Friday, April 30, 2010

Birthday Care Package. Or, how a box of random food items rose up and saved the day.

I'd love to tell a long tale of hardship, woad, and ruin about how I came into these wonderful treasures from the west. But the truth is everything worked out pretty well and I got them in the mail with minimal hardship. All thanks to the good folks at UPS, their Japanese workhorse Kuroneko (Black Cat) and a random clerk at a conbini who helped me read the kanji on the attempted delivery notice left on my door. Oh right, almost forgot. I suppose some thanks should go out to the wonderful people who sent me this stuff, that being my brother, dad and grandparents. Thanks guys!

I shall begin with the pièce de résistance:

Blake's yummy yummy sandwich.

Those who have lived with me, or maybe seen me shove one of these in my mouth during a lecture, will be familiar with Blake's (patent pending) yummy yummy oh-so-good sandwich. On either side we've got a slice of French pain de campagne, straight from my bakery down the road. A healthy lather of butter coats these (slightly) toasted pieces of bread, of course. Then onto one slice Russian peppered sweet mustard, and onto the other cream cheese (preferably herb and garlic, but none of that stuff here, sad story). For vegetables, a handful of fresh greens, including baby spinach, lettuce and arugula is necessary, along with some sun-dried tomatoes, to taste and for texture. Meat of course is a good helping of proscuitto, but this can be substituted freely with a variety of meats, and I have lotsa raw materials here to play with, as you'll soon see. Cheese is none other than Jalapeno pepper Monterey Jack. mmmmmmm. Last time I made one of these was for Mickey's dad, I think. When he was helping Mickey move out after exams. Feels like a lot longer than 5 months ago.

Now that thats over:

The box. 20lbs of mmm, mmm, good.

I'm not sure why I felt it necessary to document the unboxing, but here you go anyway.

Yay, a card! I love getting cards. Lotsa bubble wrap to protect the sensitive stuff within.

This stuff is so great. I remember when it first came out, I always got it mixed up with Cinnamon Toast Crunch. They're both good of course.

Maple syrup to make sure I stay Canadian (a teaspoon a day keeps the otaku away), (ALL NATURAL!) Oreo-wannabes, SKOR Fudge. mmmm.

Some sandwich related accoutrements. Peppered sweet stone ground Russian mustard, Sundried tomatoes, Jalapeno-enforced cheese, and some Asiago, vacuum packed for the trip over.

Soooo much cured pig meat. My favourite. We've got proscuitto x 3, just in case I get sick of a certain kind. And some Spanish and French stuff just to keep things interesting. Sealed for freshness.

Another western convenience Japan has yet to fully embrace: spreads. Or at least spreads in plentiful supply. Everything should come in 1kg amounts.

And look whats at the bottom! A shirt to keep up my "I'm not a slacking hoodlum" persona at work!

Of course right after work I put a hoodie right over that nice pretty button up shirt, and I'm instantly stylish and vogue-y. In other news, turns out Japanese clothes fit me! Finding stuff that I'm not swimming in, but also has arm length satisfactory for my 6 and a half foot wingspan is tough. Turns out I'm an XL in Japan. Good to know.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Just bought an electric violin

I mentioned my intentions a while back, and have been surreptitiously checking the used electric violin section of eBay for good deals. I found that all the violins were either like $50-100, and obviously pieces of shit made in China, or like $400+ (and in many cases $1500+) and therefore wayyy to expensive for me. I ended up on a happy medium, buying one for about $200, which is Korean-made (Korean=Quality, my friends. Believe you me), with a built-in preamp, and looks pretty sweet to boot.

Turns out the guy that I bought it from was an English teacher a stone's throw away from here near Mt. Fuji (well, several stone's throws, I guess. About 40 klicks.) and just returned to the US 3 weeks ago. So now I have to pay like $70 shipping. Lame. Anyway, I always feel reassured that I'm not getting swindled when I deal with a real life person, and one who is smart enough to append a spam-flag to the end of the Gmail email address he uses for eBay registration. Good on you, Joshua.

