvel Legends Showdown toyline. I'm still questing after the last few of this series, so if anyone can hook me up with Wave 4, or Silver Surfer from wave 3 please let me know!
Oh yeah, the link for the other pictures is here: http://s66.photobucket.com/albums/h248/Obsidian3d/Customs/SymbioteSpidey/?action=view&slideshow=true
February 02, 2007
As for the whole blogging thing, I don't have a vision or direction for what I'm going to post here. But then, from what I've read on a lot of others neither does anyone else so I guess I'm right on track.
Totally unrelated, I realize that none of the pictures from last year's posts work anymore. I did some reorganizing of my online photos and broke all the links in the process. I'm too lazy to fix them, so they'll just show up as sexy red Xs. Isn't that hot?
Let's see...oh yeah. On Saturday my friend goes back to Japan after being here for a month or so. I've spent a lot of my month showing him around and trying to help him have a good experience here. I'll try to post a recap of the month with a few of the pictures I took to alleviate you readers from the copious amounts of nonsensical text I am somehow able to pour into this space everytime I sit down. Pretty amazing for someone who starts off saying that they don't have anything to say!
Oh, and for all you people without Japanese language support on your computers...the next line or two will show up as not-quite-so-sexy little rectangles.
日本 の ともだち へ！
ひさしぶり よ。 ながい 間 から 会った です ね。 さみしい。 もし しらない なら、 今年 の 九月 日本 に 行く つもり です。 けっこ 二週間 ぐらい けど まだ しりません。 会って あそびましょ。
January 26, 2007
Or at least the three people who have maybe not forgotten this page exists. I really haven't posted anything up here. Not for lack of things going on, or lack of available time. I have no useful excuse. Just deal with it. I have. :)
Anyway, here's a quick recap:
September 9th, 2006 was my last day of work in Japan. After saying goodbye to all the great friends I made (a very difficult parting), I headed to Tokyo for a few days. It was rainy and still a little hot, but started to get cool by the last day. In Tokyo I went to the a bunch of new places like Ueno Park and Zoo, the National Science Museum and several others whose names I can't recall.
It was a little lonely those last few days. No phone, not much in the way of internet...so no email, and no one to hang out with. Siteseeing is fine and good, but tough when you're feeling displaced like that.
When I got back I felt like an outsider for a month, easily. Getting back into touch with old friends proved, and still is proving, difficult. People move on, get married, have kids and basically don't have space for you in their lives any more. That's not to say all my old friends are like that. A few people really went out of their way to make sure I felt like I was missed, and that helped.
I really thought that the city had changed a lot when I first arrived. It's undergone a big population and building boom so there are a lot of new people coming all the time. I will admit that it seems dirtier and not as friendly, but it's still not a bad place. I don't know if I can honestly say it feels like home anymore though.
My family was a lot of help and I wouldn't have survived without them upon my return. My sister gave me a place to stay and my parents made sure I had food in the fridge while I looked for a new job. That month of looking was hard on the spirit. Lots of free time, no money and a lot of feeling like you have no purpose. There were a lot of questions like "why did I come back here?" popping up.
Before you start thinking it's all doom and gloom let me change directions on you. First off, I did find a good job after a little over a month. It came about pretty quickly and turned out to be a really fortunate thing. The location is good as I can walk to work from home in about 20 ~ 25 minutes, the work is challenging enough that I usually learn a little something everyday, and I have met some pretty cool people. I might even call a few of them friends.
I have a lot more free time than I did in Japan, or at least I feel like I do. I think a lot of that has more to do with the schedule I keep now rather than the true amount of free time available. The more-than-doubled salary has been a nice bonus too. Things were tough over there and it was sometimes a real strain making ends meet, let alone going out to enjoy myself or to do any traveling.
I've been able to reconnect with some of my friends here, as I mentioned, and also stay in touch with quite a few people back in Japan too. So I have to consider myself pretty lucky at this point, and just leave it at that for now. I'll do my best to start posting with a little more regularity, and also post in both Japanese and English when I'm able. That way everyone can read a little bit about what's going on, and I can get the practice too!