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Psych! …ologist, that is

Posted by Leith in News,Play,Travel

Ok, so this week I went to see the psychologist for my preliminary before I head to the psychiatrist in a couple of weeks (it’s a busy time of year). I managed to make it on time, despite sleeping through my alarm as I’d left my headphones in from the night before. She was pretty nice, asked me a bunch of questions that seemed fairly standard and gave me a diary to complete as preparation. I wasn’t really expecting to get homework but hey, whatever. I have to monitor times that I’m in bed but not sleeping, in bed and sleeping, and when I have my meals. Apparently this will help the psychiatrist glean something about my sleep patterns, or the state of my health, or something. We’ll see, I guess. As it stands, I’m slated to go see the doc right before Anastasia is due to arrive here in Japan. This week I talked to her as much as I could, she’s been busy studying, doing assignments and preparing for her end-of-semester exams, which has been pretty stressful for her.

My sleep this week has been ok-ish. The drugs I got from the doctor last week do seem to be helping, at least a bit. I’m not sleeping the whole night through, but at the very least I’m getting some solid hours which makes me a bit more functional during the day, hurrah! It does leave me with a pretty severe bout of being groggy though, which is less than fun. I’ve also been having lots of weird dreams. I don’t really remember them as usual, but the fact that I’m more than peripherally aware that I’m dreaming at all is pretty unusual for me. I wonder if that’s to do with the meds as well, or just my brain being weird?

This week on the school front a few things happened. I chatted with Todo-san a bit about some potential research to do with creating animations or animation-ready models from image scans. I’m not sure how feasible it is, but it’s something that I’m going to be looking into a bit more when I’ve got some headspace for it. He might be able to swing me a visit to OLM Digital, where he does a lot of his research in collaboration with them. I spent a fair bit of time talking with him about animation work-flow and going over a book that he brought in to show me. I’m hoping that after a bit more thinking, I should be able to come up with a secondary research idea that helps animators.

I had my first Monday Japanese class this week now that it’s regulated, and I got Tajiri-sensei as the teacher. She’s a whole lot of fun, so I’m really happy to have her for this semester as well. Since I’ve been doing a whole lot of paper reading/reviewing for the reading group that I’m in (which takes a really long time), I’ve had to revise my initial timeline for the booking software usability research I’m doing as I’ve hit a bit of a wall… I’m not going anywhere particularly quickly, and as things from my classes start to pile up a bit, I’m not sure how quickly I’m really going to be able to progress. We’ll see, I guess. I actually had lunch with a Thai student named Mio in my Human Interfaces class this week and chatted about some of the difficulties we’ve both been having.

I also talked with one of my friends in the lab about our supervisor a bit. I think he’s a great researcher, but I don’t know that he does particularly well with students that don’t already have a lot of their own research ideas, which is a bit frustrating. I need a bit more guidance and examples of things that I can do to get my head in the right space, or projects I can cut my teeth on, I guess. It makes the research side of things a bit more of an uphill battle than I was expecting it to be. I think one of the new students this semester is having similar issues in trying to come up with ideas that are appropriate/feasible, actually.

This week I’ve been trying to talk to a few people online, send out a few more emails than usual since as everyone knows, I can be complete rubbish at sending email replies to people. I have emails sitting in my inbox that are months old that I still haven’t got around to replying to yet, which is pretty appalling. Anyway, one of the things that came up for me when I was emailing my brother was that lately I’ve been kind of wishing for a lifestyle where I actually know what I’m doing. It’s a challenge trying to keep pushing myself with my research, to keep going with all the class stuff in Japanese and to maintain some kind of semblance of sanity/a life on the side. I still don’t really have a lot of good friends here, despite getting to know more and more people. Working somewhere and applying my knowledge seems like a really nice idea sometimes. That being said, I do still know that it was the right choice to come here and I can feel that I’m where I need to be, which is a good feeling. I just wish it was a bit easier!

I listened to a bit more of Ian’s music this week, and was inspired by one of the pieces to try my hand at making a sort of video for it. Unfortunately, my video-making skills aren’t quite on par with what I can envision in my head, so it might be a while before anything like that of mine actually surfaces on the web. Until I can at least get something looking more like I want it and less like pop-art threw up on my computer screen, that is.

