The North Face Nordic, a cheaper alternative to the Nuptse

If you want to be like Goku chances are you’ll be spending a few grand on a second hand Supreme X North Face By Any Means Necessary jacket. Many people would know the jacket as North Face’s most recognizable product, the Nuptse. This makes it a common item for collaboration with brands like Gucci. Though the all black colorway is closest to Goku’s, this jacket is most commonly seen and recognized in a two tone colorway.

Men’s 1996 Retro Nuptse Jacket

The Nuptse starts at $320 even without any hypebeast collaborators, a hard sell for most people especially if you’re not in love with retro fashion. I’ve only seen the Nuptse on sale once at Pac Sun.

It’s not very well known but North Face sells another similar puffy called the Nordic. You can’t find it on their website and there are few online listings of it. The Nordic has bomber style collars and cuffs with four colored panels instead of three making the black part shorter. The difference is obvious with the pictures here but in person everyone is going to think you’re wearing the classic North Face jacket. Here’s the deal: the Nordic is on Amazon for low as $170 depending on the color / size and it’s also found at outlets for $160. It’s basically a half price Nuptse.

The North Face Men’s Nordic Jacket

The picture here makes the black section at the top look oddly short but in person the jacket’s style looks correctly proportioned. Fun fact: The 92 Nuptse has like three and a half colored panels, the more common 96 Nuptse has three.

92 Retro Anniversary Nuptse Jacket

The Suite First Class on ANA with Points is Impossible

So you got that Amex bonus and you want to go to Japan first class. As a savvy traveler you also know that nicest first class offering is from ANA, first class called “the suite”. The most efficient way to do this is by transferring your Amex points to airline points, a 1 to 1 conversion on a normal day. ANA however only allows round trip purchases with their points, and they charge 180,000 points for that round trip. But Virgin Atlantic can book ANA flights too, and they can book one way flights, and they only charge 60,000 one way! That’s a great deal. Checking a random date, this is a $16,500 dollar product one way, that’s an exchange rate of 27 cents a point. Typically points are worth only one cent making this one of the most efficient uses of points anywhere! The catch: it comes with a whole bunch of restrictions due to the difficulty of getting a flight.

1. You need to fly to / from JFK.

ANA operates 3 first class routes to / from the United States at JFK, ORD, and LAX. ORD does not have the new first class. Two of the three flights from LAX have the new first class but LAX only has confirmed first class until OCT 31. They haven’t decided if they’ll continue. First class seems to be going away in a lot of places, which is very sad in my opinion.

2. You can’t be picky with dates.

These seats are extremely rare. From JFK there is currently one first class award opening in the middle of August, a year from when I’m writing this. No first class availability on the way back. The furthest you can book a flight is a year out and I had them check the whole year. Japan has a great public transport system to augment commuting by walking but it’s over 90 degrees in August so it won’t be comfy walking around. Be ready to take whatever flight is open but I personally wouldn’t go during the Summer. There are openings before the OCT first class cutoff from LAX but tourism to Japan currently requires a visa and a travel group sponsored by a travel agent. Slim pickings to say the least.

3. You’re flying solo.

You can of course book another seat somewhere else on the plane for a traveling companion but the odds of two award first class seats being available on the plane are slim to none. Bummer because the center first class seats have a wall you can lower.

4. You’re only going first class one way.

Take first class whichever way you can, get a business class seat for the other flight. The stars would really have to align for you to find first class award seats a reasonable timeframe apart, the next first class opening is probably at least a month away.

5. It takes multiple attempts and time to get a ticket.

Award seats become available randomly to my knowledge. The United site provides live availability at this link by selecting book with miles. Look for ANA numbered flights, ANA flights with a UA flight number won’t count like DEN-NRT (UA 143) though as discussed earlier only JFK has first class. This is a really tedious process since you can only look at one day at a time and it takes forever to load. So if you want first class usually you have to call ANA first, wait on hold, have them check each month for first class award seat availability, then check on UA’s site to see if partners have access to the ticket, then call Virgin Atlantic to book the ticket.

Finding the Best Ryokan for the Most Authentic Japan Vacation

So lets say you dream of Japan, a far off world with vastly different culture and lifestyle. You want to take a vacation there but want to experience traditional houses with paper walls, eating and sleeping on the floor,,, that kind of thing. Well a hotel ain’t gonna give you that experience, you want a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese bed and breakfast type thing where you can really be immersed.

Well many of these often cater to Japanese domestic tourists, their websites are in Japanese (if they even have a website), and it’s not like you have many friends that could recommend you a place to stay across the world. How would one go about selecting a Ryokan? Many of you know that I have an obsession towards the Michelin guide (probably because of my obsession towards food) but here’s a little known fact: the Michelin Guide used to also review hotels. And when they were in Japan they also reviewed Ryokans.

