Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ramen Noodles and Slot Cars, A Winning Combination

Since it's been a while since I had a free Saturday, I was raring to visit something. We decided to check out this Ramen Museum in Shinyokohama. I didn't know much about it, but it was something to check out and it satisfied Jerry's requirement that we take a train wherever we were going. We couldn't even get out of the lobby without Jerry hiding behind the couches.

We had to change trains a couple of times (or waste our lives on the local train that stops EVERYWHERE) and it was always an adventure making sure Jerry navigates the platform safely.

The second train was packed, but a nice young woman let Chelsea have her seat since Jerry was having a hard time keeping his balance on the moving train.

So we walked in the front door at the Ramen Museum and the first thing I spotted was the slot car track in the back. More on that later. Then I saw the displays that were requisite for calling this place a museum. (By the way, it says "museum" in the title and the website calls it an "amusement park", but we decided that "elaborate food court" was more accurate.)

There were interesting displays all about Ramen. Apparently there is something special about ramen bowls because there was this display that showed some of them cut in half. There were also displays that showed all different types of noodles. Of course, I'm just guessing that these displays were interesting as they were completely Japanese.

Next there was the directory. We had walked in on the top level, so the rest of everything was in the basement. The slot car track wasn't open yet and purchasing ramen was a condition of admittance, so we decided to head down and check it out.

Here it is. I actually thought it was pretty cool. The idea is that they wanted to recreate a street scene from 1950's Japan. Since I've never been to 1950's Japan, as far as I'm concerned, they nailed it. You can sort of make out the different ramen shops in the picture. Each one is distinct for different reasons. You can get a sample of that from the directory picture above.

Being that we're not respecters of ramen, we found the shortest line and headed in. The experience did make me a little curious of different kinds of ramen and I may seek them out closer by. The one we had claimed to be a fusion of some kind of Japanese broth with French broth. I'm sure the chef responsible for it will read this and come and find me while I'm sleeping....

It seems to me that the basic components of the ramen are the noodles, the broth, and some kind of meat and/or vegetables. These bowls of ramen cost around 80 to 100 times what I'm used to paying, but I think they're worth it. Very tasty. You can tell that much more goes into them than a tiny spice packet that is mostly salt. I'm pretty sure they used actual fresh vegetables. Also, they only use a small amount of meat, but it is very tender and tasty.

Jerry almost has those chopsticks figured out. Thursday at dinner he almost blinded me.

Now for the good stuff. I couldn't wait to drive the slot cars. When I was a kid, my dad had some large scale slot cars. I remember setting them up a couple of times in our basement and running them until the cars broke, or quit working, or something. I'm not sure what became of them. Periodically, I see a track or see a set in a hobby shop and think, one day I'll have a basement and on that day....

It was fun for Jerry. They had cars that were for kids so that the kid could just hold the controller at full-throttle and the car would meander its way around the track. But when I stepped up, the guy pulled this blue car halfway from his pocket and grinned as if to say, come on man, you know you want to. Well, I did. It was great.

Here's a little video of some of the other people running cars around the track. Good times. Now I'm jonesing for a slot car set. They've come a long way since the set we had. Now there are some digital sets that allow you to run two cars in the same slot (with lane changers so you're not stuck all the time). Now a two lane track can race four cars. Pretty cool.


Just as we were getting back to the hotel, we were passed by this cool Land Rover Defender. I told Chelsea that she was lucky it wasn't parked or I would be stopping to take a picture. Luckily as we got closer to the hotel, I saw that it had stopped at the train station. So I snapped it.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Where's the Double Pane Glass?

Before I really get going with my rant about windows, here are a couple of nice pictures.

Chelsea and Jerry enjoying a nice Sunday afternoon.

I finally put my long lens on the new camera for some pictures. The new camera doesn't support the autofocus on the older telephoto lens, but I got it close. Here is a picture of some stuff off in the distance as seen from our balcony. The bridge is in Yokohama at 35.454667, 139.674008. Just to the right of center, you can see what looks like a tall white tower. This is actually two towers that we are viewing from an angle. They are at 35.476885, 139.679168. I can't tell what it is. My first guess would be some kind of power plant. Fee free to hazard your own guess. The last major feature is two cranes shown, both red and white. One is the tall one right in the middle and you can only see part of the second one at left. These are part of Sumitomo Heavy Industries at 35.323026, 139.660472. This is a shipyard that builds some pretty large commercial ships.

Now, about these windows.

Our hotel room/apartment is awesome. The view is gorgeous, there is tons of ambient light, and there's plenty of space (although Jerry would disagree with that last part). Part of what I like is that we have tons of balcony and with that balcony, lots of sliding doors. We only have two fixed windows and 4 sliding doors. It's great and it's only going to get better when the weather warms up. (However, there is an unfortunate building policy of NO BBQs on the balcony which is strictly enforced.)