For those of you that wanted my writing, there’s a few more pieces up on my writing page. Oh, speaking of writing, I also uploaded a somewhat tongue-in-cheek review of a concert I went to quite a while ago now.

On my day off this week, I played a couple of missions of Heroes of Might and Magic V, which I’ve been quite enjoying slowly but surely playing my way through. I actually have both of the expansions as well, although I think it’ll take me quite a while to get through them as well, so I’ll have to content myself with the occasional scenario if I want to use the expansion sides and maps. I also spent some more time fixing various bugs and adding new things to my LeithBank system – it’s getting pretty good. I can certainly see myself getting rid of my spreadsheets entirely soon and just using my online system. I’m not sure at what point I’ll be able to open it up so that other people can try using the system as well… if ever, really. It’s a personal tool and as much as I’d like to be believe that other people would find it useful and use it, I don’t know if I could ever really customise it to fit the expectations that I would have for a tool like that, let alone other people. Especially since it’s going to be pretty hodge-podge for quite a while yet.

I have some news of not-quite-impending travel! I’m going to be off to the US at the end of this year to go to Anastasia’s graduation, then stay through Christmas before the two of us head first to New Zealand to see my family and friends for New Year, then off to Japan where she will be living with me until I graduate next year. Pretty neat, huh?

I had dinner at this meat place on the way home this week as well. I think it was Korean, but I’m not really sure. I had a bunch of meat and some spicy soup that was pretty damn good. Somewhat amusingly, the little after-dinner mint they gave me was heart-shaped and quite cute. Even more amusingly, I had randomly picked the day of the month on which they give you a discount voucher worth 29% of your bill total – bonus!

Another side note, this time made of awesome. As are the people that made Tex Murphy… I’m happy they’re back into making games!

Yet another side note, I looked into mattress prices online a bit. In Japan, they’re bloody expensive. After a bit more scouting around online and with the help of Kyoko reading some Japanese websites for me, I managed to find a double-sized futon that looks pretty good. I’ll probably need to get some futons to act as a kind of softening layer underneath, but on the whole I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

Last random notes for this week – today I had okonomiyaki and monjayaki, both of which were delicious. I then proceeded to have my revenge in playing pool against Kyoko which included making her do a handstand in the (empty, but public) hallway as punishment. Now I just need to worry what happens next time she trounces me… ^^;

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Not a joke: I’m in Japan

Posted by Leith in News,Travel

So, the last couple of days, in a nutshell: madness.

Yesterday I was an extremely busy guy and did a whole lot of running around. I got a bit of a late, groggy start, doing some money juggling before I started shifting all of my stuff downstairs, clearing out the upstairs room of everything I’d put in there. Given that I’d been more or less living out of my suitcases, this wasn’t too hard. I called the computer shop and confirmed that I could pick up my laptop this afternoon. Not all of the issues I’d highlighted have been fixed, but at this point it’s just ridiculous – the day before I leave the country? Come on.

Anyway, after that I talked to NZQA on the phone, finding out what kind of documentation I’m going to need to sort out with regards to my student loan so they don’t start charging me tons of interest. Then began the fun job of sorting all of my clothes and other crap, trying to fit everything into my suitcases. I’m thinking I should have just left more stuff in the US, that would have made things so much easier.

After doing that for a while, I went into town and had coffee with Mickey, who I hadn’t seen in a few years. Somewhat ironically, he’s actually based out of New York now, although we never managed to get together for anything while I was over in the US. Note to self: try to get up to NYC at some point next time I’m in the US for a while. It was good having a catch-up with him, although in the end it did still feel a bit brief – we’re both busy I guess. Hopefully I’ll see him again sooner rather than later, but with this whole Japan thing I’m doing, who knows when I’m going to be seeing all the people around the world I know next!

From there it was a bit of running about: pick up my laptop case for my new laptop, go pick up my old laptop, then head back to Dad’s place to get back to it. Grandma and Grandad stopped over briefly, it was good to see them one more time before I left the country – I made sure to see a whole lot of them while I was in NZ this time around, so it was a nice little moment of send off, I guess. ^^

After that I talked to Anastasia online briefly, before going over my documents and realising that the luggage restriction is, in fact, 20kg total, not for each of two bags, which is the usual. Holy crap. This involved a complete re-pack of my luggage, including an entire suitcase worth of stuff to send back to Anastasia and I’s place in Florida. I needed to really figure out what was my bare minimum of stuff to take! There were also a few things which I will hopefully get mailed to me here in Japan as well.

