Tokyo – Yokohama

2009 December 15
by Xray

Dec. 15th

Woke up early and checked out of the hotel. Met Sneery and his friend Ming in the lobby. Headed out to Shinjuku to grab some food. The plan was to scout out the basement food shop at the Isaten department store and eat at the park on their roof.  I also wanted to check out their whisky selection.  We got there a bit early so went for some coffee to wait until they were open.  I got several croquettes (Okonomi, Imo, Ebi, Kani) and one big Ebi Fry. We picked up a bottle of sake and went up to the roof to enjoy the fruits of our hunt.


We wandered around Shinjuku for a while. We saw some guy taking what looked like a small dog out for a walk but I did a double take when I realized it was a spider monkey.

We ran across the local franchise of my favorite Mongolian Hot Pot restaurant, Little Sheep.

We found a really great liquor store with an amazing selection of rare whisky called Shinanoya.



I got back to the hotel, grabbed my bags and hit the train for Yokohama. I put on my Santa suit and registered for SIGGRAPH.


Hooked up with Oyabun Santa, Santa Maki and Baby Santa Juno.  Got back to the hotel, linked up with Santa Michael and wandered around Yokohama’s china town looking for some dinner and damn if we didn’t find it.


We ended up at this place called “To Ki” or “Toki” and had some of the best noodles ever. It’s a style from the Shanxi province of China called dao-Xiao-mein. At Toki, Chef Wang uses a large chunk of freshly kneaded wheat  flour dough and hand shaves flat strips of raw noodle dough into a big wok of boiling water. The cooked noodles  have a rough and chewy texture with a very unique fresh wheat taste.  We also tried their delicious Mabo Tofu and a spicy Salt & Pepper shrimp dish, similar to what I’ve had before but this was probably the best version I’ve every had.  Simply outstanding.


Stopped off at the combini to get some desert. Picked up some Sweet Potato flavor haagen-daaz ice cream and hit the sack pretty hard.

Nagoya – Tokyo

2009 December 14
by Xray

Dec. 14th

Got up very early. Ate breakfast and ran some errands in Nagoya. Had lunch as a place that’s been awarded the Scovie for their spicy mabo tofu. I had the spicy tan-tan-men ramen and made the mistake of asking for it extra spicy. OH MY GOD! I managed to get through about half of it before giving up in lip quiverring agony. I paid for that later in the evening.


I got on the shinkansen back to Tokyo and got to OLM Digital around 3:30PM.  I got a tour of the facility. They work on 2D animation for Pokemon as well as 3D effects, notably for the more recent films of Miike Takashi. I worked with my OLM host Ken on our SIGGRAPH Presentation then headed out to Ebisu for a chankonabe dinner with Marc, Ken, Ayumi, John from WETA and myself. I can’t remeber the name of the yokozuna that owns the place but it’s famous for shio chanko. The meal was delicious.

Got back to the hotel and started to pack for Yokohama while paying the price for the spicy tan-tan-men experiement.

Nagoya – Iga City

2009 December 12
by Xray

Dec. 13th

Took an early train from Nagoya to Iga City. Nice slow train ride.

Iga City is known as one of the birth places of Ninjitsu. The train for the last transfer to Iga City has a Ninja paint job.


We ate a picnic in the park  consisting of hotdogs with onions and some inari. I was a bit thirsty so I went over to one of my favorite vending machines in Japan.


We visited the ninja house and ninja museum in Iga’s Ueno park. The house was interesting, showcasing all the architectural tricks a ninja would use to enter, exit and observe visitors. There were also secret weapons stashes. The museum explained the origins of the ninja, ninja weapons and ninja costumes. They also had a somewhat silly ninja stunt show for children. After the show I spent an extra 100Y to throw shuriken at a foam target and managed one bullseye.


On they way back to Nagoya from Iga was stopped at the Rumiko sake factory to pick up a bottle of their newly released Nama Zake. I also tasted a sake that had been barrel aged in wood for 14 years. After the sake factory we passed through a district famous for ceramics whose main output appears to be ceramic tanuki… Racoon Dog idols with gigantic testicles meant to bring good luck and good health.


