Birth of Lucas

So it’s official- I am now a father. Baby Lucas came into this world on Saturday November 11th, 2017 at 8:13am. He weighed a healthy 7lbs 13oz and is still going strong a good eight days after birth. His due date was November 7th so he was four days late. We had an appointment to induce labor on November 13th, however it seems that he had plans of his own and decided to come out on 11/11.

On Friday night (the 10th) Asumi went to bed around 8pm and I did my normal “stay up and mess around on the computer” until about 10pm when I decided it was time to go to sleep. When I went into the bedroom Asumi was awake and told me she was experiencing contractions. We got out the cell phone and started timing them. The rule of thumb that we had learned from the childbirth classes was the “511” rule- that is wait until the contractions are five minutes apart, lasting for one minute each, for at least an hour before going to the ER.

After about 45 minutes we decided to make a game time call and go to the ER. Our logic was that worst case scenario we would just be sent back home, but it was always good to lean on the side of caution. Anyways at this point it was about 11pm on Friday and we drove to the ER at Richardson Methodist Health Center. The ER experience was pretty boilerplate- I dropped Asumi and her mother off, parked the car, and then ran inside to check-in. I remember at the ER I had to fill out a form and wrote down something like “I think my wife is in labor”. The ER nurse initially thought I was the one that needed care, but quickly laughed it off.

After about five minutes of waiting in the ER waiting room a nurse came out with a wheelchair and escorted us back into our ER room. Asumi was hooked up with a big sensor around her belly to monitor the baby and had an IV put in her (she hates needles). The OBGYN on-call doctor came in and measured her dilation to be 1cm (supposedly you need to be 8cm before being considered to be in full labor).

Since the contractions were so debilitating (and matched the 511 rule), after about an hour they decided to check us into Labor in Delivery. A nurse came with a wheel chair and and escorted us up to the labor and delivery floor on the fourth floor to our private room.

Bathroom in delivery room (complete with shower)

Delivery room bed

Baby heater

If you plan on having a baby at Methodist Richardson (which I highly recommend) the maternity floor (the fourth floor) is setup into two different partitions: one for delivery and one for postpartum care. The two areas are separated off by a waiting room with elevator access. Supposedly when the baby is born an RFID sensor is placed on his cord. If the baby tries to leave the hospital before he is allowed, the hospital will go on lockdown. After we were in our room in the delivery section we made it very clear that we wanted an epidural ASAP to alleviate the pain Asumi was having.

Within about ten minutes the anesthesiologist came in with the epidural kit. At this point Asumi’s mom had to leave (they only allow one visitor in the room for the epidural) and the doctor proceeded to insert the epidural catheter into Asumi’s back. From what it looked like the numbing shot was the most painful part. I stood in front of Asumi while they did it and she dug her nails into my hand to the point where it broke my skin. They had to try two different entry points before they got a clean line into the spine and were able to administer the medicine.

With the epidural in place the pain went down exponentially and they inserted a Foley catheter in order to help induce the labor and increase dilation. After we were settled in, I dropped her mom back off at our house and went back to spend the night at the hospital with Asumi. The one distinct thing that I remember about that night was that the lady in the room next to us clearly opted out of the epidural. We went to sleep with the excruciating loud screams of labor pains from the room next to us. Supposedly (according to the nurses) this was louder than normal and assured us that since we got the epidural the chances of Asumi having such extreme pain were relatively low. Still, I am sure that the lady freaked out anyone spending the night in the labor section that night.

When morning came around they checked dilation again only to find that it remained at 1cm. It was nothing extremely serious, but they also noted that his heart rate was somewhat fluctuating from high to low. For these reasons they decided the easiest and safest course of action was to have a Cesarean section. From here things happened very quickly- within about thirty minutes they carted off Asumi to the operating room. For C-sections, the spouse is also allowed to join the mother-to-be in the OR. After putting on the OR scrubs/bunny suit I accompanied Asumi to just outside the entrance to surgery.

Before going into the OR

I had to wait alone for about ten minutes while they prepped the surgery room and made sure everything was good to go. During these ten minutes I was coming up with conversation topics in my head to talk with Asumi during the procedure to distract her from the fact that there was major surgery happening.

Met waiting outside while they prep the OR

In the OR there was a big curtain that separated Asumi’s face/head and the more “gory” part of the surgery. I sat down in the chair next to her and we talked about everything that we could to distract away from the surgery. We talked about which Disney Land Lucas would go to first, when our next trip to Hawaii would be, and all of our travel experiences in the past. After about five minutes- at 8:13am on Saturday November 11th, we heard Lucas’s first gasp of air and crying screams that marked his entrance into this world.

Immediately they rushed him over to the heater and started to wipe him off and clean him up. I walked over to the heater (which was located opposite the operating table) to take pictures and say hello to Lucas. He was hooked up to a pulse oximeter and the doctors started listening to his hear to make sure everything was OK. He had a ton of hair when he came out (which is consistent with the rumor that the more heart burn the mom has during pregnancy, the more hair the baby has).

Initially his pulse was very high (close to 200) and his oxygen was a bit low (close to 86), but after about 10 minutes he stabilized. He was screaming a lot (which is normal given the trauma he just went through) but otherwise seemed very healthy. I remember turning around to tell Asumi something and accidentally catching a glimpse of the “other side” of the curtain while it was mid-procedure. I looked away as soon as possible, but it was definitely a sobering experience to see mid-procedure abdominal surgery. Gives me a renewed admiration for surgeons.