After/during all of this repacking, Rach showed up and brought me dinner (pizza), which was awesome. She stuck around to help me out and chat a bit, then give me a lift over to Dace’s place later when I was done, which was quite a bit later than I was expecting… stupid having to repack everything. Ugh, airlines. Anyway, Dace had a bed set up for me and everything, and came down for a short chat before crashing out in his room. I didn’t actually get any sleep at all that night, so I spent some time cleaning up Angelina instead. Unfortunately I couldn’t get the network to play nice, so there was some stuff left on the hard drive… hopefully at some point I’ll be able to retrieve those files or wipe them off properly, although I have no idea when the hell that’s going to be.

So, horrifically early in the morning (as is usual for flights out of NZ, sigh) my brother and I set out for the airport. I’m soemwhat glad that no one buggered themselves getting up that early in the morning to come see me off, I would have felt bad if they had. I got all my baggage checked properly and so on, then headed over to the waiting area with the other Monbugakusho scholars from Canterbury. Coincidentally, my mate Will from Canterbury was also there. He’s coming over to Japan on exchange to a university in Saitama (which is just north of Tokyo) for a year, so that should be another friendly face that I’ll be able to see semi-regularly. Anyway, turns out that the other Monbusho scholars and I are all stuck next to each other all the way to Japan – so off we went. First up to Auckland, remarkably short and uneventful, as that flight always is. The flight to Japan was moderately unpleasant – I didn’t sleep at all when I thought I was going to, and the Air NZ food continues to hate me, giving me an upset stomach. In the end I watched a few movies: Bee Movie (pretty funny, but glad I didn’t go to the cinema for it), Alvin and the Chipmunks (ditto) and No Country for Old Men (although I missed the last three minutes, on the whole I was mostly underwhelmed by this… not for any particular reason, it just didn’t really do it for me).

Arrival in Japan involved a fair amount of waiting in line for customs, but I’m so used to doing that for going to the US that it’s just become another one of the necessary evils of travel. I long for a world where time spent in airports has nothing to do with security or waiting for someone to briefly look at your passport before waving you through. I didn’t have any issues with the immigration officer either, everything just went smoothly and then I was through. I teamed up with Stefan, one of the other scholars, at this point because he actually knew what he was doing – he’s lived in Japan before and is pretty fluent in Japanese as well. We stopped at a convenience store in the airport for some water, snacks (onigiri!) and some stuff to settle my stomach. Then it was on to the trains, crammed on with our luggage… I can tell you, lugging those up and down stairs in train stations when we needed to change trains was not pleasant. Once we got to the last station, we ended up walking around a bit and repeatedly asking directions to the dorm… at this point it’s in the evening in Japan, so it’s not as simple as grabbing a passing student. Once more I feel very lucky to have had Stefan with me at this point – he was able to ask for directions in Japanese. We eventually got to the dorm and checked in, although the people at the office weren’t terribly happy with either of us for checking in so late in the day… apparently we were supposed to check in earlier, despite having the timing for all of that arranged for us. Anyway, sorted. A quick run to the local convenience store for some dinner later, then I was ready to crash.

With the lack of sleep the night before and no sleep on the plane, this has been one hell of an April Fools’ Day. Despite the day, I have come to realise this is not a joke: I’m actually, finally here.

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Of boats, birthdays and busyness

Posted by Leith in News,Play,Travel,Work

This week was a reasonably busy one, but in a good way. There are a whole lot of things that I managed to get done, I saw a whole lot of people, went to a party and also took a trip to Twizel. It started off pretty well with Martini Monday with my father, which is a tradition that I hope to continue for a long time. I don’t know how well I’ll be able to do that in Japan, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out. ^^

So, this week’s work involved doing some concepts, going to meetings, investigating random problems and of course doing some actual coding. I even spent a bit of time on my business site writing the code that went with the design I made last week. All in all I’m quite happy with how things are going work-wise as it seems to be pretty manageable.