I think I'm going to have to buy new strings for it, as apparently all e-violins come with sucky strings by default, but I've been to a good musical instruments store in a mall nearby, so that shouldn't be too much of a problem. I've only replaced violin strings a couple times though, so hopefully its not too different/difficult with this one.

I assume that I can get violin sheet music somewhere on the internet, else I'm going to have to resort to playing the few songs that the Suzuki-method managed to permanently instill in my brain like 10 years ago (Witch's Dance, Devil's Dream, Mississippi Reel, Gavotte in G-minor, Star Wars theme, etc). But either way, I'm pretty excited about getting it, as it'll be fantastic to have something constructive to do to while away the hours of confinement in this room when I'm too exhausted from work and/or generally too complacent to go out and do stuff.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Yah I'm yelling. More news as it develops. Its like 9-11 all over again.

A single tear is making its way down my cheek. I wish it had put out this fire when it was naught but a spark.

Now burns a noble diner. Goodnight, Hungry Mel.
And flights of (kinda old and/or meh but maybe hot at one point or in favourable lighting conditions) waitresses sing thee to thy rest.

Nothing left but a smoking ruin.

Damage is estimated to be at least in the millions of dollars. (IF NOT BILLIONS IN FUTURE SALES, AMIRITE!?)

PANDEMONIUM! I think thats Russell's car. HE DID THIS.

Too little too late.

The aftermath.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An Apology to Socrates

I was watching House M.D. yesterday, and one of the interim solutions to the mysterious ailments experienced by the patient of the week (who was a swords and sorcerers playacting fanatic) was Hemlock poisoning. Sure, everyone knows about Hemlock – it was the sentence for one of the most famous trials of all time – but when House storms out of the apothecary shop with his brilliant Hemlock deduction, his team immediately responds with “Okay, I’ll check for piperidine alkaloids”.

“Piperidine alkaloids!” I exclaim, “I have some of those, and the MSDS didn’t mention anything about notorious neurotoxicity causing death of premodern philosophers! To Wikipedia, batman!”

So hemlock leaves (and roots) are chock full of a bunch of different piperidine alkaloids which are more or less all poisonous, their neurotoxicity stemming from being competitive agonists to the active site of certain nicotinic receptors, causing muscular paralysis, preventing breathing, and resulting in eventual death. Other molecules which do the same thing (to lesser and greater degrees, respectively) are nicotine and cobra poison.

For those interested in the structures of these badboys. Taken from some ancient ACS paper (Leete, E, “Biosynthesis of the hemlock and related piperidine alkaloids”, Accounts of Chemical Research 1971 4 (3), 100-107)

Well anyway, for reasons outside the scope of this post (and more importantly, inside several NDAs), I happen to have a supply of conveniently azide functionalized piperidine alkaloid (very similar structurally to coniine, which is the most active and poisonous of the chemicals contained in hemlock). So naturally, as I didn’t have anything better to do today, I decided to make the ultimate philosopher killing machine. It’s a piece of molecular art, really. I call it “Hypervalent Hemlock”.

Just in case it wasn't deadly enough already.

Yes, that’s a 3rd generation triazole dendrimer chock full of piperidine alkaloid goodness. I have no idea about the actual mechanism behind the binding of coniine to the nicotinic receptors, and so whether the right side of the molecule is sticking out here, but I like to think that this molecule can agonize a dozen receptors in one go, thereby increasing its Socrates killing power 12-fold.

Its not so pretty IRL, guys.

Science is awesome. Think I can make a work term report out of this?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Convenience stores here really bring a new meaning to the word.

Happy octopus bolognese is happy.

I just repaired the pocket of my sweater using a whittled chopstick as a needle. Its a good thing its a really course weave, else I'd have left a track of ruin instead of a slightly skewed seam. But hey, I'm totally self sufficient, guys!


