Catchup Blogging

by Paul Fischer

We didn’t have much net access in Japan. I posted a bunch of stuff on my LJ but I couldn’t get it posted here until now.

It’s in reverse time order. I hope you enjoy it. Still processing pictures. I’ll post tons here once I get the site updated. Finally getting over jet lag, so I might actually get some work done on my projects.

10:34 pm – Saturday – Best Yet
Saturday was the best day yet. We logged a few new species, but more importantly the sun came out. The sun has been pissing me off, refusing to shine through the Typhoon. Today saw an end to that. The mountain top crater lake was still fogged in, but the rest of the day was bright and sunny. We got tons of bird pics and got a good long look at a Japanese fox.

This evening we had another monster dinner. Great food and lots of it. We’ve moved further north and we can see Russian territory from here. We’re in Rausu, pronounced Rause, like Grouse. After dinner, Chris took Nikos and me to a Fish Owl watch and we saw three Fish Owls. Mom, Dad, and Baby.

The owls are pretty awesome, and I’m really glad I tore the house apart before leaving to find my 20 year old flash. It’s completely manual and doesn’t talk to my camera, but it did the job. I got some great owl pictures. I think we’re going back tomorrow night for more. But tomorrow during the day we’re taking an afternoon cruise up the coast to see brown bears. I begged off on a whale watching tour we found out about at the owl watch. They couldn’t tell me what types of whales they were seeing, and photographing whale tales isn’t as interesting as trying to catch a Humpback breach or Spinner Dolphins launch themselves out of the water.

Each day bring more treasures to remember. Our guide, Chris, has been working really hard to keep us motivated and moving to find new species. He’s doing a great job. He’s also making sure the hotels know about my food problems and they’ve been great at accommodating me.

Broke radio silence today for a little while. Martha was doing the wash, and I got online to email the Worldcon folks about getting ahold of video from the Hugo Awards. We have no Internet and no cell coverage. Hopefully it will all work out before we leave. I also used the cell to call Marc, Dad, and Julie. Dad’s OK. Marc told us about someone trying to break in to our house. They broke a window, but didn’t get in. No more jokes about breaking into my house to podcast. Julie needed a steel pin in her foot. She’s recovering at our house where she can have access to a bed, bath, and laundry all on one level. Hopefully this will dissuade anyone from trying to rob us again. Thanks to our neighbor our stuff is safe.

Monday we’ll be in Tokyo and able to get online again. I hope wherever you are, you’re enjoying life too.
Tags: 2007, birding, fischer, holloway, japan

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02:08 pm – Typhoon Too Soon
Looks like all the rain is a result of a Typhoon hitting Japan. We’re catching the northern most part of it, and it’s heading east, away from major population centers. Tomorrow looks like a rain day. Our plan is to find a cafe with bird feeders and try to get some pictures of some woodpeckers coming in for feeding. Failing that, we’ll look for an Internet cafe bolted on to a coin-op laundry.

We’re looking at 2-3 days of rain. That’s most of the rest of our bird watching tour. I could get so many sympathy points if I could get this post online before it was all over. Such is my lot in life. I probably won’t be able to post this until we’re done bird watching and in Kyoto or Tokyo touring.

Poor me.
Current Music: Japanese Engineering Competition on TV
Tags: 2007, birding, fischer, holloway, japan

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02:06 pm – Any Day Birding is Better Than a Day at Work
Just got back from our first full day of bird watching in Hokkaido. We went out before dawn and walked around a small overlook. We’re in the area of the east Hokkaido marshes and there are Japanese Red Crowned Cranes here. The pre-breakfast walk was overcast and grey with just a little bit of drizzle falling from the sky.

Breakfast at the “Woody Hotel & Restaurant” (the real name, I kid you not) was excellent as expected. Dinner set the pace last night with 6 courses that made me feel like a judge on Iron Chef. Each course was better than the next and they went out of their way to make certain nothing they were serving me would cause me problems. If you haven’t been following my blog the only things I can eat are rice, raw fish, and cardboard. Just kidding, but I do have problems with dairy, wheat, soy, onions, and peppers. The first course was a sashimi of Halibut. We also had salad and oysters (raw for me, baked for everyone else). They even made a soup with a poached tomato and a minced chicken meatball for me. Martha grabbed that and I asked for raw oysters. Martha did eat her baked oyster, her first. I’m really proud of her. Then a grilled fish course, which was perfectly cooked. Then a beef stew which fell apart and tasted awesome. Finally dessert, home made soft serve ice cream made with local Hokkaido milk. I got a very nice fruit plate.

After breakfast we started our tour of the marshes in earnest. Chris is our driver, tour leader, and guide. He did an excellent job bringing us to where the birds were. This is major league cool, and much less stress than trying to drive and find our way like we did in Ireland. They drive on the “wrong” side of the road here, so we would have been dangerous to ourselves and others.

