Saturday, April 16, 2016

2016 NBA Playoff Predictions

1 Cle over 8 Det 4-0
2 Tor 6 Ind 4-2
6 Cha over 3 Mia 4-2
4 Atl over 5 Bos 4-3

Cle over Atl 4-0
Tor over Cha 4-1

Cle over Tor 4-1

1 GS over 8 Hou 4-0
2 SA over 7 Mem 4-0
3 OKC over 6 Dal 4-2
4 LAC over 5 Por 4-1

LAC over GS 4-2
SA over OKC 4-3

LAC over SA 4-3

NBA Finals
Cle over LAC 4-2

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Tokyo to DC

The Japanese tradition of communal bathing in hot springs, or onsen, isn't what it once was since everyone has their own bath now. Te Japanese bathtub style, furo, is a deep tub, which we found everywhere we went, including Okinawa. I usually took showers.

We walked awhile to make it to the Yanaka section of Tokyo. We found some old wooden structures and some Buddhist temples. A few buildings survived both the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake and the 1945 Allied bombing of Tokyo. These two reasons and the Meiji Restoration are why Tokyo's structures tend to be fairly new.

We made our train to the airport by a minute. On the train, an elderly lady made some tiny paper cranes for Candace and gave them to her. Then we had to figure out how to take the cranes with us without crushing them.Traveling on the train to and from Narita, you can see neighborhoods with smaller houses and buildings with seemingly out-of-place random skyscrapers towering above.

We ate ot the airport. I had roast duck soba- hot- which wasn't that good, but Candace liked her sashimi sushi mix. We saw wasabi Kit Kats and also bean paste flavor, but they were in ten packs, so we didn't buy them.

The long plane ride was much better than the one to Tokyo. The food on United, however, was terrible each time. After the first bite of our meal yesterday, I told Candace, "We're not in Japan anymore," with a pained look on my face.

We made it through customs in Chicago. We didn't get the scooter until baggage claim, so we used a manual wheelchair. This became a problem, because the customs line for wheelchairs was 30 minutes, but the US citizen line had no wait. So Candace decided to walk through the US citizen line on my arm.

At O'Hare, you have to go through security again to get to your connecting flight. Getting to the gate was like going through a labyrinth and the scooter all but lost its charge. But we made it on the plane to DC just in time.

The plane landed early and we got our scooter and our checked bag. Then I got a text that my mom had gone to the wrong airport. We charged the scooter for a few minutes, but then waited outside. I couldn't get a hold of her to tell her where we were waiting or to get her ETA. Apparently, she took a circuitous route.

When she called, she had parked far away and said her phone was dying. I thought about asking her to try to pick us up, but if she didn't have a phone to rely on, we might never see her again. It then took her a half hour to find us, because she went in a circle. It gave us some time to charge the scooter though.

On the map, we found a much shorter way to get to her car. The scooter made it without issue. But then my mom didn't know which level she had parked on. She kept looking around the rental car level. I kept shouting at her that this was the wrong level, but I was too tired to chase after her.

That was level 2. Then we went to level 1, daily parking, but we couldn't find her car. I went to see if there was a parking garage lower, but there wasn't. Then I went up to level 3, but it was still rental cars. Finally on level 4 I found her car. It had taken 30 minutes from when we entered the parking garage to when we found her car. We got home two hours later than planned.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Okinawa to Tokyo

In Okinawa there are places where you can block a lane and park on the street. So other cars have to jut out against traffic to ho around the parked car. There are as lso different license plates for locals and Americans. Americans have a Y on their plate.

We made it to the airport in Naha an hour and 45 minutes early. Nothing about "approval" and our pass was flagged indicating we needed special assistance. But the it took well over an hour for the Jetstar crew to fill out the proper forms and make a ton of calls. We were surely going to miss our flight, expect the plane didn't arrive on time. So we were the first to board at 12:45.

We weren't able to eat as a result of the bureaucratic mess with the electric scooter. We were quite frustrated. The women behind the desk worked hard and quickly. Japan needs to do better by people who have electric wheelchairs/scooters.