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Jules Verne: A Time Traveller’s Story

I haven’t been very busy at work these last few days. I recently ordered a new branching agent for my synthesis of a certain class of hyperbranched macromolecules than I’m not at liberty to disclose, along with a certain salt for assisting in double displacement of a certain functional group that is useful in a type of reaction that rhymes with “McChemistry”.

What else are azides ever used for, anyway.

The higher-ups are giving me the Japanese run-around about my order. I never got any confirmation from the ordering people that the chemicals were on their way or anything, so after a couple days I went and asked them whats up. They shifted their feet and rustled papers in a fashion that only the Nipponese can pull off for about 15 minutes while I waited. I know their tricks by now, and I know this tactic is used in order to not give bad news, or maybe to not have to explain a complicated situation to a gaijin with broken Nihongo, or both. So I just thanked them profusely and begged my leave.

Saita-san came to the rescue and headed to the ordering people to see whats what. Turns out my order had been flagged as HIGHLY suspicious, as the chemicals I thought were fairly innocuous included in their number both a potent toxin recently used in high-profile Japanese poisonings (NaN¬3) and a fairly effective analog of a certain hydrocannabinoid that I hear is popular with the kids these days (THC, the analog I ordered being 5-chlororesorcinol). Anyway I cleared it all up by saying that I wasn’t looking to poison or inflict synthetic THC highs on any unsuspecting Nipponese, so the order went through. I’m still waiting for the stuff though, and I’m getting a bit bored of aimlessly trying to memorize the kanji for the first 92 elements (transuranics are different and in some dispute, apparently. I bet the kanji for plutonium is a slightly roughed-up variation or jeu-de-mot on 長崎. Too soon? Wrong crowd?)

Anyway, to eventually make my way to the point of this post. I haven’t been very busy at work, and so I’ve gone to my favorite source of free-domain reading material (that being Project Gutenberg, by way of, my provider for legal and free Kindle books) and grabbed some classics. Mostly Poe, Conan Doyle and Verne. I loved the Holmes books I read, and it turns out the movie steals pretty much all the witty lines directly from the source, which is great. Anyway I’m on to Verne now, and I’ve discovered a terrible truth. Verne was most definitely a time traveler.

Everyone knows Jules Verne was a man ahead of his time, he wrote “20 000 Leagues Under the Sea” (To offer everyone a clarification that was never made for me in my tender youth, the title refers to the distance covered whilst under the sea, rather than the depth. I was confused when I realized 20 000 leagues would be roughly 10 times the mean diameter of the earth), and “From the Earth to the Moon” (No clarification is needed here, but its worth noting that Verne got the propulsion method wrong, he proposed a “space gun” rather than a self-propelled rocket. In truth, the space-gun would only really work as an electromagnetic rail-gun design, and would be handy in getting stuff from the Moon to the Earth, not the other way around. Stupid gravity wells). But I digress.

He also wrote a book called “Paris in the 20th Century.” This one has got to take the cake for clairvoyance.

I was going to make a “cake for clairvoyants” joke here. I don’t think you would have laughed.

This book tells the story of an artists down on his luck in the year 1960, in a world dominated by cheap entertainment for the masses and wonders of modern technology that might seem fairly familiar. Verne wrote it in 1863, and delivered it to his publisher. His thoughts:

“I was not expecting perfection — to repeat, I knew that you were attempting the impossible — but I was hoping for something better.”
And this gem:
"In this piece, there is not a single issue concerning the real future … I am surprised at you ... [it is] lacklustre and lifeless."

Verne took this criticism to heart, put the book in a safe and promptly forgot about it. It was discovered in 1989 by his great-grandson while cleaning out the family home. It was published in English in 1997.