After Lucas was stabilized they wrapped him up and I took him over to Asumi’s head so that she could say hello to our new son. After a couple of minutes, I left the OR with Lucas and a nurse to go back to our delivery room. After a normal birth the baby is supposed to do skin-to-skin contact to “bond” with the parent and alleviate some of the shock of childbirth. Since Asumi was in the OR being patched up, it was suggested that Lucas go skin-to-skin with me (so called “kangaroo care”).

Fresh new baby

After about five minutes, Asumi came back in the room and I brought Lucas up to be with mom. We spent the next hour or so in the delivery room before we were carted across the hall to the post-partum care area. The private room here was a bit smaller than the delivery room, but still nice none-the-less.

Swaddled baby

The next few days were a bit of a blur. There are so many different doctors/nurses coming in at all hours of day/night to check up on both Lucas and Mom. After the surgery was over, they said that they found out that there was a “20% abruption” on the placenta and that it was a good call we did a C-section when we did. Recovery from the surgery (for mom) definitely looked hard- for the first couple of nights she was completely bed-ridden.

Methodist Richardson does not actually have a nursery (besides the NICU) and the baby sleeps in room with mom/dad. For the first couple of nights (since Asumi could not get out of bed) I woke up every two hours to change Lucas’s diaper and help him over to Asumi to nurse. I also had to swaddle him. Swaddling a baby (tightly) is harder than it looks. It seems that whenever I thought I did a good job, his hands would pop out of the swaddle within seconds. The nurses made it look really easy, but it definitely too me a few times each time to get it done correctly.

The doctors/nurses gave Asumi pretty powerful painkillers (everything from Tylenol with Codeine to Hydrocodone), however it was still a painful recovery. After about two days Asumi was able to walk (albeit slowly) to the bathroom.

On one of the check ups the day after delivery the doctor noticed that Lucas’s heartbeat sounded stronger on the right side of the chest. To rule out anything serious, they did a chest x-ray of Lucas and found that he had a pneumothorax that was causing the heartbeat to sound muffled on the left side (this also explained why it took so long for his oxygen to get to 100% right after birth). They said it did not look extremely serious and it would likely go away on its own. Because of this, however, they did come into the room every four hours to check his pulse/oxygen level. After a couple of days they redid the chest x-ray and found that everything had resolved itself.

Weight loss was another concern with Lucas. Right at birth he was 7lbs 13 oz. A day after birth (they check right around midnight) he had gone down to 7lbs 3oz. The day after he was 7lbs 1oz and at discharge he was 7lbs flat. Supposedly it is normal for babies to lose up to 10% of their body weight (and even more for a c-section), but since Lucas was breast feeding so well and eating a lot the hospital pediatrician did not seem to think it was an issue. Two days later when we went to the pediatrician for the first time (Dr. Daniel) we found that he was 7lbs 3oz.

There were a handful of other people that came into the room following the birth. The doctor came and took Lucas off to do a circumcision, someone came to test his hearing, and a photographer (from Mom365) came. Someone came in to take care of the application for the birth certificate as well as someone to give Lucas his HepB vaccine. Someone also came in to test his blood sugar to make sure everything was OK there since I had mentioned he looked a bit jittery.  A couple of religious people came in as well to offer prayers (which we politely declined).

The photographer caught Lucas at a bit of a bad time as it was right before a feeding, however they managed to get a couple of good pictures. As expected they price gouged for the pictures ($180 for eight digital copies). I’d recommend not using Mom365 and instead just going  to a cheaper and more reasonable photographer after discharge.

Overpriced professional picture

We stayed at the hospital for a total of three nights (including the ER trip). My Blue Cross Blue Shield TX plan from Texas Instruments would have covered “96 hours after c-section birth”, however after three days Asumi was feeling well enough to get back home. Surprisingly even after the hospital stay and surgery  we did not hit our out-of-pocket limit for the insurance. We had already hit our deductible, but did not reach the cap on our insurance plan. Since we hit our deductible- I made sure that I scheduled various medical appointments for myself (such as removing moles).

Bill for delivery as seen on insurance.

Food at Richardson Methodist- no complaints . Three times a day Asumi could call room service. The food was pretty good and there was also a cafeteria on the second floor of the building that had Starbucks coffee. They gave guests two free meal vouchers (which I used quickly) and would charge $7 a meal (for guests, not patient) after that. Highlights were the pizza, the french toast, and the turkey flatbread. Lowlights were the pasta, the burgers, and the carne verde. Everything was edible though and there was nothing terrible. There was also a “nourishment”  station with free tea/water/coffee for all and free pudding/soft drinks for patients.

The staff/doctors/nurses at Richardson Methodist are top notch. Everyone was super friendly, helpful, and I’d highly recommend going there for delivery. Asumi had a lactation consultant to give her some pointers for breast feeding and the nurses made sure that we were completely comfortable and that all of our needs were handled.

Discharge day was pretty uneventful. The nurse came in with all of the paperwork and explained to us everything that we needed to do the following few days. We already had our pediatrician visit scheduled. They gave us a nice gift bag with a very nice Velcro swaddle. After strapping Lucas into our car seat the nurse escorted us down to the front of the hospital where I drove around. If you could dog Richardson Methodist on anything- it’s the fact that their valet management is completely clueless. The valet had parked cars all in the front of the hospital making it impossible for me to pull up right next to Asumi. I would expect the ability to pick up patients would trump the need for parking. Putting Lucas into the car was pretty easy- we had gone through the NHTSA a month or so earlier to make sure everything was installed correctly.

Lucas strapped in

Lucas has been at home now for about five days and things are going pretty well. He does everything that a newborn normally does- eat, poop, and sleep. Asumi is doing better with her recovery (although it is still hard). Our pediatrician visit with Dr. Daniel went pretty well and Lucas seems to be very healthy. The weather in Richardson was great on Saturday so I actually took him out for 10 minutes in the stroller.