The doors are great except for one thing... single pane glass.

I didn't even know that single pane glass was still made for new construction. Here in Japan you hear more noise about energy conservation than even in the states. They're always going off about how expensive energy is and how they don't have enough of it. The apartment does have all LED lighting and small appliances, so it's energy friendly there, but this.....

Not only is single pane better for insulation, it's also better for sound deadening. Double pane glass would spare me from the 6:30 am daily wake-up call from the Japanese Navy.

Not only are the windows single pane, but the frames are uninsulated aluminum. It's almost as if the designers were worried about not having enough heat transfer.

So they cheaped out during construction and are now sticking it to the tenants for energy costs. Here's to cold feet.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Quick Trip to Kamakura

This morning Jerry was bouncing off the walls. I'm not going to lie, it was driving me crazy. To make matters worse, the weather wasn't cooperating. It was pretty blustery and outside so our usual strategy of going to the park to look at the ships didn't work out well.

As a substitute we decided to head up to Kamakura. It's only a few stops away and there's lots to do within a very short walking distance. Also, the train station on our end is about 100 yards from our hotel. Minimal outside time, and a train ride to (hopefully) get some wiggles out. Jerry had to hold the straps just like the grown-ups. He's ready to start commuting.

As we left the train station in Kamakura the first thing we saw was some little snow flurries. We thought our outing might be even shorter than we thought, but we kept on going anyway. A little ways down the road, I noticed this hawk perched on a building. I didn't expect to see a hawk in an urban area.

This is the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. It's a beautiful place. This is a Shinto shrine and was originally built in 1063. Japanese history is divided up into many periods, one of which is called the Kamakura Period which was 1185-1333. During this period the first Shogun, Minamoto no Yoritomo, established the government of Japan here. It's neat to have so much history so close by.

Nearby, there was this little shrine. Or it could have been a tomb, I'm not sure. I didn't feel like I could accurately identify it on the map. The woodwork was also very cool. You can't see it in this picture, but I took a detail shot (below) to highlight the eaves.

We passed a daycare and I couldn't resist snapping a pic of these cool bikes. Battery assist, seating for three, and a sweet paint job. All it needs is some tunes.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Mean Green

After a great deal of thought and deliberation I decided to buy a bike for my stay in Japan. If you're a frequent reader of this blog you'll know that I quite enjoy my time on two wheels. It is a little different here, though. Many more people bike and being an urban area, the distances are quite a bit less. So that merits a different kind of bike.

Check out this hog. I don't want you to feel intimidated, but Mean Green is pretty accurate. I mean, you gotta be pretty tough to pull off a front basket as awesome as that one. 

Let me run you through the feature list as well as the sweet mods I've already made. The super comfortable handlebars are perfect for someone about 6 inches shorter than me. The same goes for the seat post. You'll notice that the fenders were stock as well as the basket and headlight (which runs off the tire generator). The drivetrain has six sidewalk-shredding gears, operated by state of the art grip shifts. For convenience it has a full kickstand and rack in the rear and an integrated lock on the rear wheel.

Not pictured is the 100 yen store basket I zip-tied to the rear rack for additional cargo carrying options or the rear LED light (also 100 yen) for safety. 

In all seriousness, it's a pretty fun bike. Biking is totally different here. For starters, everybody doesn't hate cyclists like in the US. These pictures were taken in the bike storage area of our hotel. The fact that our hotel has that, and that it's full of bikes, should show that way more people bike here. It cuts my commute down by 2/3, which for me, is well worth it.

For a while I toyed with the idea of spending more and getting a nice folding bike. If I did that, I would want to try to take it home with me. I thought it would be useful to have in the car sometimes. Or I could leave it at the shipyard and use it when I had to buzz around. In the end, I knew it would be cheapest to just buy the cheapest bike I could. It's going to be fun, but come the end of spring, I'll be glad to be back to my bikes at home.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The View

One of the great things about our apartment is the view from the balcony. Whenever we hear a ship's horn (which is pretty frequent) Jerry turns and says "da boat!" At that point we usually have to go out and check it out.

Here are some of the pictures I've already taken. An advantage to swing shift is that I'm home during the day when all this is going on.

The other day the USS Lassen was pulling out.

This is a Japanese submarine. They are much smaller than US subs. I'm not sure what they use them for, but they have quite a few. I've seen up to five moored here at a time.

Here's a shot of Yokosuka from our hotel. The tall building to the right is the place we stayed in 2010. 

This is our hotel for this trip. So far it's working out great.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Yokoso Japan!

Here we are, living the dream once again. For better or worse, we're here for a while.

