Tuesday, November 06, 2007

First night on Ishigaki Island, Okinawa

The first time I heard of Okinawa, Japan was when I watched The Karate Kid 2 in the 80's. Ever since, I've wanted to visit the beautiful islands of Okinawa and explore the jungle, beaches and reefs as well as the unique culture. So finally, after a brief layover in Naha, Eiko, Miyuki and I arrived on Ishigaki Island this evening.

Eiko and Miyuki at Haneda Airport

On the way, there were some stunning views of the clouds and sea. The blue water was so clear you could see the bottom perhaps 7 meters deep or maybe more, even with the cloud cover.

[photo: view from airplane of light rays shining through the clouds]
just one of the breathtaking views from the plane between Naha and Ishigaki Island

The package that Eiko booked included a night at the Hotel Best Inn. While I don't think it lives up to its name, it's clean and has a free internet terminal among a number of decent little amenities, so I'm not able to complain (despite a bit of a damp moldy smell in the hall). They even provide some funny yukatas that look a bit like hospital gowns.

Everyone we've come across so far has been really helpful and friendly, and the food was great at the restaurant we went to. Originally we were headed for Iso, recommended by the Rough Guide to Japan for its picture menu and local food, but when we arrived, we ended up opting for another place just a few doors down called South Wind (translated) due to its rustic island atmosphere and similar, if not better pricing. One of the highlights was the yummy squid ink rice, and another was what they call sea grapes, served with long shreds of daikon radish. Mmmm. :)

[photo: steaming squid ink rice]
steaming squid ink rice

After a filling and delicious dinner, we checked out a few of the shops down the street. One thing you're sure to see here are shisa - sculpted little (or sometimes big) pairs of fiery lions that are believed by some to protect your home or shop.

shisa, small protectors of the home with big personality

I'll update this post later with a few more details once I get back to Tokyo on Saturday evening - we're planning to have some adventures on Iriomote and Kayama islands where there's little access to internet. Ciao for now!

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Happy birthday to me in Japan!

Today Eiko is taking me to my first Japanese onsen (hot spring) near Lake Ashino for my birthday, which is tomorrow, September 8th. The place is called Hakone, about halfway between Tokyo and Mt. Fuji. It's a few hours drive, and there was a typhoon that passed over Tokyo last night, so let's hope the roads are not covered by landslides or washed out. I'll be sure to post photos ("yeah right!" you say) when I get back!

The closest thing I had to an photo of an onsen, since I've never seen one in person. Photo taken at Aki Gawa last weekend.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

NameCat Domain Name Grabber updated to 1.0.3

After a long hiatus, I've updated the Domain Name Grabber Dashboard widget for Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger (and newer). With the new version, you can now search for and register .eu and .mobi domains bringing the number of different Top Level Domains you can use the the widget to search for to 41! You can learn more and download the widget from NameCat.com.

Domain Name Grabber Widget 1.0.3

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Monday, July 02, 2007

First strong earthquake I've felt in a while!

About 1 minute ago a strong earthquake shook my parents house in Royal Oaks, California (where I'm visiting for a few weeks) pretty good. Royal Oaks is near Santa Cruz, and the epicenter of the pretty serious Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, so I wonder where this one originated. Today's was a higher frequency type - a faster vibration (as opposed to a rolling wavy type) and started out with a powerful shake and tapered off over maybe 15 seconds or so. No damage was done -- around here anyway! It will be interesting to see the details of the quake as they surface on the news and the web over the next few days.

The first quake I ever felt was actually the Loma Prieta earthquake, and at the time I actually thought it was rather fun. I was living in Palo Alto, and a freshman in high school. I had been laying down on my bed reading a book or something, and when I stood up, I felt strangely off-balance. Thinking that I must have stood up too fast and was a bit dizzy, a pillow then practically hopped off my desk, and I knew it wasn't all in my head. The house started to make noises like a big, old wood boat, and so I went to my bedroom doorway to check out what was going on.