We took a lift off the plane an  got the scooter and our checked bag. Then we were on our way to the train, when I realized I left Candace's red jacket in the overhead bin. We asked, an  at one point one of the workers who had seen the mess from when we tried to get on the plane to Okinawa saw us and had a moment of panic. The plane had left, so we lost the jacket.

We took a train to Ueno. It took a long time and we were starving. Candace downed some pastries. I munched on some burgers that tasted suspiciously like pork sausage. We manage  to find our hotel. It was closer to the firdt hotel in Asakusa than I would like.

We felt bad and relaxed in the tiny hotel room. This has been our first less than accessible hotel. After a while I picked up some more green tea chocolate-almost as good sweet potato kit kats. I went to a restaurant an  pointed at a picture, which turned out to be shaved beef and rice. We ate some cookies we got in Okinawa. The purple yam flavor is our favorite.

Candace watched a Japanese show where the contestants were shown sad stories and if they cried, they lost. It would have been real sad if we understood Japanese, but we don't, so it was funny.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Ryukyu and Ramen

We drove to the ruins of Zakimi Castle, which is in Yomitan. The housed the rulers of the Ryukyu Kingdom from the 15th centry until the 19th. The walls are the only thing still standing. They were still impressive and allowed for great views of the srrounding water and mountains. You were abke to walk on the walls and I even climbed up a wall at its shortest point.

We took the path around the castle and came across jungle. It was very cool, but quite dense, so it was hard to see much beyond your immediate view.

For dinner we went to a ramen restaurant. It was serious business. We chose our preferred broth an  then our accompanying dish. I went with a thick chicken broth and some Namba style fried chicken. I thought it was great. We had curry for lunch, so it was a delicious day culinarily.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

America in Japan

We walked to the sea wall and we all walked on the coral this time. It was great taking Candace out there and she enjoyed it. The jagged coral rocks hurt my plantar fascia. We then sat on the sea wall and watched the tide quickly roll in.

We soon went to the US military base nearby, Kadena Air Base. We got visitor passes and went through the gate. In both cases, the guards spoke good English, but with fairly thick accents and were ostensibly Japanese. It begged many questions that we didn't have an answer to.

Inside the base is a shopping center. Upstairs is a Wal-Mart-type establishment. It was as if we were transported back to the US, though there was a Japanese aisle. Only military personnel were allowed to buy from the store.

The base, one of a few US miltary sites in Okinawa, is huge. The buildings inside the base are spread out, though driving is on done the Japanese side of the road.

It's kind of crazy that a US air base is in the middle of another country. Some Okinawan residents are resentful, but mostly because some American servicemen have committed horrible crimes. Currently ther  is a discussion between the US and Japan about moving one of the bases to a more remote section of the island.

We then went to a  garlic-themed restaurant and everyone ejoyed their meal. We got dessert at Blue Seal and ordered some unusual ice cream flavors. Our nephew.and Candace's sister got blue wave, a cotton candy type flavor, but so much more. Candace got beni imo, which is a purple yam, and Okinawan salt cookie flavors. I got ube, another kind of purple yam, and Ryukyu milk tea flavor. We liked them all.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Round and Round

Today was rainy, so we decided to go to the mall. Everyone else on the island had the same idea. We couldn't find a spot in the garage and had to park outside. As soon as we put the scooter together it started to pour. I tried to cover the scooter with the umbrella as I hid in the trunk, but it didn't work too well.

We made a dash for the mall and got soaked. I was pretty uncomfortable in my wet clothes. It's a huge five story mall, but only two elevators. There were lines dividing all sorts of things to go on the elevator, such as up or down or why you needed to use the elevator. The wait times to go up or down a floor were annoying.

