Japan: Last day

August 6, 2011

This was our last day in Japan and as such we didn't have our hotel room to go back to. That didn't seem to slow us down though. We went to Shibuya, Shinjuku, and ended at Akihibara. We spent quite a bit of time in the Akihibara area and enjoyed it a lot more the second time around.

I had to try the McDonalds. I love McDonalds in Russia, but the Japanese McDonalds is just like the American version...Guess I'll just have to go back to Russia again. We also stopped into a little Cafe that was really tasty.

My Big Mac

Tasty cake from cafe

And if that doesn't make your mouth water, then maybe our next stop will. We went back to our hotel to relax a little bit (no room though) and had a nice dinner in the hotel restaurant. We also made sure to use the restrooms again - they are quite awesome in Japan. Most of the public restrooms are incredible.

Anya's salad

My dinner. Don't remember what it was called.

Rice snacks

Our hotel

The toilet controls

We headed out to the airport and waited for awhile before our flight which was at midnight. We flew back to Los Angeles, spent the night, and then got home Sunday morning.

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Cool display in the Haneda International airport

Overall, the trip was a lot of fun. We were exhausted when we got home, but it was definitely an awesome experience. We loved how clean it was everywhere we went and how nice people were everywhere. We didn't like how hot and humid it was. We liked the metro. We didnt like that we had to walk so much :). Japan is our second favorite place, right after home.

Japan: Days 5, 6, 7

August 3, 2011

We decided to make it a pretty easy morning. We headed out to one of the biggest parks in Tokyo for a nice morning stroll. It cost about $3 each to enter the park but it was absolutely worth it. The park was pretty incredible and the thing that was most impressive was that there were places in the park where you couldn't see a single building from the Tokyo landscape. Considering the park is in one of the busiest districts, I was quite impressed and it was a very peaceful place. There were some pretty cool things inside too.
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The city from the park.

A view of the park.

The park was quite big and we were tired after walking around for about an hour. It started to rain a little too so we headed back to the hotel for some rest.

Our next stop was to a pretty large souvenir shop. We bought a few things, but by far the coolest thing we got was a Yukata for Anya. It is awesome and we actually saw people wearing them on the streets from time to time which was pretty cool. They went all out with the wooden sandals and everything. We walked down to our favorite area, Shibuya, and did a little bit of walking around and just enjoying the area.

We finished the night enjoying some time in our hotel as we were beat.

View from our hotel.

August 4, 2011

This was the busiest day as we were all over. We first headed out to see where Anya was going to live. It was about an hour on the Metro and train from where we were staying. Once again, we were impressed with the public transportation system and the ability to get literally anywhere. The area was pretty nice and we found it quickly and easily.

Our next stop was the Tokyo Metropolitan Building to take a look out over the city. A pretty awesome view and it was crazy to see the city that just looks like it goes on forever.

View from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

We then went to where Anya was planning on studying in the Shibuya area. It was super hot and we were glad to finally find it and get back in the Metro. Anya went back to the hotel and I went out to Asakusa to grab a few more souvenirs and some of our favorite fish snacks.

After coming home, we went out to Tokyo Tower. On our way there we heard some sounds that were music and so we decided to stop by. To our delight, we came across a festival of some sort with people in kimonos and other traditional Japanese clothing, dancing. We never found out what the festival was for, but it was awesome.

Japan festival

Tokyo Tower

August 5, 2011

This day was quite calm. Most of the morning and afternoon were spent doing some work on Anya's schooling and housing. I actually ended up doing some reading while waiting for Anya in the morning.

In the evening we decided to hang out in the Shibuya area. We tried a stand-up Sushi place which was pretty good (I'm not a sushi guy). We also tried another place where I really ended up eating. It was a rice and pork dish that was pretty greasy but tasty. Also, most of the people in the place weren't using chopsticks, but wooden spoons...so much for my idea that Japanese only use chopticks.