Well, surprise surprise, it turns out that publisher guy didn’t know much about the future. Lets take a look at some of the things that Verne correctly “predicted” in this book.
* air conditioning machines
* distributed electricity
* skyscrapers
* gasoline-powered automobiles
* high-speed trains
* calculators
* The Internet (in his words: a worldwide telegraphic communications network)
* electric chairs (the kind that kill bad guys, not that move around Hawking)
* televisions
* the Louvre glass pyramid (actually “a very modern geometric monument in front of the Louvre”)
* the Eiffel tower

Yah, he predicted the Eiffel tower. I can see predicting skyscrapers (Ooooo, buildings are going to get taller. Big whoop), but the Eiffel tower in all its particulars is kinda creepily prescient.

So if we accept the obvious that Jules Verne is in fact a time traveler, we must then naturally wonder from what era he is going to have come from. The most recent prediction he made that has come true (the Louvre pyramid) was finished in 1990 or so. This suggests he is going to have come from the recent future (or just picked the late 20th century as a cut-off date arbitrarily). Of course there could be something in this book that has yet to come true that we aren’t aware of by reason of it not having happened yet. But I imagine whats most likely is that Verne is going to have been from the (fairly) distant future, since he set the book in 1960, complete with the Internet and the Pyramid that wouldn’t exist for another 30 years past that date. This implies some fuzzy and/or misplaced information about the dating of the creation of these things. Wait, but time travelers don’t suffer from lost data about the past. Hmmmm.

I guess one possibility is that Verne fucked with the future and we were supposed to have the Internet and the Pyramid in 1960.

Or he’s just a guy who made some good guesses.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Blake Rolls

French bread, butter, a slice of Brie, a slab of Japanese market-fresh salmon sashimi topped with just enough wasabi to make it exciting.

I call them Blake Rolls, and they are the epitome of French-Japanese fusion cuisine.

I ate all my salmon before I decided I should take pictures, sorry guys. Next time I'll have lots of food-porn.

I'm really full of exceedingly expensive food. Time for dessert!

These cookies are far better than my expression in this picture would indicate. They have the consistency of slightly undercooked Subway cookies... mmmm, ミルクチョコレートマカデミア. Better yet, they're entirely salt-free!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nihonjin Smash!

Saita-san<->Bureiku Exchange of the Day: (When looking at UW Co-op Evaluation form)
Saita: “kore ga chotto ayashii to omou, kanpeki desu yo”
Me: “Maybe a bit, yah”
Saita: “soo desu ne… demo nihonjin desu kara, ee, daijoobu dato omou”
Saita: “Ittaizentai…[unintelligible]”

Translation (with poetic license, of course):
Saita: “In my opinion it’s a bit suspicious to make your form completely perfect”
Me: “Maybe a bit, yah”
Saita: “Hmmm, yah. But I’m a Japanaman, so I think I can pull it off okay.”
Saita: “What the hell… [unintelligible]”

It’s the little pleasures in life.

Gaijin Smashing doesn't usually involve smashing anything.

In other news, I came across this page explaining the Gaijin Smash and other Gaijin Faculties that are endowed upon white people in Japan. Dan might have given it to me back in 3B, I don’t really remember. I was considering rehashing it, stealing its clever prose, and not citing, but I’ve completed PDEng now, and I have ethics. So I’ll just copy and paste it and cite it. The following is from a fellow intrepid gaijin’s blog (

When I did my self-introduction to my students, I claimed to be an English-teaching superhero. I was mostly joking, but my friends and I have found that living here does in fact grant us superpowers. Like Superman under a yellow sun, except it's gaijin under the Rising Sun. So one night, we decided to catalogue all the superpowers we'd acquired. This is what we came up with. And yes, a lot of beer was involved.

Gaijin Smash - I can't take credit for the Gaijin Smash, it was my friend's creation. Which is what led to this whole thing. But anyway, the Gaijin Smash is basically just us exerting our inheritant dominance over the Japanese people. We do what we want and they can't stop us, and we have them do what we want cause they can't stand up to us. It's beautiful. It's hard to specifically define Gaijin Smash, so I'll just give you some examples....

