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I recently ordered the new Steven Brust Vlad Taltos novel “Iorich” from Amazon.co.jp. I’ve been waiting since January 2010 for it to come out in paperback. Always annoying that long delay before a paperback, especially when they suddenly start producing hardbacks of a once a year series. I don’t like having different types in a series, particularly a long one like this and since i’ve got the rest in standard sized paperback, I’m going to continue in that vein. So, Amazon in Japan finally indicated it was due in January 2011 and I ordered it. Then they kept pushing back when it would be sent and finally they pushed it back to January 2012! WTF? Checking on Amazon.com, it turns out that Tor have now produced a trade sized paperback (8.2inches tall) which unlike my Harry Dresden books is too big even to fit on the shelf that the others are on. So, we now have the hardback appearing in January 2010, the stupid size paperback in January 2011 and the mass market sized paperback not until January 2012. A wait of two years until the ordinary paperback comes out. The book publishing industry seems to be hell bent on following the music publishing industry into screwing itself up by pissing off its regular customers. They’re insisting on DRM for ebooks, they’re not making all the older even very popular material available in ebooks (Pratchett’s Discworld isn’t all available for example) and even when they do they’ve screwed up the permissions so there isn’t a worldwide appearence (sometimes if you want it in ebook form it’s out but the only way to get it is illegitimate), and their core product is being over-squeezed in its traditional market in a way that annoys regular purchasers. Way to  destroy your own industry, guys. I don’t have an ebook reader, but if I did I’d be tempted to download one of the versions available on bittorrent. Especially since the legitimate version seems to be Nook only (that’s right, restrict your market – great way to keep your customers).

Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

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Christmas in Japan is rather odd for a Westerner. Just like in the US or Europe, images of the Coke-inspired (i.e. Red and White) Santa Claus are all over the place, as well as the evergreen symbolism of midwinter solstice. Howeever, Christmas Day isn’t a holiday. The current emperor’s birthday is the 23rd December, so that is a holiday, but Christmas Day itself is just a normal day, unless one is among the tiny number of Christians in Japan, where it’s a religious day for them. The build-up is pushed by retailers, with Christmas decorations all over the place. These are replaced on Boxing Day with the Japanese New Year decorations instead. New Year is the big holiday season here, really.

This year, Christmas Day falling on a Saturday makes it a non-working day, but it still feels rather like all build-up and no pay-off.

Following my family tradition, I cooked a Christmas dinner for Tomoko and myself last night, as best as I could manage. Last year I brought a small (non-alcohol, and you wouldn’t believe how hard those are to get even in the UK, now) Christmas pudding with me. This year, having moved across in February, I didn’t arrange that. Still, we had smoked salmon for a starter, and this year we managed to find a department store in Ueno that had small turkeys available (just 1.8Kg, which is about right for two people, and fits whole into our small combination microwave/toaster/oven). So I did that with roast potatoes, roast carrot and roast taro (Japanese sweet potato – can’t get parsnips in Japan but these make a nice substitute – not as sweet as a parsnip, though) plus green beans and tender stem broccoli (first time I’ve ever seen tender stem broccoli in Japan).  You can’t get packets for bread sauce so I made my own again – not too much hassle and unlike some of the shop-bought ones I can use nutmeg instead of clove – some of the so-called luxury shop-bought ones in the UK are so clove-flavoured I can’t eat them. You can’t get cranberry jelly or cranberry sauce. Maybe I’ll see about buying some cranberries in the autumn next year and making my own sauce. I couldn’t find a suitable  Christmas dessert. One of the local bakeries had some stollen earlier in the week, but they’d sold out by yesterday when I decided that was the only possible Christmas dessert available. So I just bought Haagen Daas ice cream instead. Nice and luxurious, though not traditionally Christmas. The Japanese have a “traditional” Christmas  cake: sponge, strawberry and cream. Very strange.

Today we’re on our way to Nagano for a brief holiday. I’m typing this on the Shinkansen from Ueno to Nagano, and will send it via the 3G Internet connection. We just had “Christmas Dinner”, i.e. lunch on Christmas day. Smoked salmon and turkey sandiches (that’s sandwiches with smoked salmon and sandwiches with turkey, not sandsiwches with turkey and smoked salmon together). Leftovers, basically. Another Adams family tradition since we have Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve and then leftovers for the next couple of days.

As you can tell from all the food, I’m off my diet for the holidays. I think it’s a sensible thing to do. I don’t plan to go mad and balloon back up, but I’ve lost a decent amount of weight this year and am now down to less than 86Kg, so I can afford to indulge a little over the holidays and not be set backj too far in my progress to the target of 75Kg or so. Over halfway there, until the holiday binge kicks in, anyway.

Originally published at blog.a-cubed.info

October 2016

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