We got back to Nagoya and ate dinner at the Marusai, a fish restaurant. We had some special toro served on the bone and scraped at the table. I ate some sazae sashimi and a toro donbury. We also had a couple of fish heads and some hoke.



2009 December 11
by Xray

Dec. 11th

Back in 1996/1997 I worked on Titanic at Digital Domain and made friends with  an exchange artist from Japan’s Tokyo Broadcasting Station  named Sori. In 2001 at Sony Imageworks I made friends with another exchange artist named Tadao. I’ve kept in touch with them over the years and try to visit whenever I’m in Japan. It’s great to see that Sori is now a film director and Tadao works with Sori as his visual effects supervisor. They are a great team who work on great projects together.

Sori’s IMDB page

I went to luch with Tadao at a bento place owned by a famous theater actor, grabbed some coffee and went to OxyBot Studios to see what they are up to. I met the staff and saw some great work being done. Sori and Tadao have surrounded themselves with a friendly and talented group of artists. I’m looking forward to their future collaborations. Hopefully I’ll have another chance to catch up with them during this trip.

Nagoya Day 1

2009 December 10
by Xray

Dec. 12th

Took the Shinkansen Hikari to Nagoya to visit relatives. There was a bit of confusion at the train station. I was told to meet them at the “Gold Clock Tower” but they were waitng near the “Silver Clock Tower”. No biggie.

Had a great home made lunch of salmon sushi, inari and oden with plenty of beer. That night we went to Korona World. It’s a sort of family entertainment complex with a multi-plex, arcade, restaurants and karaoke but the centerpiece is a sauna and bath house. I guess it’s not considered an onsen because the water source is not a naturally heated spring. In addtion to a wide array of indoor and outdoor baths they have the largest sauna I’ve ever seen. It’s a huge room with three adjunct “stone sauna” rooms. In the middle of the main room there are large steel doors with rail tracks coming out. There’s a fence around the tracks and a parabolic reflector above. On a schedule, the doors open to reveal a giant oven. There are two mining carts full of rocks basking in the oven. The carts enter the room and the doors close behind it. A rush of heat bounces off the parabolic reflector and fills the room (click the link to see the video).

We finished up with another round of baths and I was ready to crash out for the evening.


Start – SIGGRAPH Asia 2009 Journal

2009 December 10
by Xray

Dec. 9th

Departed SFO for Narita via Seattle. Had planned to wake up at 4am for final packing and get to the airport by 5:30am but overslept and woke up at 5am. Managed to get out the door ten after five and made it to the airport just after 6am. Went to the international terminal but found out that my flight to seattle was, in fact, domestic… duh. Jammed through the airport and checked in with just moments to spare. Had a four hour layover in Seattle and got to Narita in one piece on Dec. 10th.

Dec. 10th

Got some Yen from the ATM and picked up my rental cell phone.  Made it to Shibuya on the Narita Express. Pain in the ass schlepping bags through Shibuya Station. Could not find the elevators. Somehow manages to get a small but bloody cut on my hand but there was no pain so I didn’t notice for a while. A confused Gaijin with a bloody hand wandering around Shibuya station. Got my bags down the stairs but had to push them back up over the crossing near the West exit to the hotel. Settled in for a moment before heading out to meet Tak and Mihai from Digital Frontiers in Naka-Meguro for some sushi.

Had a great dinner at  “Yoshi Zushi” よし寿司

Mixed sashimi platter – Yuzu Ika, Toro, Hamachi, Aji, Ebi, Small white fish whose name I forgot. Drank a lot of beer and nihon-shu.

Second course was yaki-miso shirako, fresh shiokara , hotate with uni sauce and kujira steak.

Finished up with some engawa, tamago and aji nigiri.

Went to Karaoke with Mihair & Justine until 4am. Brought along a bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask to share. Belted out some punk and metal and generally hammed it up for a good time.

Billy Mays Halloween Costume 2009

2009 November 2
by Xray

Here’s a couple of pictures of my Billy Mays 2009 Halloween costume taken by a co-worker. I especially like the one with Vince, the Shamwow guy. Bringing peace on earth to pitchmen everywhere. Enjoy!