Stroller time!

I’m sure I’ll learn a lot about fatherhood and life in general. Definitely looking forward to the challenge of being a parent and am excited for the good memories to be made!

Sleepy baby

New House

So we bought a house. More specifically-  we put down a deposit to build a house. It was a little bit of a fast experience. Comparatively we probably bought the house quite quickly compared to some people. We have a baby coming in November so we wanted to get the house squared away well before so there would be no stress when baby Lucas comes into this world. I thought I’d go over some of the experiences we had looking for houses and the criteria if why we pass/bought.

Preowned Houses

We didn’t really look at preowned homes too much. The ones we did look at were open houses that were publicly advertised. DFW area is a pretty hot real estate market- so I got the impression that the houses that got to the “open house” stage were either grossly overpriced or had something emphatically wrong with them. I understand that you might have painted the house the way that you liked it when you were living there, but if you plan to sell it I’d suggest a more neutral paint tint than “maharajah purple”.

Ingram Terrace (David Weekly)

These were by far one of the best customer experiences we had when looking at new houses. The sales rep was super helpful and actually made a legitimate effort to show us around the houses.  The houses were beautiful and the location was ideal (Plano ISD). The main problem? The back yard was at max about two feet away from the neighbor. Same with the side yard. I swear I could’ve knocked on my neighbors’ windows from my own window. If they had made two less houses and given people an actual yard we probably would’ve gone here.  Land is a premium though and I guess a nice yard is not a big careabout for a lot of people.

Hudson Heights (Village Builders)

We were too late here- there were only a few available houses. The guy seemed a bit apathetic and uncaring. I guess he realized that the community was all but sold out and that he did not have a huge chance for a commission.

University Place (Ashton Woods)

Super nice houses, but again no yard. We actually had to hike up to McKinney to see a model house as University Place was still in Phase I. The “garden” homes were a bit cozy and at the top end of our budget. The model homes were gorgeous, but we got the impression that they probably had at least $60k worth of upgrades in them. On top of that the houses had literally (I say that knowing what literally means) a two foot by two foot patch of grass in the back that was supposed to be the “yard”. This is Texas- not Tokyo. I expect a yard.

Malibu Heights (Megatel)

Houses were beautiful but they were at the top of our budget. On top of that the sales lady was a bit discontent. She seemed to not really care and didn’t really make much of an effort to try to help us.

Creekside Estates (KHOV)

We ended up buying here. The sales rep was super helpful, the homes were modest yet luxurious, and we actually got a yard. On top of that there was a corner lot available- so our yard is actually going to be a good yard that Lucas can play in. Is it Plano ISD? No- but from what I hear Plano ISD is super competitive. You want your kid to actually experience the fun and joy of being a kid without having to endure the monumental stress of trying to place in the top 10% to get into a name brand college. Wylie ISD is ranked highly and besides- when he gets to high school who knows if I even will still be living there.

Yu Darvish to Texas Rangers

Yu Darvish, one of Japan’s best pitchers is coming to Dallas to play for The Texas Rangers. I have always been a casual fan of baseball. I love going to the games, however it gets kind of hard for me to follow every game. Coming from Houston, where I had to endure through a disastrous Astro’s season, maybe having a team with a decent record will help me stay in the game. I was watching the heartbreaking loss in The World Series last season for the Rangers. That’s why the news of getting a new decent pitcher is very welcome news.

I did watch the press conference for when Yu Darvish came to Texas. Considering Yu’s contract is about 60 million dollars, I suppose he would be fine with living just about anywhere. I thought the parts where they ask him about Texas BBQ/Steak were kind of funny.

Tim’s Exercise Routine

Well it is another year and another time for me to make the resolution to not be so fat. During college I used to do a regular exercise routine with a friend. He made up the routine but I just followed along. I can’t take too muc

Monday – Cardio (10 minute warm-up, 30 minute zone), Abs (Three sets of 12 situps, crunches alternating, six sets overall)

Tuesday – 10 minute cardio warmup, Arm weight training. Bench presses and machine workout

Wednesday – Cardio (10 minute warm-up, 30 minute zone), Abs (Three sets of 12 situps, crunches alternating, six sets overall)

Thursday – 10 minute cardio warmup, Legs weight training. Squats, machine workout

Friday – Cardio (10 minute warm-up, 30 minute zone), Abs (Three sets of 12 situps, crunches alternating, six sets overall)

Saturday – 10 minute cardio warmup, Back and shoulder weight training.

Sunday – Break

Of course I reserve the right to switch around the week depending on the schedule. Let’s see how long I can keep this workout going. This combined with a sane diet should help me lose weight.

New Hobbies

The new year is a time to pick up new hobbies and start fresh. This past year was really a mixed roller coaster. I switched from a company where I wasn’t being treated well to a company that I really enjoy working for. In the process I moved from Houston to Dallas. I intend to write a little bit more about the parallels between Houston and Dallas later, but I thought I would start out the new year by getting into a few new hobbies.

Photography

Depending on how the profit sharing bonus turns out at work, I was considering buying a digital SLR camera. More specifically, I was thinking of picking up a Canon EOS Rebel T3i.  Obviously with a $600 price tag this is a bit of a commitment.  I would most likely follow up on it with a non-credit class or read a tutorial online in completeness. As a side effect, getting into photography would force me out of the house more. There are only so many pictures that I can take of my apartment or cat. I would most likely go to state parks or even take an excursion to parks in California or Colorado. My parents live in Tucson Arizona which has some amazing scenery. It is also not too far away from The Grand Canyon where I could take some really nice pictures.