The Michelin Guide is a… difficult source. They only have the latest recommendations listed on their website and often it’s impossible to find past recommendations without the physical book. I dream of one day compiling the Michelin Collection and creating a database but that would cost literally thousands of dollars for the more rare editions. Currently if you search for a hotel in Tokyo on their website, no Ryokans will show up. An article written in 2021 on “The Reinvention of the Ryokan” also has no Tokyo entries. I know Michelin guides were created to encourage driving but I guess I’m looking for a diamond in the rough, a traditional place to stay in the most urban part of Japan.

I’m really set on Tokyo because that’s where everyone visits. So let me spell out what I’m really on the hunt for: A Michelin recommended Ryokan in the city of Tokyo. Hotels used to be rated with “pavilions” if you’re curious and Ryokan recommendations have those pavilions stylized to look like traditional Japanese housing in the old red books. According to Wikipedia there are 10 Michelin Rated Ryokans in the Tokyo, Tokohama, and Shonan area. Here’s the real problem and the reason this is a “deep dive”: that Michelin Guide resells for about $150 to $250 right now.

The sourcing on Wikipedia brings us to the Wayback machine, where we can see a press release from 2011 on the 2012 edition. In this press release they only list one Ryokan called Sekiyo in Shonan, not Tokyo. I know from searching for the Michelin Guide that other editions of the “Tokyo, Tokohama, and Shonan” area guide have been released so I presume that the other 9 mentioned on the Wikipedia page are from other years.

Take a look at these Amazon listings: The 2013 guide is in Japanese, the 2011 guide is in French, the 2012 guide is hundreds of dollars. The Michelin Guide has release a modern Tokyo edition in 2022 being its 15th edition implying guides as far back as 2007. The press release for the 2022 edition makes no mention of hotels. I cannot even find one for sale and I suspect this is because from about 2013 onwards I only see Japanese editions, they may only be sold in Japan which of course makes a lot of sense from their marketing perspective.

I’ve also found a green guide that highlights places to stay but the green guide focuses on attractions while the red guide focuses on hotels and restaurants. What I really want to get my hands on is the latest Michelin Red guide with a Tokyo Ryokan recommendation. From what I can tell, there are no online PDFs available for purchase and no previews of their contents listed. So when you need to scan a collection of books you don’t have and can’t afford, you go to the library.

My local library system, the Denver Public Library has Michelin Guides but none on Tokyo. My ace in the hole access to the Harvard Libraries often helps me with rare books but I guess they didn’t think the Michelin Guides were important enough because they don’t seem to have any in the Harvard Library system.

So honestly, I’m left with the scraps here. The 2013 books on I think are all in Japanese. The 2012 red book is the latest one I know of where they rated Ryokans but it’s really expensive. The 2011 book I can only find in French. That brings me all the way down to 2010, without even knowing if they recommend a Ryokan in here, if it’s in Tokyo, or if that Ryokan even still exists. For what it’s worth I see 2011 in French, 2009 in English, 2008 in English and that almost completes the history because from what I can tell they started in 2007.

So I’m going to purchase all the English ones from newest to oldest in my search: 2010, 2009, 2008.

2010 edition has no Ryokans. To be continued…

My Favorite Denver Restaurants

This is list is going to be updated as I find better places to eat. I guess my greatest qualification to make this list is that I eat out every single day living in LoDo.

Ultreia

Tucked away in Denver Union Station is a small and very authentic Spanish restaurant. Get the Trio de Jamon with a wine pairing. They have a real Jamon Iberico on display, their bar is extensive, and the Ulteria font is inherited from a winery in Spain.

The Collective Green Eatery

The best avocado toast!

Aloy Modern Thai

The Khao Soi dish reminds me of curry my mom made. My favorite part is that half of the noodles are uncooked above the soup allowing me to have cooked and crunchy noodles in one dish.

Matsuhisa

Yes, I’m a Nobu fanboy but I really don’t think the other high end sushi places around are as good.

 

Three Days of Happiness Essay: The Tragedy of Himeno

Warning: This Essay Contains Spoilers

After the review by Gigguk, I decided to give Three Days of Happiness a read because the message of living life to its fullest resonates with me as a core belief. The story follows Kusonoki who decides to sell his lifespan. It’s determined that he likely won’t live a very fulfilling life and he’s offered the equivalent of three thousand USD for his remaining 30 years. Kusonoki accepts the offer and sets off with 3 months left. In the end he finds love and lives more in three months or arguably even the final three days than he ever could have in thirty years.