High West American Whiskey Dinner

2009 October 18
by Xray

On Wednesday, Oct 14th, High West Distillery master distiller David Perkins presented a tasting of High West Rye Whiskey at a special dinner pairing hosted by David Driscoll, the Spirtis Buyer for K & L Wines, at Alembic in San Francisco. The cost for the dinner was $100 + tax, inclusive.

Distilling 101 with David Perkins

David Perkins is a chemist who worked for several bio-tech firms in the Bay Area before packing up to follow his dream of producing fine American whiskey. Between each course and pairing David gave a presentation that included the history of distillation, a bit of chemistry and some wonderfully opinionated  stories about his personal inspiration. The team at Alembic provided several small platings designed to pair with each rye whiskey David presented.

The first course was a delicious crispy ocean trout served over turnips, gnocchi, tart apple and carmelized onion dashi paired with High West Rendezvous Rye. Rendezvous Rye is a vatting of at least two different rye whiskies and carries no age statement. It’s smooth and spicy.

The second course was tamarind glazed sweetbreads with cranberry beans, endive and horseradish paired with High West 16 year old Rye. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the sweetbreads. Good sweetbreads can be really good but anything less than excellence reminds one just a little too much of the offal from which they originate. This was a bold but successful move by Alembic. The High West 16 year old Rye complimented the minerality of the dish with the signature spice and christmas cake notes I’ve come to expect from High West but with a smoother more rounded flavor profile than the Rendezvous Rye.

The third course was a foie gras terrine with a bit of caramel corn, cashews, huckleberry and asian pear served with a pour of High West 21 year old Rye. This was probably the least successful paring of the evening. The 21 year old rye is a delicious drink, even smoother than the 16 year old, with a rich mouth feel and even more spice. For some reason the foie gras just didn’t set the rye off like it should have. Perhaps the coating of fat from the terrine got in the way of my palate. The terrine itself was lackluster.

Desert was a brioche served family style at the table paired with the peach infused Vodka 7000. High West Distillery sits at 7000 feet above sea level, hence the moniker. While fruit infused vodka is not my usual cup of tea it did pair well with the brioche. The family style serving of a single slice of brioche ensured that each diner got only one bite.

Once dinner service concluded, David Perkins shared a few surprise distillates. I sampled some rye new make he calls White Dog and an experimental new make distilled from oatmeal that he poured at 110 proof. The oatmeal new make was deliciously complex and I’m looking forward to tasting how it ages in the barrel. Another surprise from High West is the upcoming “Bourye” whiskey, a vatting of bourbon and rye whiskies with a unique flavor profile that rolls over the mouth in three chapters. The initial taste is like a rich bourbon with notes of corn and sweetness which subsides after a moment into the characteristic High West spicy rye flavor followed by a dry woody finish that lingers on the tongue. It’s an excellent beverage.

I learned a few things, drank some fine whiskey and ate some good food in good company. David Driscoll and David Perkins were great hosts.

David Driscoll and David Perkins

Chez Xray Whisky Tasting

2009 October 14
by Xray

The Hamilton Whisky Society hosted a small whisky tasting at Chez Xray. My friends J-Girl and G-Man were kind enough to create a meal of roast chicken, seared pork, cous-cous and greens that paired exceptionally well with the whisky. There was plenty of chocolate for desert. We capped the evening with Joya de Nicaragua Antano 1970’s and Perdomo ESV  91’s.



Sony sued over PS3 Firmware update 3.00 and 3.01 Fail

2009 October 8
by Xray

Michael Thompson at Ars Technica posted an article about John Kennedy of Florida filing a class action suit against Sony Computer Entertainment America in the San Francisco Division of the Northern District Court of California regarding the issues some PS3 owners have experienced after updating to Firmware 3.00 and Firmware 3.01. According to the complaint, Kennedy purchased a PS3 in January, which operated without any problems until he installed the firmware update in September. The update, when downloaded, caused the Blu-ray drive to malfunction. Courthouse News has the complete complaint in PDF form. The suit was submitted by David Parisi of Parisi and Havens LLP.

Read the post at Ars Technica here

ps3 system update