One of my friends, a former JET, when we went out drinking he'd just buy the cheapest ticket home to get him through the gates. When we got back here, of course his ticket caused the gate alarms to go off. But he'd just plow right through and walk ahead. The station worker guy would look up, and he'd want to say something, he really did. But then he was confronted by a Gaijin walking quickly away from him. I can only imagine the thoughts running through his head. "Oh my God! Do I have to speak English? What if I make him angry? Will he eat my children?" Paralyized, the worker can only stand there while my friend walks away. Gaijin Smash. [Note from Blake: I've never actually done this, I'm usually incredibly courteous and use the Gaijin Smash for defense, never attack. I'm some kind of Gaijin Jedi.]

Or, take a look at recent current events. Japan has troops in Iraq. Japan barely has troops at all yet there they are in Iraq. Why do you think that is?

President Bush: Hey Japan, America's gonna invade Iraq. We want you to send us some troops for support.
Prime Minister Koizumi: Um, but...we don't really have an army, just a Self-Defense Force. And NOBODY here has anything to do with Iraq, the public is strongly anti-war, it's kind of pointless for us...
Bush: I don't care. Coalition of the Willing. You're coming.
Koizumi: Ok. I'm sorry for my insolence. The troops are on their way.
Bush: Oh yeah. Gaijin Smash.

For the record, the first ever Gaijin Smash recorded in history was performed by Commodore Matthew Perry (no "Friends" jokes/references, they've all been done before. Twice) in 1853.

Japan had closed its borders and was very isolationist. Then one day, Perry rolls up demanding Japan open it's borders for foreign commerce...
Perry: Hey! Open up Japan!
The Japanese: That's an interesting idea. Here's another one. How about we shuffle our feet until you get frustrated and leave?
Perry: A'ight. I'll be back.

7 months later, Perry returns with 9 (count 'em) gunships.

Perry: Hey Japan! Open up. Or I'll blast you clear into China.
The Japanese: .......Ah! Mr. Perry-san, welcome to Japan! Please do come in!
Perry: Gaijin Smash.

Oh, before I forget, I should explain that as guests in a foreign country, we should try to learn and assimilate some of our host's culture and tradition. So if you are ever in a position to perform some of these attacks, you should first strike a series of stylish and overblown poses, while screaming out the attack name with all your might. Anything less is just...dishonorable.

Oh, and before you actually do that though, you should smirk and explain exactly how your attack works and what you did to get it. For example, for Gaijin Smash, one might say (heh, I still love "one might say"...) "Haha, I have already won this fight. I shall now show you the awesome power of my Gaijin Smash. I acquired this attack when I was born having a bigger body than you. Over the years, I developed it by keeping up a steady diet of McDonalds, and parking in the closest spaces to wherever I went. It is the perfect attack."

Although the explanation speech works best if one of your friends who is watching gives it for you (while you keep your smirk up), in the absence of friends or onlookers you can say it yourself.

Gaijin Perimeter - This is our natural ability to just repel people. An explanation is needed.
Down here in Kansai, getting on a train is not as simple as you'd think. You can be standing by yourself on the platform out in the middle of ka-bum-fuck, Japan [Note from Blake: I've been here. Its a place.], waiting for the train. When the train actually rolls up, you'll turn and see yourself absoultely surrounded by old women and businessmen. I swear, they just teleport in out of nowhere (at least they don't yell "Breasts!" at me...). The doors open, and it's literally every man, woman, and child for themselves in a battle to get a seat. They'll push and bump you out of the way, they just don't care. It's vicious.

Now, keeping this in mind...there are times when we are riding on the train, and yet no one, no one will sit next to us. There's plenty of space, we don't stink...but they just won't do it. So basically, Japanese people will elbow each other in the face to get a seat, but they won't sit next to us. Nice! It's easy to get discouraged by this, but we just have to remember that we are naturally spreading our Gaijin Perimeter. [Note from Blake: Note that the gaijin perimeter often has the opposite effect on girls on trains, and stylists in Shibuya. Its a kind of Gaijin Magnetism, see "Gaijin Power" below]

It can be useful though. Imagine you are walking down the street one day when you see an old lady faint from heat exhaustion. A crowd of onlookers begin to gather around her. That's no good! But don't panic! Just jump in and spread your Gaijin Perimeter, give her the space she needs until paramedics arrive on the scene. A tense situation averted!