Many of the stores were similar to those in the US, but the real interesting part was the food court. Our nephew had a high quality steak. Candace had the famous taco rice. We indulged in takoyaki, octopus balls. These were higher quality than our 7-11 version with more octopus inside. I liked the balls, but not the sauce. I had ox tongue on a stick. Octopus balls and ox tongue, you know, the usual mall food court delicacies. The quality was good too.

We realizeed that it had stopped raining as soon as we were inside the mall, which made me furious. Then it started again when we left.

At night we walked along the water to American Village. Along the way, we saw a serious of fireworks, commencing the Ryukyu Kaiensai festival. Okinawa is the biggest of the Ryukyu islands, which were part of the Ryukyu kingdom that ruled the island for over 400 years.

We stopped by Baskin Robbins and I got a matcha sorbet drink. It was good, but  the cup was only half filled, which was a disappointment. Then we rode on the ferris wheel and saw the impressive nighttime views. I'm scared of heights, so I became worried halfway up of Chatan, where we are staying, and the surrounding area.

We then went to a conveyor belt sushi restaurant. It was an awesome experience. It was a lot of fun to order and pluck out our corresponding sushi. The snow crab, shrimp tempora, and duck were my favorite. I thought it was impressive that the restaurant could make all three taste so good. I also tried eel and geoduck, which is a weird sea creature. Both were kind of bland, although geoduck had a yucky aftertaste. We loved the whole conveyor belt sushi concept.

On the way home, a huge pickup truck type thing roared out of nowhere. It raced across the soaked field heading right for us. We were terrified. But then it swung right and tried to skid along the wet grass. Candace and her sister thought they saw it was some kind of official vehicle. Then the driver turned off its lights. We really got worried then adn crossed the street. Luckily it was just some idiot trying make figure 8s in the mud.

Friday, April 08, 2016

In Okinawa

My nephew and I made the three minute walk to the sea wall amd walled on the coral. I was concerned about damaging the coral and tried to take a cue from the people around us. It wa  such a cool experience though. We hopped along the dry jagged coral that's covered by the tide at night.

There was a lot of wet green coral. It was incredible to look at. I even bent down and touched some. We walked along the sea wall mostly and some some sea life. We saw small fish darting quickly in the water. Ee also saw an animal that we dubbed a pentapus. It has five long fury tentacles and a tiny flat head. We saw a ton of them slowly slithering under rocks.

We also saw a few mucusy green blobs and other cool sea life.  On our walk, I tried and failed at my nephew's pogo stick and his bicycle. We did find a tennis ball on the walk and played catch throughout the day.

He left his skateboard on the sea we walked around the coast. He assured me no one would take it and he was  right. Even if it's cash, people don't just take stuff that they find. Not just in Okinawa, but elsewhere in Japan, too.

It was very hot and humid, so I just couldn't stop sweating. We went to the skate park in the evening just before it started to pour. We ordered in food because of the persistent thunderstorms. Yep, it rains in paradise apparently. Then I spent the whole night beating Candace in Connect Four. Candace is the smartest person I know at everything so it was weird and painful watching her struggle through. She did manage to win the majority of ganes against our nephew. He's nine. And it was a slight majority.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Tokyo to Okinawa

We woke up and opened the curtains to see the lovely view. Turns out it was raining. Hard.

We tried cover ourselves and the scooter but we got drenched. At one point, Candace was ahead and a man pulled upbehind me on a bike. He insisted that I take his umbrella. He promised he had another one. I thanked him and ran to put it over Candace. She was so surprised and later told me she thought I jad mugged someone for it.

So Candace didn't get rained on anymore and the scooter was kept fairly dry, but I wa  soaked from bead to toe. We walked for about an hour until we reached Tokyo station.

We got on the train without an issue because it was JR East. JR East lets us through easily, but they're a little stingy with their ramps.

The train was nice. We got off and headed for terminal. I look around for Candace's pocketbook. I couldn't see it. I sprinted back onto the train and remembered I had set it down when I grabbed our suitcase. I spotted the pocketbook, swiped it, and sprinted back just in time. At some point when I was sprinting back to Candace, I realized I could stop running.