Rice and pork (with wooden spoon)

Japan: Days 2, 3, 4

July 31, 2011

We woke up about 5 AM and didn't have much to do (obviously). We did go back to sleep about 7 AM and slept for a couple more hours...jet lag isn't much fun. The plan was to head out to Ueno Park and Zoo.

Ueno Park is a huge park in the middle of the busy city. The thing about large cities is that parks are the place to get away from the craziness of it all. Similar to Russia, where living space and outdoor space is usually quite small, large parks are the place to getaway. Ueno Park is one of those places.

Ueno Park has several Japanese temples and shrines. I don't know a lot about the beliefs behind the temples so I won't comment much on that, but there were several people that would come and pray at them. They are quite beautiful places.

One of the big attractions at Ueno Park is the zoo. We quite enjoyed walking around the park and looking all of the animals. It rained a little bit while we were there, but overall it was a lot of fun. So much walking was really killing us - especially our backs.

Awesome chipmunk in Ueno Zoo.

On our way back to the Metro, we found a nice little market that we stopped by and walked along. It reminded me of the rionik's in Russia and there was plenty of junk. We stopped by into a store and picked up a little junk food. Later in the evening, we found another store fairly close to our hotel and picked up some more food.

August 1, 2011

We were starting to get more accustomed to the time difference, but still didn't sleep quite normal. We got out of the hotel at about 11 and headed out to an aquarium. Considering Japan is such a small area that is totally surrounded by water, they have several aquariums. Tokyo Sea Park was located just off the coast and in another beautiful park. They had some pretty cool fish and other things, but in my opinion, Sea World is cooler.

Cool looking fish at Tokyo Sea Life Park.

After the park, we headed out to Ginza. Ginza is known as the shopping district for it's high end shopping stores located in it. Gucci was really the only store I knew in the area, but I'm not a big shopping person. My wife knew several of the stores and they were definitely high end places. We went into one Japanese store, Mitsukoshi, and bought my wife a skirt. Also we grabbed some food while on the top floor and we looked out over the area that we were in.

View from Mitsukoshi.

August 2, 2011

We were absolutely exhausted by Day 4. We had been walking, walking, walking and our backs were killing us. That didn't stop us though. We headed out to Asakusa to one of the most well known temples and shrines in Tokyo. The area is huge for tourists. The area was quite beautiful and in front of the temple, you walk down this long aisle of sellers where you can buy souvenirs and food. We walked around the area for a bit and then found some little waffles baked in the shape of fish that were stuffed with cream and other random things. I wish we had gotten a picture because we actually returned a couple more times just to get them they were so good.

Water and trees at the park.

We took a fairy ride along the river to another gorgeous park. We loved the park itself and it was quite beautiful and so quiet compared to the city. By this time our feet were hurting and we had a long way to go before getting home. We took several breaks along the way, but we made it.

After resting up and grabbing a bite to eat at the local bento box place (japanese fast food type place), we went to another store in the area to see if they had a better selection of food. It was slightly larger, but nothing like you find here in the states.

One of the things that we found most surprising on our trip was how expensive fruits and vegetables were. Bananas were reasonably priced, but compared to what we pay here in Utah, we couldn't believe them. Considering how much we love fruits and vegetables, it would be tough to live there. Check out this guy's post about prices. It's insane!

Japan: Travel and Day 1

Yes, I'm actually writing about our trip to Japan. I don't have too many pictures so I'll apologize right up front about it. Now, what we did and what we liked.

Thursday - July 28, 2011

Thursday was filled with packing our bags and getting all of our last things pulled together. Our flight left from the Salt Lake airport at 10:00 PM and we had a short layover in Los Angeles before our flight to Tokyo. The flight was about 12 hours and we slept about half of it. Since Japan is 15 hours ahead of us, we basically lost an entire day on our flight there.
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Saturday - July 30, 2011

We flew in to Tokyo about 4:00 AM. We made it through customs and all the other airport handy-dandy before making it to the airport train. One of the things that was most impressive was that everything was in both English and Japanese. I had no trouble at all buying tickets and finding my way around. Of course my wife knows a bit of Japanese so that helped too, but we would have been completely fine if she hadn't.