We drove from spot to spot and saw some great birds. The best part was actually finding some Cranes. The JRC Cranes are mostly gone now, or living in the marsh, which has 5 foot tall plants hiding them. Still we managed to see 8-10 JRCCs in various locations. For me, the pictures really tell the story. We saw lots of Carrion and Thick Billed Crows, Black Kites, and Stone Chats. We also saw lots of woodpeckers and various types of tits. Yes, tits, that’s their name; get your mind out of the gutter.

The downer for me was the cloudy sky. The clouds were thick although they only occasionally dropped rain on us. The real problem was lack of light. The Beast eats light like a Hummer drinks gasoline. There was just never enough light, especially when I was trying to shoot woodpeckers or passerines in flight. Still, any day birding is better than a day at work. Hey, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t kvetch a little.

My photos are sunk to my iPod. Now that I have backups it’s time to see what I got and delete the ones I don’t want.
Current Music: Jazz coming from the restaurant below
Tags: 2007, birding, fischer, hokkaido, holloway, japan

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02:05 pm – Sushi and Hot Tub
The Woody Hotel and Restaurant continues to amaze and delight. We had huge amounts of the freshest sushi for dinner tonight. Also on the menu was a crab gratin and a crab egg custard. Sushi was huge. I couldn’t eat any more when it was almost done. Then the main course showed up. It was pork, I had a little, but I was stuffed. Mostly I ate the veggies. I have no idea how the pork was cooked, but it was tender, sweet and delicious.

Diner was finished with ice cream for the rest and some of the sweetest watermelon I’ve ever had. I forgot to mention the African wine I had with dinner was great.

Following dinner we talked some about digital photography. I learned some and taught some. Then we went for a soak in the On-Sen (don’t ask me to spell) the Japanese soaking hot tub.

Still full, very relaxed and going to bed soon.
Current Music: Flagpole – Michelle Malone
Tags: 2007, birding, fischer, holloway, japan

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02:04 pm – Wed Morning Woody
We flew into Kinshiro last night, no Sapporo. This is eastern Hokkaido. It’s the least developed, and the most natural. So far it’s been stunningly beautiful. It’s very very green and very cool compared to Yokohama. There’s also much less humidity.

It’s 6:45 am and we’re getting ready to drive over to the marsh and look for Japanese Cranes before breakfast. Last night they served an awesome dinner. Bird noise. Gotta go.
Current Music: Shhhh Be Very Very Quiet. We’re Hunting Duck.
Tags: birding, fischer, holloway, japan

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02:03 pm – Mountains and Marshes
Moves from the marshes of east Hokkaido to the mountains today. Lots of time in the car. Lots of rain and clouds. Saw a few new species, but not many. Still very happy being here. We knew when we booked the tour it was the wrong time of year, so we’ll take what we can.

Still it’s very relaxing seeing the mountain lakes. We had lunch at a lake as blue as copper sulfate solution. Now we’re in our new guest house, nestled in the woods about 200 meters from a crater lake on an active volcano.

We stopped at the tourist place down the road to see what birds were out. There’s a natural hot spring right by the boat ramp to warm your feet before and after going in the water. It’s a nice reminder that there’s still an active volcano under our feet. Sweet.
Current Music: Sciurus Carolinensis – George Hrab
Tags: 2007, birding, fischer, holloway, japan

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02:01 pm – Just Off The Boat, ah Plane
Right off the plane things were very different. This area isn’t very heavily built up or populated. Plus, Hokkaido smells like apples.

Saw a Japanese Red Fox as we were leaving the airport.

Freaked out when I saw the trees. They had these long ephemeral trails coming off their crowns. It looked like some mystical energy heading up to the sky. Since I don’t believe in that stuff, I postulated that they were some sort of orchard trees with something like a smudge pot to keep them warm against the cold night.

It turned out they were columns of insects. I don’t know if they were hatching or mating, but it was strange and very cool. Pictures to come.
Current Music: Trust Me – George Hrab
Tags: 2007, briding, fischer, holloway, japan

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02:00 pm – 30,000 Feet Over Tokyo
Met up with Chris, our birding guide. Turns out he’s from the U.K. Seems like a nice guy, but we’ve only spent a few minutes together before getting on the plane. I’m selfishly unwinding on the other side of the plane. For some reason ANA put us all a few rows apart from each other. Originally, I was going to move back over by Martha, but hell, it’s a short flight and I’m grooving to George Hrab and it’s a short flight. I haven’t been able to listen to much music so far on this trip. This is nice, just me in my own little iPod fueled world with Geo as my personal sound track.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before but Geo and MoShang are pretty much the only things I can listen to these days and still do work. I find everything else to be too much of a distraction. The view of Northern Japan, the mountains, and the sea side towns is awesome. The mountains are a deep emerald green. The sea side towns seem to be covered with fields from here. If the rice here is like it was in Taiwan, it’s still early in the growing season and the plants are making a light green sea cut unto neat squares.

We’re over the sea now. High high up. I can’t spot anything through the broken clouds. Killing some time taking silly photos with Photo Booth. Mostly stuff on my iPod and my EFF shirt as the background. Check my Flickr feed for the silliness.