We went to check in at Jet Star Japan and we were asked if the scooter had "approval." We looked puzzled. We were told that they would try to get "approval" for us, but would it be ok if we took a later flight. We were crestfallen. Our flight wasn't scheduled to leave for two hours.

The "approval" process involved a bunch of ridiculous questions like how much wattage the scooter uses. We weren't plugging it in, so I couldn't see what that mattered. I also didn't know. They were going to look it up, which surely would have forced us to miss oir flight. So I saw on the charger, 68w, an   showed them that, which was good enough.

Candace, who had reached the acceptance stage with JR Central, was indignant with Jet Star Japan. I was the reverse. Actually, I was still in denial with Jet Star Japan and couldn't fathom missing our flight.

We did eventually get on. We went through security and Candace left her water bottle in her pocketbook. As strict as they are with the scooter, I was sure we would be arrested and tortured for this offense. Nope. The security agent opened the bottled, waved his hand over the opening, and towards his nose twice and declared it, "Not gasoline."

We were put on the plane with a lift and a ramp because there was no gate. The flight was good. When we got off a wheelchair came. Once we got to the gate, I was told to push the chair. We got our checked bag, which didn't have any chargers in it, because Narita makes you put them in your carry on for some reason. No scooter.

We couldn't even find someone to ask. We eventually did ask and then she vanished. Ten or fifteen minutes later, the scooter emerged drenched. It works still though.

Then we needed to find Candace's sister and nephew. We were over an hour late, so this was no small task. Finally, our nephew came running towards us. We ate at McDonald's and Candace had green tea McIceCream or whatever with beans.

Our nephew just picked up skate boarding and he's pretty good. I tried and fell right on my back within ten seconds of getting on. Then we walked along the coast. It was so hot, I was covered in sweat, which didn't mix well with the earlier rain.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

Osaka to Tokyo

Before bed last night, Candace declared,"Sometimes I get jealous of myself, but then I remember, I am me."

In the morning, we made our walk to Namba and then to the subway to Shin-Osaka. I got to ride in the ladies only car because the attendant placed the ramp for Candace there. I tried to be respectful and not act like a perv. Best I could tell, old men and me accompanying wheelchair users are ok, but a trio of teenager boys were booted from the car.

We had more problems with JR Central. We did some research an  found that last decade, the justice ministry found JR Central's anti-electric wheelchair policy to violate the idea of human rights. Just don't put a fucking handlebar on that electric wheelchair!

The bumbling idiots at the station took a half hour to figure things out this time. They used a dolly for the scooter and Candace got her own wheelchair.

Once on the train, we had reserved seats, but were moved into a multi-purpose room an  we used it for multiple purposes, if you know what I mean. It was an enclosed pod which acted like our own personal suite. It was pretty sweet! Though we had trouble with the electric scooter on the Shinkansen, we also were helped. The help was much appreciated, but the headaches were not.

We saw Mount Fuji from our suite and it was amazing! We felt very fortunate in that moment.

The scooter was placed on another dolly in Tokyo and Candace was wheeled out. We've noticed many people, foreign and local, who tak  the elevator when they take a suitcase. Candace said, "People get a rolling suitcase and all the sudden become disabled." I cracked up when Candace had to wait for the ramp out of the station to clear because two women with tiny rolling suitcases needed the ramp. Apparently they couldn't loft their tiny rolling suitcases up one step!

We walking through the Imperial Palace grounds which wa  cool. There aren't many old buildings in Tokyo because of WWII. This palace was built in 1968.

Our hotel has a stunning view of the grounds and central Tokyo. For dinner, we had our first encounter with a robot waiter. This one wa  pretty easy. It had some picttures and some English. Our only problem was getting started and finishing. When we figured it out, we gave our ticket to the chef. We liked our meal.

We noticed that people her don't lock up their bikes, an indication of how low crims is. By the metro station where.we live, you'll see bikes locked up, but most fo the parts have been stripped and stolen. Quite the difference.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

In Kyoto

We decided to take a day trip to Kyoto. Actually we wanted to stay in Kyoto, but we couldn't get an affordable hotel. So that's why we're staying in Osaka.