Hobbyist Programming

I’ve been always wanting to get into programming in my spare time. Sometimes it is a little hard to muster up the will power after I program all day at work. I have been reading more and more into Python and by extension Django. I have a background in Java so it is very interesting learning a more “script” oriented language like Python. The more and more I work with Python the more I am seeing its advantages over Java. On the one hand, Java is a lot more enterprise friendly. It has Oracle behind it, has an established code base, and compares a lot to languages like C/C++. Python on the other hand seems to have more of a hobbyist following.  One thing that is quite amazing about Python compared to Java is how easy it is to interact with SQL databases. There is no pain with mucking around with XML files like in Hibernate; Django simply takes care of all that for you. I will most likely write a post about Python vs. Java after I get into it more.

Foreign Language

I still intend to keep up my hobby of learning foreign languages. I have come too far with Japanese at this point to simply quit learning. A few times a month I will meet with various Japanese speaking friends and try to keep my speaking skills sharp. Needless to say they have deteriorated a little bit compared to when I was in Japan or at Texas Tech and taking regular classes. I have started to learn Chinese as well. Career-wise, I think this is one of the most useful languages to know. Tech companies are investing tons of resources into China and having the language would be a good weapon to have in my armory.


Other Christmas Gifts

Apart from the Christmas gifts that I bought with Christmas money, I also received quite of a few traditional wrapped gifts from my mom.

Fancy Mint Chocolates – These were gone within 15 minutes of opening.

Kitchen Towels/Pot Holder – You can never have enough of these.

Kitten Calendar – I always get a calendar from my parents every year. My parents, like me, like cats.

Ralph Lauren Rugby ShirtThese shirts are pricey, but they are worth it. I really do like Ralph Lauren quality shirts and tend to make them last a while

Starbucks Coffee MugsI got one of these from my parents and one from my boss’s family. I need to get around to buying a coffee maker so I can start putting something other than milk/juice in these.

I also got nice cards from a bunch of friends. I have a bunch of friends overseas so it is always interesting to see the type of cards that I get.

Christmas Gifts

Every Christmas I will get some money from my parents and relatives that I like to spend to get myself something nice. When I was younger Christmas and birthdays were the only time that I would officially get disposable income to spend on myself. Since I have a big boy job now this has changed quite a bit, however I still like to buy myself gifts during the holidays.This year I did all of my shopping at Microcenter.

The first thing I bought was a 23″ ASUS LED-LCD monitor. I had been making do with the 20″ Acer that I had ever since junior year of college, but I finally convinced myself to upgrade to a bigger size. This set me back about $200. I actually took in my old 20″ Acer to work so I could have  a dual monitor setup. It’s funny how much dual monitors are necessities for a software engineer.

Dual Monitors at Work

The next thing I bought were computer speakers. This was somewhat of an impulse buy. I didn’t do much research on the different type of speakers. I ended up buying a pair of 2.1 Genius PC speakers for about $60 at Microcenter. Could I have spent $200 to get a pair of speakers that go loud enough to deafen my cat? Yes. Do I need them? No. I honestly had just used headphones up until this point. In college, I had always been self conscious of playing music too loud and disturbing roommates. Living alone has its advantages.

New Monitor and Speakers

January TV Preview

I watch a good deal of TV. I have never been much of a power reader and TV is a nice way for me to kick back and relax without having to worry about the time. I thought I would spend a little time ironing out the shows I plan to watch on a regular basis.

Spartacus: Vengeance
This is like the Caligula of TV series. It airs on a premium channel (Starz) so they can make the series without holding anything back. There is tons of violence, blood, sex, and plot twists in the way. The main actor that stared as Spartacus in the first two seasons passed away due to cancer. It will be interesting to see how the replacement does.

 

Californication
This series is really one of my guilty pleasures. I hope this new season is good. The wife/girlfriend and daughter were by far the most annoying characters in the previous seasons. The end of the last season suggested that they will be out of the picture. If this is the case I look forward to seeing Hank and Charlie’s exploits.

 

House
There are some series (such as Heroes) that I think should end after a few seasons for the sake of the story. House isn’t one of them. House is like the Rambo movies; as long as new ones are still being made I will watch them.  I hope this new season has more Wilson/House antics.

Working Schedules – Strict vs. Relaxed

Now that I have been working at Texas Instruments about four months  I can start to draw some accurate comparisons towards my former employer, Texas Memory Systems.  One of the biggest differences I have noticed is the difference in working schedule policy (the times you are required to be in the office, work, etc).

First let me start with my previous employer, Texas Memory Systems. They are considerably smaller than Texas Instruments (the entire company consists of 100ish employees).  TMS was extremely strict with what times that you had to come in and be at the office. Everyone was allowed to choose their own schedule from a set of predefined time sets.  Since I am more productive in the morning, I chose a 7:30am – 4:00pm “shift” with a 30 minute lunch. The management apparently monitored employees’ working habits like hawks and would take disciplinary actions if there were any violations. Furthermore, what made this system stressful was the existence of many computer monitors mounted throughout the office with a list of everyone who has clocked in for the day and the times they had clocked in and out. This was particularly stressful for me in that I was in the minority of people that liked to come in early and leave early. Whenever I clocked out, I would get dirty looks from some people like I was slacking off (when in reality I had come in two hours before them). On top of that, from time to time there were executive “mandates” that required employees to work a certain number of hours a week (I remember once where employees were required to work minimum 48 hours a week). I hold the strong belief that more working hours by no means equals more productivity. The first couple of 48 hour weeks might result in a disproportionate increase in productivity, but  this effect quickly diminishes.