We took a taxi the rest of the way to our hotel and fortunately I had printed out the name of where we were staying because otherwise we would have never made it since the taxi driver didn't speak a word of English...Once we got tor our hotel, it was about 6:30. We crashed for several hours as we hadn't slept much in the past 24 hours.

By about noon, we decided to get out and check out the city a little bit. Plans for the first day were to hit up Akihibara. One of the things about Tokyo is that it has some very distinct and well known districts or areas. Akhibara is one such place. It's where some of the craziest anime cosplayers dress up and hang out. On top of that it's the place to go to see some of the coolest and newest technology. We hopped on the Metro, after figuring it all out in advance, and showed up. The area was hot and crowded. We walked around for awhile but didn't find anything too interesting. We did find out that we were still exhausted though. We only spent a couple of hours in the area but bought a few anime characters as gifts. We also got invited into several maid cafes by these girls that were dressed up like maids. Anya explained to me that they take care of you by making sure you have everything you need...Not sure if I was totally clear on what she meant, but we didn't ever get inside of one.
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We headed back to our hotel pretty early and slept a couple more hours. We then decided to walk along the Imperial Palace river that sat right along where our hotel was. It was quite a gorgeous area, and it turns out that it's a pretty popular place to run in spite of the awful humidity. We were only out for a bit and then headed home to sleep for the night.

Back side of the Imperial Palace gardens.

New blog: It's here

It's officially up and running. I've spent several weeks to get this site designed and importing all of my old posts and comments, and it's finally done! If you've been following my old blog, you probably noticed that I hadn't written for several months, in spite of my goal earlier in the year. The reason for that is because I didn't feel like the blog was going in the direction that I was hoping. I was blogging about things that weren't really that interesting to me. I kind of wanted to share them but not always.

New direction

This new site and new blog will be much more focused on the things that I am doing and what I am learning. There may be posts that are purely about programming some cool new feature for Drupal or otherwise. There may be posts that are completely about books that I've read or movies that I've watched. It may seem like not much of a change, but since I am managing this site, I feel a much more vested interest in writing and making it worth my time.

The new blog backend

The blog is Drupal based! I've created all of the main features using no custom code (other than the theme). It's built on the latest and greatest Drupal 7 and relies heavily on Views. I'm still working out a few things here and there, but I'll keep you updated as cool new features begin to appear. For now, it's mostly just a duplicate of my old blog, but by moving to Drupal I will be able to do more than just blogging which is great.

Features for users with accounts

It's not required to read my blog or to comment on posts, but I recommend signing up for an account on this site. The things that it will afford you now:

  • No more captcha entries before commenting
  • No comment approval required - your comments will show up immediately
  • View other user profiles
  • Plenty more to come


Thanks to my brother for this clever idea. If you're a geek, you'll enjoy the name. 1010E is read "tenney." If you get it (1010 - binary 10), then you'll realize that is really how it's read. Thanks to BJ!

Reading, reading, reading

As basically everyone knows, I read tons. People are usually pretty shocked to find out how much I read when they ask me. I've thought a lot about what has driven me to read so much. Probably 4 years ago now I may have read a total of 5 books all year so something lead/drove me to want to read. There are probably 3 major events that have driven me to where I am at now. One thing to note, I did read a bit when I was younger. Not a lot, but I grew up encouraged to read.

Reason #1 - Graduation

While I was studying at the University of Utah, I just didn't have a lot of time. I was studying full time and working in my spare time. Almost all reading that I did was purely for educational purposes. I did have one class where we read an incredible large amount (of Russian Literature from the USSR nonetheless) - at the time I felt overwhelmed but I think I would like that class a bit more now. Anyways, there just wasn't much time for outside reading. Once I graduated, I found I had a lot more spare/free time. Reading is definitely what fills it now.