I got the guitar fixed this week (after having it randomly snap a string while I was sitting next to it the other day) … just went in and got the strings replaced. I’m pretty sure that hadn’t been done just about since Siobhan got the thing in the first place, so it was in pretty dire need of it. While I was getting this done I had what I refer to as “a Christchurch moment” – New Zealand is a pretty small place (only 4 million people, total) and so the odds of New Zealanders knowing each other seems to be somewhat higher than other countries – I refer to it as the world’s biggest small town on a pretty regular basis. Christchurch is more than somewhat microcosmic of this phenomenon. Anyway, the relevant moment was running into my ex-girlfriend Jess, who works at the Rockshop, where I got the guitar restrung. Jess was more than amiable and we had a bit of a catch up. Turns out she’s just back from her honeymoon and monstrously busy with her post-wedding stuff. Hopefully I’ll have a bit more of a catch-up with her while I’m still in New Zealand, although it may be similar to another of my previous ex-girlfriends in that she was just being polite to me because I happened to show up at her place of work. Odd occurrence, that. I didn’t think I was really that bad a guy, but hey, I’ve never dated me. After all of this, I managed to get some good playing time out of the guitar this week, which was fun. ^^

I managed to talk with a bunch of people online again this week, which has been great. I finished beating Nik at chess (again) and even talked to Robert in Argentina, which was cool. I’m always thankful that I’m able to keep in touch (in real-time) to all the people I know around the world, particularly when I’m in that weird tired-but-not-tired space late at night (which is usually just right for the other time zones that people are in)… although the converse is also true – I’m really shitty when I have no internet and can’t keep in touch with people like I’m used to!

This week was my grandfather’s 80th birthday celebration and once again it was held at my Aunty Katherine’s house. It was a good gathering of the family, I got to see some great old photos and see some relatives who came down from up north as well. My grandfather’s pearl of wisdom for this birthday (he gives out some good ones) was that the age that you’re at is the right age for you to be, and it’s a great age to be at. Very Grandad, that. ^^

Anyway, I got to see some people this week, had the pizza and cartoons night on Thursday this week with Dan and Ian. It’s getting to be a bit of a thing, which is kinda nice. Ruby also showed me a couple of things which were amusing – a show called QI (“Quite Interesting”) and some live stand up by Bill Bailey.

On Friday after pottering around doing odds and ends, Mum picked me up and we drove down to Twizel for the Canterbury Rowing Championships to see my brother race. We stopped in Geraldine for dinner – mine was pretty good, Mum said hers was pretty average verging on not good at all. Anyway, we checked into the motel in Twizel and had a bit of a quiet evening in. I watched Lord of War, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t know why people bag on Nicolas Cage so much, I think he’s a good actor.

Yesterday we were down at the reach, watching the rowing, talking with Dace and so on. Breffni, Dave and Megan dropped through, it was good to see them. A friend of Mum’s and her daughter (who rows) passed through as well. Apparently the daughter and my brother keep having a series of near-misses where they don’t quite meet each other. After a long day in the sun it was back to the motel… I managed to get some quite heavy sunburn, but luckily for me it hadn’t quite reached the “painful to shower” stage. Anyway, Dace came over to the motel and we sat down and watched Old School with Mum. Dace’s friend Jen came over to the motel as well and chilled out watching tv and talking smack for a while, which was pretty cool. After they left I stayed up and read the rest of my book (the one I got for Christmas) – I couldn’t sleep. Eventually I crashed.

This morning it was up after three or four hours of sleep to shower and pack all of our things up to check out and then head to the reach. I tried not to burn again today, although I did get a couple of little new ones… mostly I was just trying not to make the ones from yesterday worse. I got to see Dace row some more and took a whole lot of pictures, but mostly I just lay down dozing and trying not to burn. The culmination of the racing was the big eights race against the New Zealand four, which was pretty awesome to watch. ^^ After that we grabbed Dace and headed back to Christchurch. We stopped in Geraldine to pick up a pie, and I half-talked, half-dozed the rest of the way back. After I got back to Dad’s I set up my computer and did emails and online stuff for a while, then had pizza for dinner and Ruby over for some movies.

Phew! Long week.



Brain not in working order

Posted by Leith in News,Play,Travel

This week has been a bit of a write-off. I have spent a good chunk of time in my dressing gown, talking online and blobbing out. I’ve talked to Lea and Anastasia back in the US, I’ve talked on the phone with my sister, Siobhan, in Ireland and a bunch of my other friends locally here in New Zealand.