Pros Cons
A good way to weed out slacking employees that might only work 25 hours a week otherwise Inflexible for employees with kids/families that may have to work erratic schedules
No hunting around for someone when they are not actually in the office Ruins one of the major benefits of being a salaried employee (feels like you work at McDonald’s)
Fosters a more “routine” working environment Inflexible for those times where you might have to stay at home to wait for maintenance man, delivery, etc.
If you come in early, you still feel guilty clocking out early even though you will work the same amount of time than those that came in late

My current employer, Texas Instruments (at least the group that I am in) is a lot more relaxed with working schedules. It is typically what you would expect out of the standard salaried engineering position. Everyone is expected to work at least forty hours a week.  There is no rule about when you have to be in the office vs. working from home, nor is there any system to track the exact number of hours that one employee works every week. Pretty much it boils down to, “get your work done”. If you are doing that then you will have no problems working at least forty hours a week.

Pros Cons
Places more trust in the employees and feels like a real salaried engineering position Potential for abuse by less trustworthy employees
Complete flexibility. Ability to work from home when needed without taking sick/vacation Makes it hard to meet with people that frequently work from home
No feeling guilty about coming in early and leaving work early Can lead to a more irregular working regiment where you work at odd hours during the night
Your working schedule is not plastered up on the walls publically for everyone to gawk at

In the end I would say that I prefer TI’s system more. If management hires quality employees that they can trust then there is no need to worry about abuse. To me, if there are people that abuse the system, then they shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. In the long run I think that these people go away as the quality of their work is usually impacted by how little they work.

Delfrisco’s Grille

On Monday I went to a new steakhouse in town called Delfrisco’s Grille with some of my Japanese-savvy friends. Let’s face it; opening up a steakhouse in Texas is tough. Texans love their steaks and they know how to cook them.

Was the food good? Yes. Was the quality/price on par with places like Pappa’s Steakhouse? Sure. Would I rather go to Central Market, buy a huge steak and six-pack of St. Arnold’s, and cook the steak on a grill in my apartment? Definitely. Don’t get me wrong; it was really nice to go out and talk with everyone. I did realize that my Japanese speaking ability has somewhat been lagging recently, however I can’t really justify going out and spending $40+ per head on a meal on a regular basis. Who knows, maybe I am still in poor college student mode.

Afterwards we went to a pretty nice and low-key bar called Breadwinners to catch the tail end of the Fiesta Bowl. It was a nice night to cap off a very relaxing vacation.


Delfrisco's Grille

 

Migration to WordPress

So after a long and good run on Blogger I have decided to migrate my blog to WordPress. I am starting to get into web development and have really made an effort to maintain my local slice of web space that I rent out from the shared host.

I have nothing bad to say about Blogger. For the period of time I used Blogger it was awesome. When I lived in Japan I simply wanted something to throw up travel experiences  without having to worry about any web administration issues. Now that I am a working man I can afford a steady web host and don’t mind maintaining.

WordPress was easy to install and the interface really seems clean. You might notice that I am using the default WordPress theme. This will not change. I really like this theme and refuse to change it “just because it looks like all the others”.

I think blogging is a good way to relieve stress. I will put it as one of my New Year’s Resolutions to blog more and get my mind out there. Until next time!

The Cost of Air Travel

So I recently took a trip to The UK. I will post an update later, but thought I would hash out something on my mind in the meantime.

I caught a terrible cold on my way back. I’m glad that it was only on the way back. It would have been tragic to go all over UK with a bad cough. Is it just me or is it a requirement that you get sick whenever you fly by air? Even if one person is sick on the plane, the air is constantly being recirculated and the chances of that one person infecting many others is high. Maybe next time before I fly I should dope up on Vitamin C just in case.

I suppose I shouldn’t complaint too much. A hundred years ago I’m sure people would love to jump into a metal tube, wait 10 hours, and be across the country. Some people probably didn’t even survive the journey way back when.

Merkur Safety Blade Shaving

So a month or so ago I decided I was fed up with all of the Gillette multiblade razors that tore up my skin whenever I shaved. I was also tired of dropping an arm and a leg to buy a bunch of razor head replacements that probably cost 15 cents to make. After weight my options (single blade, electric, safety razor), I decided to buy a single bladed Merkur Model 180 razor. It had great reviews and the replacement blades were a reasonable price (30 blades, around three shaves each for $13).


I decided to go all out and buy some shaving soap, a novelty stand, and a shaving brush.


After waiting a couple of days for shipping (thank you Amazon Prime!) my package came in the male. I had purposely timed my shaving schedule to make it so that I could shave right when I got the new razor. My facial hair doesn’t grow that quickly and I normally just shave once every few days (less if I am feeling lazy). From all the reviews I read online, I was expecting to cut myself pretty severely the first few times I shaved. To my surprise, this wasn’t the case. There were a few minor knicks and cuts, but nothing that produced an unusual amount of blood. My shave was baby skin close and the soap left my skin feeling very soft. Definitely a learning curve, but not bad at all!

For all those people that are fed up with paying ridiculous prices for shaver replacements, I highly recommend buying a single blade safety razor. It’s not quite as hardcore as a straight edge, and provides a nice middle ground for us normal people. It does take a while to get used to (especially if you always used a Mach 3 to shave like me), but you get an awesome shave once you master it.

Linux Development

I have always considered myself a Windows guy. It is easy to use, powerful when you need it to be, and generally reliable. Yes, that’s right, I said Windows is generally reliable. I think it gets a bad reputation for being the popular/most commonly used OS. This means that the widely uneducated general public’s stupidy transfers over to people conceptions of Windows. Some people say that it is easy to get viruses on Windows.