The whole house seemed as if it was floating on water, slowly rocking on the waves. The front door of the house was open and I distinctly remember looking out across the street as the trees swayed back and forth as the waves of the earthquake passed through the neighborhood. My little sister's friend was freaking out and started screaming at me, "GET IN A DOORWAY! IT'S AN EARTHQUAKE, GET IN A DOORWAY!!" It didn't seem so scary to me, and I found it pretty humorous how animated she was about the whole thing. I thought the sensation of being on what felt like liquid land was so cool! Too bad it was so devastating for so many people in the rest of the San Francisco Bay area.

Update: It turns out that today's quake was rated at 4.3 on the Richter scale and the epicenter was only about 3.9 miles away -- probably why it felt so strong! You can check out the statistics at the USGS Earthquake Hazards Program web site. Also, if you have Google Earth, you can download and double-click this KML file (a Google Earth bookmark) to see the exact location of the epicenter.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Cinco de Mayo Fiesta en El Pitillal, Puerto Vallarta

Fortunately, my beautiful sister Laura is visiting during one of the biggest party days in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo. So Eiko, Laura and I went out with my cousin Chris, his girlfriend Alejandra, her sister Cynthia and his friend Sergio to a huge fiesta with mucha charreria (bull riding), cowboy boots, dancing, music, and even an old dancing transvestite cowgirl(?) and some clowns to disturb and entertain (respectively) between bull rides.

Mexican rodeo clown gets molested by dancing transvestite cowgirl

Laura and Eiko dancin' to the sounds of Mexican banda

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tsunami, The Aftermath airs on BBC TWO

Ugh... I can never seem to get to bed on time lately! I suppose it doesn't help that I am starting my trip to Israel tomorrow - I always feel pretty wired before traveling.

Anyway, it's confirmed, I made it through the editing process for the film, Tsunami, The Aftermath. Michelle Gray from England, a friend and fellow volunteer in the Khao Lak area of Thailand, just gave me the news via Google Talk. Apparently Kudos (the production company) and the rest of the gang did a good job in general, and in recreating the damage as well:

2:28:29 AM Michelle: hey saw you on the tv the other day.

2:28:38 AM Rafael: yeah? did you see you too??

2:29:17 AM Michelle: not me i knew where i was in the background but you are on for ages playing volley ball

2:29:26 AM Rafael: hahaha
rad, I'm fake volleyball superstar

2:30:08 AM Michelle: its a 2 part tv movie and its pretty good actually.

2:30:24 AM Rafael: you've seen the movie already?

2:30:30 AM Michelle: its mad to see everywhere all broken up
it was on BBC 2 on tuesday

She didn't mention if my role as a "continuity dead person" materialized on film, so I'm still curious about that... If you see the film, let me know.

The documentary, Making Tsunami, The Aftermath, is getting good initial feedback as well: IMDB.com Boards

Either I'm really bad at finding listings on the BBC website, or BBC sucks at updating it -- I can't find where on the site it says Tsunami, The Aftermath was airing on Tuesday - it still shows it as unconfirmed. Oh well...

By the way, it's Michelle's birthday. Feliz cumpleaños Michelle! I think you deserve some more fame, so here's to hoping you'll get you more paid work in the film industry (and of course, some actual screen time). ~_^

Michelle Gray displays her infamous wound as a "holiday maker" on the set of Tsunami, The Aftermath. A similar shot was featured in her hometown tabloid newspaper

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Israel: Visiting the Holy Land

Friday, I fly from Mexico City to Israel! I'm meeting up in Tel Aviv with one of my best friends, Mark Aceves, for a two-week exploration of Israel, Jordan (Petra... remember the last Indiana Jones movie?), and possibly Palestine. Pretty exciting, as I've wanted to visit Israel for years and years. The amount of world-changing history concentrated in such a small section of the world is overwhelming.

I know, two weeks is not even close to the amount of time needed to truly experience everything. However, Mark was going alone, and I rarely get the chance to travel with my friends, so off I go! Perhaps I'll get a chance to introduce Mark to some of the new Israeli friends I've made during the last 18 months of traveling.

Most people don't think about the fact that the history's most influential revolutionary came from Israel: Yehoshua Moshiach.

from a 1999 churches advertising network poster
no, it's not che
Sadly, the ironic thing is that although this radical revolutionary never killed anyone -- he promoted only tolerance and love for everyone -- many have killed in his name. Hopefully, more people will lead the way living by his example, instead of using his name to promote their own selfish agendas.