Category Archives: travel


We recently traveled to Turkey.  The trip was a great experience.  I really enjoyed the food, and wanted to upload a few pictures here:



Great and not-so-great things about the internet in Japan 2008

As I stated earlier, I am visiting Japan for the first time in 10 years this Thanksgiving break. After a couple of days, there are a few things that have really stood out to me.

Electronics are not as advanced over the rest of the world as they used to be. There are still alot of cool things here, but there is nothing I have seen so far that I am just dying to have. 10 years ago, this was very different…

The prices of things have not changed at the same rate here as in North America (ESPECIALLY Canada). The last time I was here, there were many things I wanted to buy, the the prices where prohibitively expensive. Granted, at the time I was a graduate student working on my Master’s degree and money was a bit harder to come by — but — the prices of things here is definitely cheaper. Eating out is now quite a bit cheaper than in New York City (depends on the restaurant of course).

The internet is the thing that is sticking out the most to me. 10 years ago ISDN was a luxury that most people only dreamed of. 128kbps was jsut amazing speed and you could actually download the newest version of Netscape 4 in under 1 hour. It was just great at the time. Now with fiber, cable, and DSL connections being plentiful here, I can watch TV via sling AND Video chat with friends and family through Skype for no cost at all. I spend more than $200 on phone calls the last time I was here!!

With all this good stuff, there must be some bad. The bad part of the internet experience I am finding so far is related to content filtering. It seems that many companies and providers are IP filtering connections and seem to block any connections not originating from the U.S.A. This is lame. One problem that is really bothering me is that Steam is not allowing me to download Left 4 Dead onto my laptop so I can kill some zombies. I already purchased the game and have been playing it on my desktop as well as my computer at work. I forgot to install the game on my laptop before I left, but didnt think much about it since I knew there would be a fast internet connection waiting for me in Japan. Well, to make a long story short, Steam is not allowing me to download any new content while I am connecting from Japan. I have tested this theory using VNC to my systems at work and at home. No problems there. Anyway, this lameness aside, I have found a way around other filters. SOCKS 5 Proxys are great. I installed WinSocks on my computer at home. I am connecting to the computer via Hamachi using a VPN. This allows me to not open ports on my router for this. Makes it very easy. Anyway, using a program called ProxyCap, I can redirect programs running on mylaptop to mask their IP address to that of my home system. This allows lots of things to work now. In particular, I am thoroughly enjoying watching NFL football via DirecTV’s Superfan program. It refused to connect without the proxy, but when I change the settings, I have live NFL football in all its glory right on my laptop. This is very nice.

Anyway, lots of good, and a few bad things (no killing of zombies is pretty bad…) to mention here. I will post more as the trip goes on.

Double Crispy Bakery — China Town — New York

Double Crispy Bakery

One of my absolute favorite things to do on the weekend is walk through Chinatown and look for tasty things to eat.  There are alot of dumpling places that I like, but as for a bakery, the absolute best, in my opinion, is Double Crispy.

They have a fine selection of baked goods, including the typical Chinese hot-dog buns and corn and mayo buns, but they also have really fine fish and chicken cutlet sandwiches.  The fish and chicken are not on the same sandwich….

Double Crispy Bakery also has a nice selection of steamed buns.  My favorite is the BBQ Pork Steamed bun, but vegetable is a close second.

The store is quite clean and there is ample seating.  The prices are unbeatable for the quality of the buns.

Rai Rai Ken Ramen (East Village)

Rai Rai Ken Ramen

One of my favorite places to eat in New York is East Village.  The food is good and its cheap.  I am also a big fan of ramen noodles — not instant ones (I like those too) but rather the good ones you get at Japanese restaurants.  A good place to try Ramen — Japanese Style — is at Rai Rai Ken.  It is a little place with only a bar to eat at, but that is all it needs.  They have a menu with a variety of different asian foods, but I would recommend sticking with the specialties of the house — Ramen Noodles, Gyoza, and Beer.

I am particularly fond of the miso ramen.  The soup is tasty and the toasted garlic its topped with really adds something to the flavor and texture of the soup.  The noodles are prepared semi-al dente, close to how ramen should be.  The gyoza are some of the best around.  Rai Rai Ken uses gyoza with thin skins and pan fries them so they are nice and crispy on the outside.  Beers offered are the typical Japanese selection minus the fantastic Yebisu (what is up with the prices of Yebisu by the way?!?!)

Anyway, I took some pictures with my cell phone and they are below.  The resolution isnt the best, but you can get an idea of the type of place it is.  Rai Rai Ken is definitely worth checking out.

Sushi Yasuda

Sushi Yasuda Logo

One of the best things about living in New York City is the access to great restaurants.  This city is really a fantastic place for foodies.  Generally, I like to walk around and look for a place that looks like its doing a good business and give it a try, but last night I decided to check out a sushi bar based a recomendation from the book “The Nasty Bits”, by Tony Bordain.

Sushi Yasuda was recommended based on its attention to detail, and I have to say I agree with this statement 100%.  I had never had such tasty yet simple sushi.  There were no frills — no special maki or anything else.  Just simple sushi — they way it is supposed to be.

I started by ordering an Yebisu beer.  This is really one of my favorite beers in the world – I grew to love it in the time I spent in Japan, but lately it has become very hard to find in the US.  It has also become VERY expensive here.  One bottle at Sushi Yasuda was $11.50.  I thought this was too high, so I switched to Asahi after my first.  Anyway, I was not there to drink beer but rather to eat.

I ordered a variety of al-a-cart sushi and maki and each was prepared individually for me as I was sitting at the bar.  As we tried the different fish, I was shocked at how different the taste and texture was from the typical places I eat, which are quite good as well.  As the meal went on and we switched to more interesting things like Uni, we decided to ask the chef what the difference between Yasuda and other places were.  He explained that it was the fish buyer.  Apparently the buyer is VERY skilled and knows all the ins and outs of where to get the best fish.

In general, I found Sushi Yasuda to be a bit expensive compared to other places, but the food is more than a step above any other place I have been in New York City or Tokyo for that matter.

If you are in the mood for great sushi with every attention payed to the details I would recommend giving Sushi Yasuda a try.  It is worth the extra cost.

Nathan’s 2008 Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest

I woke up early this morning with one thing in mind. I was going to Coney Island to watch Takeru Kobayashi battle Joey Chestnut for the world championship of hot dog eating. My initial plan was to ride my bike from my apartment to Coney Island, but it was raining, so I took the subway instead. I got to Coney Island around 9 AM and made my way to Nathan’s to grab a hot dog for myself before the contest. I got a tasty dog with kraut and onions as well as an order of fries. After eating, I made my way around the corner to where I could get a good view. There was already a 20 people thick wall waiting around 9:30 AM. These were real hard core fans of eating I found out. Anyway, after standing around for close to 3 hours, the contest began. Watch the video above for the details. It was fun and best of all it was totally free (other than my food).