All Hail the Angel Soft!

20 May 2015

During my visit to South Korea in 2013, I discovered the Korean bakery Tous les Jours and their wonderfully amazing THE+ Milk Bread. But I think I found a new pastry to claim the title of Mark’s Favorite Baked Thing! How did this fortuitous discovery happen?

First, visit one of the 255 Vie de France cafés in Japan.

Vie de France at Tameikesanno Station

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Gaijin Tips for Japan

14 May 2015

こんにちは (Konnichiwa, Hello)! It’s been nearly a week since I arrived in Japan and it’s been a blast so far. I’m spending this week and next working (and eating) at the Evernote office in Minato-ku, Tokyo. The following two weeks I will be taking some time off to explore Japan and watch the 16th World Kendo Championships!

My experience has been greatly enhanced by helpful friends, fellow Evernoters, and my kendo family of kohai, senpai, and sensei. Here are a collection of potentially useful tips if you are planning on traveling to Japan!

  • Get a JR Pass if you’re planning on traveling outside of Tokyo. A JR Pass will give you unlimited access to most of the JR train systems. They are available only to foreigners and are meant to encourage tourism to the Japanese world outside of Tokyo. You’ll also need to buy it BEFORE you get to Japan. They sell them in different lengths of time (7 days, 14 days, 21 days) and they are a bit pricey: a 7 day pass currently costs $236. But it pays for itself pretty quickly; if you’re planning to visit Kyoto, you’ll be coming out ahead already. There are a few places to purchase the JR Pass but I just got mine online. I ordered mine Sunday night and got it Tuesday morning!

  • Get a Charles Schwab Checking Account. This is generally useful advice. Carrying a ton of money around with you while traveling is annoying. Not getting ripped off while converting currency can also be difficult. A Schwab Checking Account makes all this easier. Just land at your destination and hit up the ATM. Worried about those ATM fees? Don’t worry – you’ll get all your ATM fees refunded! It’s pretty amazing. Read more about it on Schwab’s website.

  • Get a PASMO card. You can buy a PASMO card at most train stations. This rechargeable card will let you zip through Tokyo Metro subway station gates and is also usable at コンビニ (konbini, convenience stores) like 7-Eleven. Note, the Tokyo Metro system is separate from the JR system, but it’s incredibly affordable. A short ride (1km - 6km) will cost $1.42 (170 yen) and on the other end a long ride (28km - 40km) will cost $2.58 (310 yen). What a steal!

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Goodbye, Beard

02 May 2015

It’s been a three-month journey, but today, I (slowly) said goodbye to a dear friend.

My college professor and – more importantly – a man with some greats ideas, Perry Cook, recommended I run this photo of mass destruction work of art through Microsoft’s How Old Robot.

Besides being 10 years off from my actual age, what have we learned about the robot? To be young is to have no facial hair. Full beards make you a bit older. Handlebar mustaches make you look even older (and badass of course). But nothing compares to the aging power of a mean mustache!

Adieu, friend!

Two Year Bloggiversary

01 May 2015

One year ago I celebrated my first bloggiversary. And now – one year later – here we are at the two year bloggiversary! It was a busy year for the blog with 58 posts written and over 13 thousand pageviews!

It’s also been a busy year in general. I joined Evernote in November – that’s HALF A YEAR ago! And the fun doesn’t stop: I’ll be heading off to Japan for a month this week and will be visiting family in Portugal in July.

Goals for this coming year include writing more, working on some open source projects, and trying to get another paper published so I can enhance my Google Scholar page.

See you again in May 2016 for another (short and somewhat vain) year-in-review!

Hard Times Ahead...

29 April 2015

Today marks the beginning of a difficult and trying time in my life.

Xenoblade Chronicles X — spiritual successor to one of my favorite games Xenoblade Chronicles — was released in Japan. Unfortunately, Nintendo region locks their consoles and I don't own a Japanese Wii U. And while I can read the name of the game in Japanese — ゼ ノ ブ レ イ ド ク ロ ス — I doubt that proficiency would get me through the extremely story-driven game. The US version "is scheduled for release sometime in 2015." Never has such a nebulous time window haunted me so very much.

I worry that all this anticipation is setting me up for disappointment. What if the game is bad? Everything so far looks good. Xenoblade Chronicles got a 36/40 rating from Famitsu; Xenoblade Chronicles X got a slightly lower, but still respectable 34/40. I’m not worried. Last December, the director of the game, Tetsuya Takahashi, tweeted “15 years have passed since Monolith was founded, and I believe that with this game I have finally met the challenge I had within me, of creating an RPG in which humans and robots can co-exist.” I was hoping his tweet would end more like “creating an RPG that will truly captivate the world, restore people’s faith in the JRPG genre, and usher in a new golden era in Japanese video games,” but I’ll settle for human-robot synergy!

I need you now...

In other news, I leave for Japan next week. I’ll be spending a month there… So that’s one month closer to the end of 2015! This is positive thinking people!