Our hotel room is great. It's more like an apartment than a hotel room. We're in a new building that claims to be "American Style" apartments. It's actually still a Japanese apartment with some American influences. (At every turn they love to point out how huge everything American is.) One of the major American influences is that our two bedroom is a palatial 770 square feet. Why do those fat Americans need so much space anyway? The Japanese influences are still pretty fun. The fridge is quite small, but that doesn't bother me. We have a drawer dishwasher that can't quite handle an entire meal's worth of dishes, and of course, the perennial favorite, the toilet seat with the control panel.

Our view is pretty tough to beat. Our room has balcony on two sides with four sliding glass doors to access it. Looking out across the way we can easily see the whole reason for our being out here, the George Washington. Closer in there is a nice assortment of US and Japanese ships. The night view is also great.

We are very near one of the local train stations, so every morning Jerry wants to go out onto the balcony and see the boats and trains move around.

Our transition here wasn't what I would call seamless. Jerry did pretty well on the flight, except for only sleeping about an hour. I can tell you, it was a blessed hour. Welcome peace, but short lived. Later Jerry slept a little on the bus ride, so by the time we were at the hotel he was about 20 hours awake with only about two hours nap. He was bouncing off the walls.

Since then we've still been trying to get some continuity. Of course, when you get here, you wake up at four or five every morning for a few days and we have been no exception. In my case, though, I'm working swing which translates to very little sleep. Jerry's been waking  up between five and seven am, and that's tough because nothing is open until like 10 here, so you can't really get anything done until he's starting to hit that nap time zone. In a few more days we'll all get aligned for more normal schedules.

I think Jerry will be happy to get to that point also. This has thrown him for a loop. Between sleep problems and being cooped up in some apartment that is not our house, this has been a little tough. Pretty regularly he asks about Jake and asks to go home. Disclaimer: We're not sure if he means home to the apartment, or home to home.  Today he broke Chelsea's glasses, for which she has no backup and one of the dishes provided by the hotel.

I think Jerry is a little exasperated. I know I am.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A New Project

The other day Chelsea and I were talking about hobbies, projects, and the sort. She said if she had as much going on as I do it would drive her crazy.

That being said, I'm here to tell you about one of my newer projects.

As you may know, this summer I took ownership of a mill and lathe for metal working. I've actually had dibbs on them for more than a year before that, but it took me a while to get them from Utah to Washington. Not only that, but once I got them to Washington, it took me four more months just to unload them from the trailer. The trailer is happy to have them out. They were heavy. Now, all I have to do is get some garbage out of the garage from the kitchen project, and the car will fit again.

So here are the machines:

The Mill:

The Lathe:

They are both made by Jet which is a great brand, but they are kind of old and need a little rehabilitation.

Now doesn't a machine rehab/rebuild sound like a great time? I thought so.

These machines belonged to my grandpa. He mentioned them to me several times before he died. I know that towards the end of his life he wanted to spend time using them but age was catching up with him. I know they were important to him and I know he hoped they would have a good home. Well, they do. Fortunately, I have many friends that I can rely on for help and advice.

That's it for the back story, so unless you're interested in the machines themselves, you'd better stop reading now. I'm going to go into some detail on the condition and plan for each machine.

Table: 9.5" x 23.5"
Quill Travel: 5"
Column Travel: 12"
Spindle: R8
Available tooling: 1/2" shank end mill holder, some hold downs,
Current Condition: Rusty on unpainted surfaces, grimy, some homegrown motor tensioning,
Rehabs: General cleaning, liberal scotch-brite, basic lubrication
Upgrade Wish List: Keyless R8 drill chuck, center drills, basic R8 collet assortment, assorted end mills, 4" swivel milling vice, Android Digital Readout, Stepper Motor X-axis Power Feed, X-Y Feed Ball Screws,

Swing: 12"
Center Distance: 36"
Spindle Bore: 1-3/8"
Type: Gearhead, Benchtop
Available tooling: Quick change tool post, MT3 drill chuck (for tailstock), 3-Jaw chuck, 4-Jaw chuck, steady rest
Current Condition: Rusty on unpainted surfaces, ways are in rough shape, grimy, needs new belts, motor wiring is pretty messed up, bent gear selector pin
Rehabs: General cleaning, liberal scotch-brite, basic lubrication, new belts, new gear selector pin, Quick change tool post cleanup, disassemble & clean apron
Upgrade Wish List: Android Digital Readout

Both machines mount to the tables in the pictures. The lathe table is much larger than the lathe. It was centered on the table, but I want to shift it towards the front to make it a little more ergonomic. I plan to use the open space on the back of the table to mount a bench grinder for making lathe tools (and maybe prepping the crazy hard ball screw).

It's going to be a great project. Thanks Grandpa!