Well yeah, Windows is unreliable if you you’re stupid enough to open files like “ParisHilton.jpg.exe”, but saying this is the equivalent of saying, “Linux is unreliable because I typed “sudo rm -rf / ” and now nothing works!” I never run virus protection and I have never got a virus. Learn how to use a computer.

I digress. I am not here to argue the merits of Linux over Windows… that’s for another post. At work, we primarily use Linux for development. I say that, but I still use Eclipse. Eclipse is great because it is platform independent, powerful, extendable, and easy to setup/use. You don’t have to learn 1000 different key combinations like VI/EMacs. People argue that Eclipse uses Java and is therefore a resource hog. To this I say, who cares? In a world where quad core computers with 4GB of memory are standard, is that extra 256MB of memory that Eclipse is using going to kill you? Do you really need to be programming when you are encoding a video, have five instances of Photoshop open, and are pegging your CPU with decryption algorithms?

That’s another thing I don’t really understand. Why use VI/EMacs? I can understand if you are in a shell and you need to quickly edit/modify a file, but there are people that use VI/EMacs for largescale/multi-stage projects. Not only is this programming practice archaic, it severely limits a programmer’s abilities. Ever try to debug with a command line debugger? It’s not fun. SVN interaction? Better learn a ton of unnecessary SVN commands. Context complete and mind-reading mode? Good luck on setting that up.

Now some of you might think I am a hypocrite. I said Windows (and also Linux) is powerful if you know how to use it in the beginning of my post. “But Tim, VI and EMacs are the same way, they are powerful if you know how to use them!” True, but the following statement still holds. In Eclipse, you can do everything that you can do in EMacs/VI, but it isn’t the other way around. In the end, I don’t really care what people use to program; to each their own. People tend to be overzealous about this sort of thing.

Cell Phones・ 携帯

前の日記はすごく良好な反応があったので、これから英語と日本語で書くことにしました。質問があれば、是非聞いてね。
一年間日本に住んでいましたから、日本の携帯電話を持っていました。でも日本の携帯とアメリカの携帯はすごく違います。まず、外国人にとって日本の携帯はすごく高いです。AU/KDDIと一年間の契約を結んで、月額は9000円 (90ドル)ぐらいでした。解約料は3万円ぐらいでした。結局一年間の契約は10万円くらいでした。アメリカで、月額は40ドルぐらいです。そして解約料は100ドルぐらいです。
でも日本で携帯は必需品です。アメリカでは電話の方が多いけど、日本ではメールを送るほうが多いです。彼女がいた時、5分に一回にメールを送りました。
それに、日本のエモーティコンはすごく面白いと思います!日本のエモーティコンはすごく可愛くて複雑ですが、アメリカのは簡単です。たまに意味がわかりませんでした。
m(_ _) m – おじぎ
(^▽^) – 嬉しい
♪ – 上機嫌
D: しかめ面
🙂 ほほ笑み
😉 まばたき
携帯のハードウェアにおいては日本の方が勝ります。私の日本の携帯は前文ができました:インターネットとかスイカとかテレビのリモコンとか赤外線があるんです。私のアメリカ携帯はすごく簡単です。そして機能が強力ではありません。
English:
Since I got such a positive response from my last English post, I have decided to write my diary in English and Japanese from now on. If anybody ever has a question, please feel free to message me.
Since I lived in Japan for a year I owned a Japanese cell phone. Japanese cell phones are a lot different than American cell phones. First off, especially for foreigners, Japanese cell phones are a lot more expensive. I had a one year contract with AU/KDDI and was paying about 9000yen ($90) a month. When I canceled, I had to pay about 30,000yen ($300). I must have spend about 100,000yen ($1000) for about a year of service. In the USA, an individual contract will cost about $40 a month with a $100 cancellation fee.
Although in Japan, owning a cell phone was almost essential. In America we tend to make more phone calls, however whenever I lived in Japan I found myself sending mails a lot more. Especially when I was dating a girl, I would receive a text once every five minutes it seems.
Another thing that I find interesting are the emoticons that people use. In Japan, the emoticons were really cute and elaborate. However, in America our emoticons are very simple. Sometimes I didn’t even understand the meaning.
m(_ _) m – Bowing
(^▽^) – Happy
♪ – Good Mood
D: Frowning
🙂 Smiley Face
😉 Winking
As far as the actual cell phone, I would have to say Japan wins. My cell phone in Japan did everything… internet, Suica, TV Remote, IR transfer. My American phone is really simplistic and does not have any of the features my Japanese cell phone did.

Sabino Canyon

It is Winter Break and I am staying at my parents’ house in Tucson for one week. Tucson is surrounded by mountains and desert and tends to be a very good temperature all-year round. I went with my mom and dad to Sabino Canyon. It is very scenic and there are tons of little hiking trails that go all throughout the desert.
Me in front of the desert
There are many wild cats around and also many signs warning about the danger.
Since it is the desert, there are many huge cactus.
With my mom in front of a mountain landscape

Picture of the landscape with the moon in the background
There are many other nice trails in Tucson that I want to go on. I go back to Lubbock in a few days so hopefully I will be able to see a little bit more.

Hibachi and Cricket’s

The other day I went out with Chiaki, Mayo, Yuki, Stephanie, and Larry to Yamagata’s Japanese Steak House. In America, by far the most popular sort of Japanese restaurant is teppanyaki. This is funny as it is not popular at all in Japan and is actually pretty rare. My language exchange, Kumiko, actually works at this restaurant so we were treated to free karage and free California rolls. It was pretty nice in the sense that it was bring your own beer. We bought a bunch of beer at the supermarket and then brought it to the restaurant. I also got a very generous portion of Hibachi Scallops.