Gaijin Telepathy - Our co-workers and supervisors don't tell us anything. Literally. One day, I came into work at the ghetto school and found a straw hat and pair of garden gloves on my desk. .....Ok. I was kind of waiting for an explanation, but one never came. So I was sitting in the teacher's room, and eventually I noticed it had gotten really quiet. I looked up to find I was the only one in there. Odd. I went outside to find the whole school, teachers and students, picking weeds in the soccer and baseball fields. Ah, so that's what the garden hat and gloves were for! However, no one actually told me this.

I can only assume that they expected me to somehow divine the meaning of the hat and gloves with my Gaijin Telepathy. This kind of thing happens all the time, and sometimes with really important stuff ("Hey, why didn't you come to my class today? What? No one told you?"). I kind of think that Japanese watched the movie X-Men/X2, and thought "Wow! Captain Picard is a telepath! All Gaijin must be telepaths!" Maybe they also expect me to control the weather too, which would explain why they're always saying "samui ne?" in the winter ("It's cold, huh?") and "atsui ne?" in the summer ("it's hot, huh?"). I guess I'm supposed to fly up, tilt my head, and say something like "Gods of the weather skies! Expel this cold front and give us good weather for golfing!" I will draw the line however if they ask me to use my adamantium claws to slice their sushi.

Gaijin Power - I was in the local bar with two male friends, American and Japanese. This bar is kind of known for being a pick-up bar, especially for Japanese women and foreign men. Anyway, our Japanese friend spotted a cute girl. We told him to go talk to her, but he refused, saying it was pointless cause he'd only fail. We tried to tell him he wouldn't know until he actually tried, but no go. "You guys don't understand," he says. "You have Gaijin Power so you have no problems getting girls."

...Gaijin Power? The hell is that? This wasn't the first time I'd heard this from Japanese men though. So my friend and I decided to find out more about this "Gaijin Power". We both set out and, working as a Dynamic Duo (Holy Japanese sluts, Batman!), we found pairs of Japanese girls and tried to talk to them. We were pretty unsuccessful though, which leads me to believe our Japanese friend was full of shit. Or maybe we just suck. [Note from Blake: They must just suck, or are sickeningly ugly, horribly deformed gaijins.]

Gaijin Optic Blast - This is actually more of a counter-attack. We foreigners get stared at. A lot. Gaijin Optic Blast is the wonderful technique of staring back. It's so easy, yet so effective! As soon as they realize we're staring back, they look away, it's like a projectile version of the Gaijin Smash. The only thing is, you have to keep up the Gaijin Optic Blast, cause as soon as they think you are looking away, they resume staring. Do it right though, and once is a charm.

On bad days, I'll spread my Gaijin Perimeter, and combo a Gaijin Optic Blast into a Gaijin Smash for 70% damage. And when I have out, cause then I can cancel into Super Gaijin Smash, and there's just no coming back from that.


A few weeks ago I went to Ishigakijima with some NTTers (& Thom), and I never bothered to post any of the pics I have, nor any kind of oh-so-entertaining commentary that I know you - my adoring readers likely above average in attractiveness and intelligence - are so very fond of.

I really haven't the endurance or typing fortitude to include much more the subtitles of the photos below, as going into any amount of detail would require multiple volumes and at least two or three appendices, mostly filled with translations of monkey-related portmonteaus.

I began the trip by heading out to a capsule hotel in Tokyo near the bay, so I could head over to Haneda airport early, early the next morning. The capsule was maybe 6 feet long or so, making stretching more-or-less impossible (the diagonal was almost enough), but it had a built in radio and TV, and the bathing room in the basement had a bath full of rubber duckies. I kinda thought that sleeping in a coffin would be a bit claustrophobic or something, but it was actually okay. I'm not going to even mention the porno channel. Shit.