Descending into Sapporo now. First look has sun right in my eyes. Hard to see anything. First impressions of Hokkaido. No massive civilization structures like you see around Tokyo. I can see fields and rivers but no cities. One small town. Coming down now. Time to shut off the ‘tronics.
Current Music: ‘Ya Famous? – George Hrab
Tags: 2007, birding, fischer, holloway, japan

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September 3rd, 2007
06:09 pm – Not Quite Lost
Most of the clothes are dry now. Just the heavy stuff is still tumbling. I’m starting to think about how I get out of here. There’s a large road in front of me and a train station behind me, but I don’t know where the train goes or what line it is.

I’m feeling adventurous so I’m thinking about the train. I’ll check the station and see if I can figure out if it will get me anywhere near the hotel. If not, I’ll start walking north to see if I can catch a cab.

Total cost for drying $7. Laundry cost = $17. Cab $10. Plus 2 hours of my time. If you factor in the hotel costs laundry would have cost me over $300. And don’t give me any shit about my billing rate. I don’t make my billing rate to do laundry. Even if I paid myself $50/hour I’m still ahead of the game. Plus, this was a real experience for me.

On to snapping pictures with the laptop camera since I didn’t bring The Beast with me.
Current Music: Why Don’t You Get A Job – The Offspring
Tags: fischer, holloway, japan, laundry, nippon2007, yokohama

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06:07 pm – Yokohama – I’m doing the laundry
As with all things travel related, you pay with cash or time. Worldcon just ended and I immediately ran out to the local coin-op laundry. Let me put it this way, in about 20 minutes every pair of underwear and socks I own will be clean. I let my cache of clean laundry get very low. I blame frugality and the high cost of laundry at our hotel. It costs me $7 for 2 pair of undies at Marshalls. To wash one pair at the hotel is $6. The costs aren’t quite as bad for slacks and shirts, but you get the drift.

It’s actually cheaper to buy new undies (assuming I was at Marshalls) than to get the old ones cleaned.

So I’m here in Yokohama on the back streets at the local coin op. It’s actually pretty cheap to wash the clothes. About $10 to get 3 machines running and washing 5+ days of clothes for both of us. Drying is underway now. $1 buys 10 minutes and I’m spreading out the clothes over 3 machines in the hopes of getting back to the hotel sooner rather than later.

This is actually a really nice street. There’s a subway stop a block away and the laundry is next to a 7-11 type store. The locals are out in force walking down the narrow streets with their kids and dogs. I’m usually scared when I’m on travel about being outside my element. But the people here are very polite and nice and I’m just not worried about anything. I didn’t even think twice to leave my laptop in the street while checking the laundry. I would never do that at home.

Tonight is the Dead Dog Party for WorldCon. We can finally party down with the rest of the staff. WorldCon – Nippon2007 – Is now history. It felt really good to be party to making it happen. The Japanese did a hell of a job, and the number of walk-ins we got was off the charts for a US WorldCon. I’ve never seen the same number of walk-ins at a WorldCon. The Japanese organizers really deserve credit for doing a ton of work up front.

Peggy Rae Sapienza toured a small town about an hour out into the country from here just before the con. She said the local book store had wrappers around every sci-fi, fantasy, anime, and manga giving info about Nippon2007. What a great idea! I hope we can get the US, Aussie, and European WorldCon staff to do the same thing in the future. I’m sure they would see a lot more walk-ins as well.

I really hope I can get a cab back to the hotel from here.
Current Music: Have You Ever – The Offspring
Tags: fischer, holloway, japan, yokohama

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September 2nd, 2007
09:44 am – Sunday Morning Worldcon
Working through my morning routine. Breakfast from the 7-11 type store: Boiled eggs, breakfast sushi, onigiri (today’s had the blue dot outside and something with lots of mayo inside), and coffee shots in can. $15 for two of us. Martha also got a canned latte and a steamed bun in the shape of a pig. The buns are very cute. I told her to bite the head off first to keep it from suffering.

I’m still working on script ideas for my This Day in Alternate History episode. I want to marry off Christiana to Godzilla at the end. I need to check with CE to make sure she can channel Nina Kimberly The Merciless for that one.

Waiting for results of Parsec awards and transmitting information to the world as I get it.

Next up on the menu, Kaffeeklatsche with Cory Doctorow, scouting for locations to film, and then back to the news room.

Current Mood: [mood icon] relaxed
Tags: convention, fiction, japan, nippon2007, science, world

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September 1st, 2007
07:49 pm – Worldcon 2009 Site Selection
Just got the unofficial report from the Worldcon 2009 Site Selection Committee.

The winner is Anticipation in Montreal, CA.

Congratulations on all the hard work to the Anticipation team.
Current Mood: accomplished
Current Music: Lift Off – RIAA (Robotic Intergalactic Astro-Artists)
Tags: world science fiction convention, worldcon

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