Afterwards we went to Cricket’s (a local bar) and had a few pitchers of beer.


Chiaki, Yuki, and Mayo are returning to Japan on Saturday so it is likely to get a lot more quiet in a bit. Today was the last day of classes and now all I have left is to study for finals.

End of the Year Party

On Saturday we had the annual end of the year party (忘年会) for my Japanese class. Living for a year in Japan and working at a company at the year I knew all about how parties should be. To be perfectly honest this party was a little disappointing.

The first problem is where the party took place… Hayashi Japanese Grill. When I was going through the earlier classes (before I went to Japan) we held the party at a place called Yamagata. It was by far more authentic. The owners are Japanese and they always made a special menu just for the sake of our party. It was a very relaxed atmosphere and we usually go the entire restaurant to ourselves. Hayashi, however, is a hibachi type restaurant (鉄板焼き). Speaking from experience, I can say that despite how popular this type of restaurant is in the USA, it is actually quite rare in Japan. It would be appropriate to say that it is “Americanized” Japanese food.

Location aside, the price paid was also pretty steep. $14 got us two sushi rolls, a small bowl of rice and miso soup, a meager portion of hibachi, and also a small bowl of edamame. Novelty aside, I am sure if I went to Yamagata I could get all of this for around $5. Thank god Hayashi had a bar though.


That leads me to my next gripe… there was no alcohol. Anyone that has been to Japan (and isn’t a complete social recluse), will tell you that alcohol is a very important part of the culture. An end of the year party or company party without some form of alcohol is unheard of. Now I know I am complaining about impossible stuff here. This is America and it was a party of mainly college students. Of course the instructors can’t officially endorse drinking due to the fact that we live in a backwards country where the drinking age is absurdly high. Do you know what everyone did though that was of legal age? They started a tab at the bar. Before the party I went to my friend’s house with a few of the other Japanese students and we played drinking games.


To demonstrate how “authentic” Hayashi was, we spoke Chinese to the chefs. Still it was a nice show though.

I have enough to gripe about with how the Japanese program is run at Texas Tech to warrant another blog post so I won’t go into that here. All of the setbacks aside, I did enjoy talking with the Japanese people at the party. Kumiko, my language exchange, came and we talked quite a bit.


Like I said at this point I am nitpicking. It was really fun and I think that the instructors made the most of the situation. Part of the reason was that my Japanese had far surpassed 95% of the people in the Japanese program. Whenever the instructors spoke they always used dumbed down textbook Japanese. I did have a few good conversations with the other Japanese people though.

Google Photos

Friday Night in Lubbock

Last Friday I went with a bunch of friends to eat some Italian food, got to Main Event, and then go out to a bar to finish off the night. It was really fun and since I had been busy with school this semester. This was a really nice chance to just go chill out and have fun. Next week we get a week off for Thanksgiving, so I really didn’t have too much homework to worry about.

First we went to Johnny Carinos, a popular Italian restaurant in Lubbock. There I got a nice Italian draft beer and also some lobster ravioli. Mayo and Yuki got some nice looking pasta and also a nice bottle of wine. The food was really good and it was nice to socialize with everyone. One of my old buddies from Electrical Engineering came too. When I went to Japan he had graduated so I hadn’t seen much him.


Next we went to Main Event with everyone. At Main Event they have a big arcade, bowling alley, lunar golf, and also a laser tag arena. In Japan they don’t have laser tag so I think this was a really interesting experience for the Japanese students.

In laser tag, you wear a laser pack and also carry around a laser gun. The point of the game is to defend the beacons at your base while at the same time attacking the enemy base and scoring points by shooting their beacon. Usually there are a bunch of defenders and attackers. The arena is dark with strobe lights everywhere. There is techno music playing to enchance the mood too. You have a certain level of health and ammo also. If you run out of either ammo or health, you must return to the energizer on your base and it is replenished. Pretty much it is the closest thing to a first person shooter outside of the army.

It was really fun! My team (the green team) completely annihilated the other team. I was an attacker and was the second highest scorer on the entire team (35000 points). My engineering friend also scored high with 45000 points. Chiaki scored an incredible 310 points (it was her first time, so it is OK). Yuki and Mayo also scored quite a bit.


We went bowling afterward (I did terrible). It was a really good night and I had a lot of fun. We also went to the arcade afterward and I won a stuffed bear. I gave it to Chiaki.


Afterward we went to Bash’s (a local bar) and took advantage of the drink specials. It was nice just to sit down and socialize with everyone with cheap drinks.



The night was very fun and a nice break from school. I will have to do stuff like this more often.

Google Photos

Cajun Food

Today I went out with a few Japanese students over here to eat some Cajun food at Jazz Kitchen. A few friends wanted to take the Japanese students out to Jazz because Cajun food is very unique and not really found anywhere outside of America. I love Cajun food. I love anything spicy so naturally I like Cajun food.

They had a really good selection of microbrew beers. I ordered a nice Turbodog, while Yuki and Ben ordered a Big Easy.

Chiaki says that she likes shrimp. She is so adorable!


I ordered a pound of crawfish. They were so delicious! Since you can’t get crawfish in Japan I think that the Japanese found them fun.


It was freezing cold outside when we took this picture as can be seen by Yuki’s smug face.


It was very fun and everyone had a blast. This is one of the niche type of foods that I missed a lot while I was living in Japan. The beer that I ordered was really cheap also. A pint of Coors Lite only cost me $2.00! In Japan that would have been at least $6.00. I hope that I will be able to go out with the Japanese students more before they leave.