I re-watched the last few episodes of John Doe, and was reminded how irritated I was when they cancelled it. I also re-watched Beck, one of my favourite anime. Given how lethargic I’ve been this week, it was good for me to watch something that I find really uplifting and inspirational. Whenever I watch it I am reminded of my affinity with music and how much I want music in my life in some capacity. I read a few manga online, seeing if there were any that I liked. I’ve been feeling really hormonally unbalanced for some reason this week, like I’m not quite lined up how I should be internally… I’m not sure how to fix it, though.

Also this week, I watched Secondhand Lions (a.k.a. “Badger up my cornfield” in my family… don’t ask) with my mother. She’s been telling me to watch it for a few years now (basically since it came out) and I’m glad I did finally get around to seeing it, as I did very much enjoy it. I also spent some time around at Rach’s flat, chilling with Rach and various others, that was good fun. I had dinner around at my grandparents’ house, which is always good seeing them. My Grandad has recently been written up in a golf magazine with an article about him. He’s almost 80, and his handicap is 2. Very, very impressive. Clearly I come from good golfing stock, and I’m hoping to do a bit more of that while I’m here. ^^

My aunt and uncle from Wellington were passing through this weekend, so I got to see them today. We drove out to Little River, where we stopped for coffee and nibbles and a look around the art gallery before driving (I was doing the driving today) on to Akaroa. I really like Akaroa. I wouldn’t want to live there, but it’s a lovely place to visit and get away from things. I went to Fire & Ice, the local crystal and jewelery shop that I adore. I have several pieces from there, and have given a bunch of gifts from there as well. Anyway, today we had a wander around, had a frozen yoghurt, walked around the bay to have a look at the other art place (I managed to get some pretty shocking singlet-sunburn, although it doesn’t hurt… just feels kind of tight, you know?)… anyway, after all that we drove back to Christchurch then sat around talking and listening to music for ages.

When I left to come back to Dad’s place, I pinched Siobhan’s old acoustic guitar out of the closet where it was sitting – after watching Beck, I thought I might have a crack at learning a few more chords and how to play some songs. Why not? Anyway, time for me to write a few emails then head to bed.

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There and back again

Posted by Leith in News,Play,Travel,Work

Well, the week started off with my final stuff at work, last couple of interviews and a brief dinner out at Harry’s with a bunch of the guys from work. Anastasia and I shared a quiet night together with some champagne and then the next day it was back to study and exams for her.

On Wednesday I was up ridiculously early to drive out to Orlando with Lea, who had generously agreed to drive me out there on her way down south to see her family. I had breakfast with her at the airport, then started the long process of flying back to New Zealand. First was a flight to Atlanta, which I dozed most of the way through, waited about an hour at the airport there before flying to LA. That flight I did a little reading, a little more dozing and was mostly just feeling really uncomfortable. I was in LA for five hours, where I tried to eat some food and talked with people back in Florida on the phone. For the flight to New Zealand, I doped up on Benadryl to put me out for most of it, and watched the Bourne Ultimatum on the in-flight entertainment system.

I arrived in Auckland very early in the morning, went through customs, transferred my baggage, then had some McBreakfast. They put milk in my coffee, which I wasn’t happy about. I chilled out for a bit, read a little of my book, then got on my plane to Christchurch.

Mum met me at the airport there then we made a brief side trip to her place to pick up my keys, NZ phone, plastic bins (that replace clothing drawers) , etc. before heading over to Dad’s so I could semi-unpack. I had a shower to wake me up and got set up (ish) in the spare room. I didn’t end up having lunch with Mum because of the parking issues in town. I tried to get various laptop things working, talking to some people online while sipping blackcurrant. Man I missed that stuff. I had dinner with Mum at Misceo’s (joined by Dace after a while), then back to Mum’s place for general chatter (and more blackcurrant ^^).

This morning I woke up at 5am and generally cursed my inability to take naps, or convince my body to go back to sleep once it had decided it was time to be awake. Anyway, I did some email, mucked about online and had some juice. I talked to people online, went and did some groceries, went to watch some rowing and have some coffee with Mum, then head back to Dad’s again. Rach came over for a little while and we generally chatted about stuff, caught up a little.

Later this afternoon, I took a bad turn, I’ve got a fever and chills and so on… I’m definitely sick, probably some viral thing. Ugh. I hate being sick.

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