We walked 2 miles from our hotel to the Nanba subway stop. We took the subway to Shin-Osaka station without a problem. When we tried to board the bullet train we had a problem. We were stopped again. We were forced to wait for what turned out to be a half hour while other people were let through. We missed the train we had pegged.

Eventually they brought the English-speaking worker who was very helpful. She explained that JR Central wouldn't let us through because the scooter/wheelchair has handlebars. With her help we convinced them that I could push the scooter through the station. A half hour later, that was ok.

When the train came, a guy barker, "Hurry up!" at Candace. She got on as fast as she could as he kept barking. That pissed me off. Then he said, "JR pass." So I went to get our passes. Then he said, "Hurry up!" So I put ghem away. Then he said, "JR passes," so I got them again. Then he said, "Help her, hurry up!" By this point, I gave the man a dark stare as I tried to shove the JR passes back into the bag. He kept yelling Hurry up at me! I've heard that Japanese people are very polite,  but this guy didn't get the memo.

I helped Candace on and then he threw the scooter at me and into the train. The ride itself wa  easy and quick. We stored the scooter neatly behind the last seat in the car.

We charged the scooter near a McDonald's sign for 30 minutes and set off to explore Kyoto.

Kyoto was awesome! We visited Higashi Hogan-ji, Candace's first Buddhist temple. It was very beautiful and wheelchair accessible. Japan has been great in terms of wheelchair accessibility except for the handlebar hating schmucks at JR Central. We clandestinely took pictures of women dressed in kimonos who were taking pictures of cherry trees, and honestly probably clandestinely taking pictures of us!

We strolled along the Kamogawa River and gazed at the cherry blossoms. We came inland a bit and there were more cherry blossoms. Beatiful sidewalks and greenery are some other aspects that make Kyoto very beautiful.

We found a restaurant and I had friend chicken which I ate with chop sticks. Candace had mackeral. It seemed like Japanese-ized American food and was quite popular with middle-aged Japanese men.

We found the station again and tried to charge the scooter. But when iwas in the bathroom, two security guards made Candace unplug it. Not very disabled-friendly if you ask me.

We found another outlet and charged the scooter a bit, but it was in an awkward and crowded place, so we didn't stay too long.

When we tried to get on the bullet train we had problems again. This time, they put Candace ina wheelchair. They brought out a dolly and we put the scooter on. So JR Central is against scooters because they're too heavy and mak  wid  turns, so they put the scooter on a huge cumbersome dolly!

We waited a humiliating 15 minutes for this horrible dolly plan. Then when the train came, they told Candace to drive onto the train. Yep, I couldn't even push her in the station, but she was told to drive onto the train! We were told to stay in a hallway for the trip to Shin-Osaka.

When we got there, Candace wa  yelled at for trying to drive the scooter. Then some idiot (pretty sure it was te hurry up idiot from before) told Candace to hurry up and walk to the wheelchair with no help. Finally someone told the moron to bring the chair closer.

 We loade  the scooter onto anothe  dolly an  the scooter was nearly thrown off at the first turn. Dollies are hard to maneuver, you know. Much harder than tiny mobility scooters. When we reached the exit for JR trains, they plopped the scooter down off the dolly.

Then, Candace drove the scooter without a problem. You must understand we were still in Shin-Osaka station, just not the JR part. The two areas look exactly the same!

The isdue with the scooter is upsetting because the reactions have been different every time, which means they're making it up as they go along. Arbitrary ruled are frustrating. We brought this scooter instead of Candace's 350 poun  electric scooter because it's much lighter and eadily disassembled.

We took the subway, but didn't ask for a ramp. The subwaybis almost accessible without a ramp, but it for a few harried seconds. The scooter lost its charge on the way to the hotel, so I pushed it. And you know what, JR Central? We managed no to run into anyone! Imagine that!