Google Pics

RISC Emulator

One of the more interesting classes that I am taking this semester is a microprocessor architecture class. The assignment that I have this week is to program an emulator in verilog that simulates the structure of a pipelined RISC CPU. It is a pretty challenging assignment, however I think it is actually very interesting.


Just looking at the diagram and translating it into code seems really interesting to me. Making sure all of the opcodes are accounted for and making sure all of the different components of the CPU are working seems cool. Obviously this is a trivial example, but maybe when I get more time I will look into making an emulator that takes the CPU of say an Atari 2600 or an NES. In any case it would test all of my skills as a Computer Engineer. Going deep down into the hardware does not only require software skills, but also an active understanding of how all the hardware communicates with each other.

That aside, this semester is completely nuts. I am always busy it seems and never really have time to update anything. I will try to keep this updated as much as I can though.

Back in Arizona (Finally)

Hello everyone,

Sorry that I have been a little late updating my blog. I have now concluded my internship at Asahi Kasei and am back sitting at my parents house in Arizona.

The flight back was incredibly tiring. I woke up in Atsugi at my apartment at around 8am. I had to finish up some cleaning before going to the station to run a few errands. First I had to go to the bank to cash in all of the loose change that had been accumulating in my room.

I took my bike to the station and started walking to the bank with my Tupperware full of loose change that I had been accumulating over the year. Unfortunately it started pouring monsoon rains on my way to the bank so I had to sprint. I went to the third floor and went to the machine that changed all of your loose change into a bank deposit. I was really caught off guard here… I had about 8000 yen in loose change! That’s crazy… it really didn’t look like that much at all! I definitely recommend anyone in Japan with a “loose change” bowl to go to the bank and cash in.

Next I had to cancel my cell phone. Somehow the rain started to pick up even more on my way to the AU KDDI store and to make matters worse I forgot my umbrella. I slipped and fell on my ass in front of a bunch of school girls on the way. It was complete fail. Anyways after talking to the cell phone clerk, waiting 30 minutes, and paying about 30,000 yen, my cell phone was canceled. I grabbed some McDonalds take-out and went to my room by cab (my bike was still at the station so by now it is probably in the impound lot).

I had about an hour before I had to head to the station to catch my bus to Narita airport. I did some final cleaning and finished some packing. I then realized a fatal flaw in my plan… I had no cell phone to call a cab with. I had already packed my laptop it the depths on my luggage so I couldn’t use Skype. I started panicking and then decided to go outside to try to find a payphone. After running around the block (or swimming through the 100% humidity air) I was able to find a payphone at the convenient store. I called a cab and then sprinted back to my apartment. At this point I felt sweaty, hot, and like death.

After taking the cab to the station and then catching a two hour bus I was at the airport. I had two HUGE bags that I needed to shuttle around. After mixing up the terminals, catching the bust to the right terminal I was ready to check in. Since I had two bags and two carry-ons I had to do something very unfortunate… I had to throw away my Mt. Fuji stick. It was either that or pay $150 for another checked bag. I was already over my limit for spending and had to conserve money so regrettably I had to throw it away. I will always remember (by pictures and memories) that I climbed Mt. Fuji so in the end it is ok… still kind of a bummer though.

Going through security I had another problem. For some reason in the midst of my packing I had packed a small bottle of sake in one of my carry-ons. Why I did this is beyond me, but security would not allow it. It was a decent bottle of sake so I decided to step outside of the airport and have at least a taste of it (no open container laws in Japan). It was good although I would have liked to savor it a little more.

Finally after getting through security and boarding my flight I was on my way back to America. It was really saddening in a way. I really grew to like Japan so getting on the plane was a little emotional. The flight itself was pretty uneventful. They showed god awful movies on the entertainment but all in all the flight was just long as hell.

I arrived in San Francisco and had to recheck my baggage. It turns out I missed my connection from San Francisco to Austin so I had to fly to Denver (2 hours), live through a 4 hour layover, and then fly to Austin (2 hours). In the end I got to Austin at 11pm (CST) on Friday. My parents had made a reservation at the airport hotel so I was able to have a decent bed to stay in (I had been away for a little over 35 hours). After ordering a nice American pizza I passed out.

The flight the next day to Tucson (where my parents live) was also uneventful. I flew to Dallas and then to Tucson. My parents picked me up at the airport and then we went out to eat at Applebees. I was reminded about how cheap beer was in America. A tall glass of beer (about 1.4 pints) was only $3.50 (about 350 yen). This was awesome considering in Japan a pint was about $10 (1000 yen).

It feels weird to be back in America. I am experiencing a little bit of reverse culture shock. Whenever I throw away a can or bottle I feel taboo placing it in the trash can with everything else. I feel the service here is about 10 folds worse than Japan (although airport service isn’t really a good benchmark). I do enjoy being able to speak English to everyone around and actually being able to read signs. My parents’ house is beautiful and I am enjoying the nice landscape of mountains and the nice refreshing pool.

To be truthful the trip to Japan not only changed me as a person, but also had an immense effect on my career goals. I think at this point it is a certain fact that I will return to Japan as a worker. I am a little anxious to get back to school and finish my degree so I can return to the land that treated me so well. I will still continue to study Japanese in college (taking classes) and also keep in touch with all of the friends that I met over the year. I will always look back at the experience with warm and fond memories. It was the first time I truly went abroad and I was given a taste of the international community; a taste that I will undoubtedly experience again.

I still have a few stories to write about my travels right before leaving Japan. Since I have essentially nothing to do for a week before school starts I will take my time with that. I will also have to keep updating MIXI in Japanese to stay sharp. It will be nice to be able to buy shoes in my size and also extra tall clothes. For now enjoy these pictures that I took of my parents house:




I will write more of my thoughts later as I become more bored 🙂