Reason #2 - Kindle

My kindle was really what drove me to read the amount that I do now. I had already started visiting the library on a regular basis when I received my Kindle, but after that I began to read a ton. Probably the main reason is because I'm the type of person that likes to use the things that I have and find it hard to let things sit around unused. While I didn't purchase my Kindle, I wanted to put it to good use. Last year I read 130 books on my Kindle alone and I've read several already this year.

Reason #3 - Priority shift

This is the single biggest reason for reading so much. I used to be a huge sports fan. I would watch every sporting event (especially local teams) and get really into them. I was extremely competitive and got extremely emotionally involved. I noticed that this was effecting me and those around me in negative ways (my wife definitely helped bring this to my attention). It would be hard for me to get to sleep at night after a sporting event because I couldn't get over the win or loss. Also, I would have an extremely negative attitude after the team I was hoping would win, lost. I needed something that I could do to relax and not worry about sports as much. Reading was the big thing that took over for me.

Reading has really changed how I relate sports in general. I still cheer for teams, but I don't feel upset or mad when the team I'm cheering for loses. In fact, I can easily turn off the television if it's coming down to the last seconds of a game. I don't watch a lot of the big games because it doesn't matter as much to me anymore. A lot of times I don't just watch a sporting event on TV. I'll read during a game and only check the score every now and them. Reading has been something that has really calmed me as a person and helped me to relax from things that just really aren't that important...I still enjoy watching sports at times and enjoy going to games, but a lot of times I'd rather read.

For me, reading has been a good way to relax and also I've learned a lot of very interesting and fascinating facts as I've gotten into books about history. I definitely find reading far more interesting than tv series and it's a great way to increase my knowledge.

April Fool's Day - Favorites

I love April Fool's Day. I especially love how some of the bigger companies really get into it. I had a great April Fool's joke a couple years ago that got a few people (even had my Mom in tears - sorry about that). All in all though, it's a good time to get a good laugh. Here are my 4 favorites this year:

4. Ad block glasses - Get real people. Just avoid looking at all those signs!

3. Motion Mail - Watch the video to get a really good laugh.

2. Comic Sans coming to Google - If this ever happened I might actually stop using Google!

1. HDMI cable deal - The best part about this is that it's not even a joke. The price and product are for real. The sarcastic comments in the thread are what make this great. I was in tears a couple of times because I was laughing so hard.

Feel free to share any good jokes/links that you enjoyed.

Happy April Fool's Day everyone!

Recipe #3: Chocolate cake cookies

The thing that I love about this recipe is how simple it is. I got this recipe off of a cake mix and was making it all the time. I haven't made it in a couple of months as we are trying to eat a bit healthier.

Prep Time: 5 minutes (50 minutes with baking time)
Makes: 3-4 dozen


  • 1 chocolate cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional - I've never added them before)

- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Mix all ingredients together (except chocolate chips and nuts).
- Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
- Drop about a tablespoon of dough onto baking sheets (greased if you want).

- Bake for about 12 minutes.
- Let cool and remove from pan.

- Enjoy!!

I was thinking as I put this together that you could probably try any cake mix you want and it would still be pretty good...not sure though. Give it a try if you're daring :)

Ratings and why they don't work

If you haven't heard, this year's Academy Award winner for Best Picture has been reedited and will shortly be re-released to have a PG-13 rating! Awesome! Oh wait...I already saw this film. And to be honest, this film was one of the cleanest movies I've seen in some time (also one of my favorite films and quite inspirational and uplifting). There has been a lot of talk about whether Weinstein should have re-edited the film or not. This post isn't to argue either way.