I personally loved the ending and thought it was a satisfactory resolution to the story’s conflicts except for one: his childhood friend Himeno. They’ve known each other since infancy and became closer after Kusonoki saved Himeno from falling off a viewing platform. A key memory for Kusonoki is his promise to marry Himeno at the age of 20 in the case neither were taken but he hasn’t seen her since she moved shortly after their promise. Miyagi, a near omniscient observer working for the life selling service, informs Kusonoki that Himeno is living an unhappy life as a single mother and high school drop out. Himeno would jump to her death in a few years time. Both at the top of their class as children, Kusonoki and Himeno are now similarly miserable.

Himeno’s last contact was by letter three years ago. Now desperate to reconnect, Kusonoki uses the address to find her and the two catch up over dinner. At dinner Kusonoki breaks down telling her that he’s sold his lifespan and is dying soon. Himeno thinks he’s going crazy but believes him as she knows her childhood friend well enough to catch him in a lie. Himeno then disappears after going to the bathroom but leaves Kusonoki a note:

At the viewing platform, I had meant to have you wait below and fall right down next to you. Maybe you would say you didn’t realize but I always despised you. For never responding to my cries for help then casually appearing before me now, I couldn’t hate you more. So now that you consider me someone you can’t do without I thought I’d kill myself.

However she changes her mind believing that getting revenge on an insane man would do no good. She closes the letter telling him she hopes it’s true that he’s dying soon.

It’s revealed that Miyagi knew of these details and the suicide she informed him of earlier was exactly that scenario. Himeno was plotting to jump from the viewing platform to convey the message that Kusonoki failed to save her this time. It would seem this tragedy is caused by their separation, an unavoidable situation as it becomes apparent that they needed each other.

The original timeline predicted by Miyagi shows us that no path could have possibly led to a good outcome for Himeno. Originally she commits suicide as an act of revenge, in the actual course of events she leaves him, and had she potentially accepted him back into her life Kusonoki would be dead in a few weeks. While it appears there was no way out for Himeno, her character is entirely culpable despite the situation.

The cries for help Himeno refers to was her singular letter to Kusonoki. Kusonoki admits that writing the letter was far out of character for Himeno. It’s easy to see the difficulty in directly asking for help from a childhood love when pregnant with another man’s child. Regardless Kusonoki failed to recognize the benign  letter as a distress signal, as she made no mention of hardship. Not only that but Kusonoki can’t be blamed for Himeno’s actions or circumstance, he wasn’t even in the same vicinity. And now that Kusonoki had finally come, Himeno believes it’s far too late.

Taking a step back from the situation, they’re both in their early 20s and Himeno had no awareness of Kusonoki’s impending death upon meeting. It was likely that she interpreted his sudden appearance as an attempt to make good on their marriage pact 10 years prior. From the age of 20 the two potentially had the rest of their lives to support each other. In the original timeline, had Kusonoki not sold his life, the two could have lived happily ever after if Himeno could muster the realization that her hatred was unfounded. Himeno not accepting Kusonoki and instead committing a suicide revenge scheme is a primary factor in why Kusonoki’s life goes downhill after college making the rest of his life in that timeline worthless.

Now for the real character flaw: Kusonoki admits that he’s going to die very soon. It’s obvious at this point that Kusonoki is facing the gravest misfortune and Himeno hasn’t been there for him either. In retrospect, had she found him, Kusonoki may not have decided to sell his entire life span. She too unknowingly failed to save her friend. The difference is that now, Kusonoki tells her in no uncertain terms that he’s facing his demise, no cryptic letters involved. This was her chance to save Kusonoki when he couldn’t do the same for her. Instead, in a completely hypocritical reaction, Himeno disappears and leaves a letter praying for his impending death.

Kusonoki actually saves Himeno’s life as she doesn’t commit suicide in front of him as predicted; though the theme of this story values lifetime happiness over years so Himeno is far from saved. This characterization may have been necessary because the author needed a reason to end her potential as a love interest. However, the first half of the story from the opening scene revolves around the ray of hope that was their childhood relationship. This part of the story is highly unsatisfactory to me and I consider it a loose end blocking a gratifying resolution.

It’s a matter of taste, I personally don’t like pure tragedy. The tragedy of Kusonoki’s death is reconciled by the fact that he traded for a net profit in lifetime happiness. The Tragedy of Himeno, is just a tragedy.

Fashion Award for Metaverse Design: brilliant idea, must broaden scope

The Fashion Awards hosted by the British Fashion Council added a Metaverse Design Award to their events last year. A digital fashion award is a brilliant idea. Fashion has already crossed into the virtual realm with video games with Louis Vuitton designing for League of Legends and Fortnite collaborating Moncler and Balenciaga. The craft of building digital assets is uniquely challenging and artful, it deserves it’s own award category.

While the award itself a great idea, I feel it was severely limited in scope for its first implementation by only considering Roblox assets. The award event was held in Roblox, presented by Alessandro Michele, Creative Director of Gucci. I believe the award was given exclusively online. While I didn’t watch The Fashion Awards, I can’t find any mention of the Roblox designers sharing the stage with designers and models. The designs could have been displayed on the giant screens and projections on stage at the in person event.