Craig on the Rodeo Boy near the bathroom in the Capsule hotel. Its presence confuses me.

You know you're in Okinawa when there are significantly more orchids in the airport then people. They were everywhere, they were beautiful. Other than that the airport was like most I've been in. Except the Starbucks was much harder to find than I expected.

This is at the A&W at the Okinawa Airport. Thom is enjoying his root beer in a mug, trying not to laugh maniacally at the guy in the background. His mullet didn't come out very well in this photo (hes adjusting it now, it looked much better afterwards). But seriously dude, what were you THINKING?

I didn't even notice Thom in the changing room when I took this. Hes trying on bathing suits at Okinawa airport to find one he likes. Jess is looking less than impressed with my choice of headwear.

You know you're in Ishigaki airport when there are more lion fish than people. Well, not really. But there wasn't very many people, and there were more lion fishes present than I'd ever seen before. I can't look at one of these fish without thinking of Livingston. (Picard's fish in his ready room)

When we got into the city we had to find a grocery store to stock up on edible supplies. This kumon center was right across the road. (FYI, we ended up getting mostly bread, canned tuna, bananas, snickers, canned fruit, and a mystery meat that I lovingly and delusionally called "bacon" for barbecuing)

Waiting at the bus station in Ishigaki city (we were there A LOT). Oliver was a big hit with the locals. Nice hat Lars.

First beach at Kabira. Its the only beach that we went to where there was a significant amount of other people. But we were just there for a bus-layover anyway, and no swimming was allowed. The water was pretty, but the weather hadn't cleared up too much yet.

This was either the beach near where we camped, or the beach at Kabira again. Pretty.

On the bus trying to find a place to camp. Its jungle out there. (I can't believe I caught a picture of myself in a roadside mirror. Crazy)

Okay this was Yonehara beach, supposed to be the best snorkelling on the island (I'd tend to agree, based on a statistically invalid sample size). The sand was kinda ouchy though, because of all the little coral pieces. But the place was absolutely deserted, just us.

Oww. Note to future-Blake. Coral wounds sting, watch yourself when going through coral underpasses. Also, tiny coral splinters in wounds inhibit the healing process.

More stunningly beautiful beaches. I think this was sunset beach. All those footprints are ours, it was completely flat and formless before our arrival. This may have had to do with the 2-3 "BEACH CLOSED" signs that we passes. But we bought off all the curious townsfolk with Snickers bars.

After my troubling sunburns of the first day, I tended to remain in the shade when not submerged in the water. Lucky there was this fantastic outcropping of awesomeness to hide under.

Me after Sunset beach. Waiting in the bus-stop place while artsy Oliver takes a well framed shot. I was very salty and sunburned by this point.

View from the peninsula on the northeast side of the island, at the very tip near the lighthouse. It was a fantastic view of the whole island. Thom looks pretty picturesque and thoughtful there. Shortly after he pulled out his iPhone and stood in the same place with his arm outstreached for 5 minutes trying to take photos of himself looking picturesque and thoughtful. We love you Thom.

View from the same spot, south towards the main hulk of the island.

There was something about that island out there that didn't look right. I had to get a better shot.

Every time I looked at this island it looked Photoshopped.

The shadows were ALL WRONG. You can always tell a Photoshop job by the water, its just impossible to get water right, ya know. But seriously folks, this thing was so perfect that my mind couldn't let it enter my reality.

We went to Taketomi island on the very last day before we had to catch our flight. It was only a 10 minute ferry ride away, and there was a festival going on (Miss Yaeyama beauty contest). The island was tiny and most was an old fashioned Ryukyu village flanked by scenic beaches.

This space was intentionally left blank.

Concert going on after the Miss Yaeyama thing. A Japanaman came up to me and tried to explain the purpose of the singing and the festival. I didn't get much from him, crazy islanders speak a language that is to Japanese as Rasta-English is to British English.

Yah he's tied up by his nose ring. Sad story.