Instead, this post is my about why the rating system in the US is broken (thanks to the MPAA). I'll be honest - I think the rating system is pretty horrible. I realize there needs to be some type of rating system, but this system just doesn't work. Before I go on I need to state that as a member of the LDS church we are counseled not to watch R-rated movies (I couldn't find a link to this on the LDS.org site however). I've still seen my share of them in my lifetime but I'll usually get a guilty feeling afterwards (I didn't after watching The King's Speech though). That's probably one of the main reasons why the rating system bothers me so much.

Honestly though, there are some PG-13 movies that are far worse than R-rated films. Let's look at the King's Speech. The film received it's R-rating due to two scenes in which Colin Firth spills out the F-word about 6 times in a row the first time and then 6 times in a row the second time. There are some other swear words throughout (mainly in the same scenes as these F-words). That's it. Don't believe me - read the guide over at IMDB (this is where I typically look for what's in a film). I know the rule - 2 f-words max to earn the PG-13 rating. To be frank though, that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. While I'm not a parent yet, here are two PG-13 films that I wouldn't want my kids watching, without me, over The King's Speech.


I went to this film when I was probably about 13 years old. I didn't know much about the film, but since it was PG-13 I was "allowed" (both by my parent's rules and by MPAA standards). As a 13-year old growing up in the LDS church, I had been highly exposed to swearing throughout school. But I don't know if I'll ever forget the scene where Jack is sketching Kate posing nude. I was more than shocked at this scene in a PG-13 film. Also I'm not clear why this use of nudity in an "artful" sense warrants a PG-13 rating but swearing in an "artful" sense does not (the swearing in the King's Speech is definitely artful and not overused by any means).

The Dark Knight

I really liked this movie but my wife stopped watching after she saw the scene where the Joker impales a character with a pencil in the eye. While I'm glad this film got a PG-13 rating (I didn't have to feel guilty about watching it) I'll admit that it is very dark and intense. There were definitely people that felt it should have been rated R. How often do you or your kids see violence like that depicted in this film at school or work? I'm betting for most of us it's very rarely.

My recommendations

As a parent or just a moviegoer in general, don't rely on the ratings system if you're concerned about content. The MPAA is far from perfect. Look at what is contained in the film. I typically look at IMDB, but while preparing this post, found this site which I may start to use: Kids in mind. Unsurprisingly, Titanic and the Dark Knight are both rated worse overall than The King's Speech.

As for the rating system, I think that we need to move to something similar to that of what Kids in mind is doing. Splitting a rating out and putting it on a 1-10 scale for three different categories - Violence, Language, and Sex & Nudity. From there, taking some kind of combination of those three values to determine an age limit on the film. Until then of course, we'll be left scratching our heads as to why we don't see some of the best films made because they are rated R while we sit through some very degrading cinema because someone thought it didn't meet the R-rating standard. However, go enjoy a great film in The King's Speech if you've been holding out because of the rating (the reedited version of course).

On another note, let's get rid of heavy swearing all together in movies. Whenever they translate movies into Russian they always translate the heavy swear words into very mild words in Russian. What's the obsession with swearing in American cinema?

Recipe #2: Fake/Simple Chicken Cordon Bleu

As promised, this is another recipe to use that uses more of that Ham that I used for the breakfast sandwiches.

Prep Time: 15 minutes (50 minutes with baking time)
Serves: 4 (of course you can do more or less really easily)

Here's what you need:

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Ham (enough to cover the 4 breasts)
  • Swiss cheese

Preparation instructions:
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Pound each chicken breast to get it flattened out.
- Slice up your ham and cheese.

- Place the cheese slices on the chicken breast and then the ham on top of the cheese.
- Roll the chicken breast up and push a toothpick through the middle (I use matches).

- Put in oven for about 30 minutes (I don't know the exact time, just make sure the chicken is cooked when you pull it out).
- Enjoy!

We ate these with some sliced up potatoes that we cooked in frying pan with some cheese melted on top. Also added some sliced up tomatoes with a bit of sour cream.


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