In the future I hope to see asset designers accepting their awards in person but more importantly, I hope to see the category open to all digital assets with clothing involved. In the video game community, fashion is mostly seen as a subset of character design. Character designers as well as asset creators should be considered from all platforms for this award. The panel should include a combination of fashion and asset directors.

Congratulations to cSapphire on the award, I’m sure it was well deserved. The designer had previously created virtual clothing for the Gucci collaboration with Roblox. Oddly, the British Fashion Council’s article didn’t include a single picture of the designer’s work. Here’s an image from their boutique site:

Epic Games, your installer is garbage

Upon unmounting the drive with the Epic Games Launcher, one is unable to re-install the launcher because the installer automatically looks for the old drive to install it in. No options to change the path, the installer just gives you an invalid drive error.

 https://www.epicgames.com/help/en-US/epi…

The official solutions to this problem are change your hard drive letter, which is insane because it will mess up all your other paths or is impossible since the main drive must be C. Or use the Windows automated repair tool which takes forever and I’m not sure if that even works.

Trying to manually clear out your registry with all mention of epic games is also far too time consuming, there are hundreds of entries and no one knows which one is the one the installer uses.

Trainings Given to an Air Force ROTC Cadet

Every cadet in the Air Force ROTC goes through a different set of training by nature of their detachment resources and updated trainings through the years. At the very least cadets are given 1 year of Aerospace Studies, drill and ceremony, and 2 weeks of field training. That’s the minimum though cadets these days get less trainings from the shortened length of field training. Many of us get to experience much more from satellite operations to air assault school. I’m just going to quickly list the trainings given to me as a sort of advertisement and thank you to AFROTC.

IEDs

IED Detection: using metal detectors to uncover IEDs buried in a sandbox.

IED Detection 2: walking through a forested area detecting enemies and traps.

Vehicle

Humvee Rollover: a Humvee on an axle spins to simulate a rollover.

Convoy Operations

Weapons

M9 Beretta Qualification: standard marksman qualification

Weapons familiarity: shooting various rifles, shotguns, and pistols

M4 Simulation: Air recoiled M4 simulation shooting gallery

Military Operations in Urbanized Terrain

Security Forces Use of Force Judgement: a scenario is played, the trainee must determine whether to use their sidearm before getting shot

Planes

Huey Ride

Pave Hawk Ride: mount and dismount

C-17 Ride: evasive maneuvers, nighttime operations

Medical

Self Aid Buddy Care

Triage

Trauma Simulation

Making Nigiri Sushi, combining Nobu and Nozawa

There’s 3 parts to Nigiri:

  1. The fish, obviously but unless you’re a fisherman or know a supplier most of us are stuck with whatever sushi grade fish is at the supermarket so this part will be only briefly touched on.
  2. The rice, I’m going to attempt to emulate Chef Nozawa’s technique here.
  3. The vinegar, a closely guarded secret by any sushi chef. My recipe is based off of the one given in Chef Nobu’s cookbook. If you can find a physical English copy of that cookbook it’s probably worth more than $100 right now.

Ingredients

  1. Rice: 3 cups (720 ml)
  2. Water: 3 cups (720 ml)
  3. Seasoned Vinegar
    1. Red Rice Vinegar: 2/3rds cup (160 ml)
    2. Coarse Sea Salt: 4 teaspoons
    3. Sugar: 1/2 cup (100 grams), granulated, highly refined
    4. Hon Mirin: 1 scant tablespoon
    5. Kombu: 2 sq. inch (5 sq. cm) sheet
  4. Sushi Grade Fish

Small Batch Vinegar Portions for One Cup of Rice:

  1. 3 tablespoons and 1.5 teaspoons Red Rice Vinegar (save 1 tablespoon for end)
  2. 1 and 1/3rd teaspoons salt
  3. 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons sugar
  4. 1/3rd tablespoon mirin
  5. 1/2 sq. inch kombu sheet

 

Sourcing Ingredients

Rice: Chef Nozawa says he sources his rice “from a Japanese company that grows their rice in the Sacramento Delta”. Not very surprising since California provides a lot of the sushi rice for the US. It’s pretty easy to narrow down that he’s likely talking about Koda Farms, a 3rd gen Japanese owned family operated rice farm in Dos Palos. They designate their medium grain Kokuho Rose table rice as “outstanding for sushi”. Just so you know, Chef Nobu prefers Koshihikari short grain rice from Japan.

Rice Vinegar: Chef Nobu specifies Red Rice Vinegar made from Sake Rice Lees for his recipe. The website Chef’s Wonderland has a featured article on akazu red vinegar and it’s obvious from the depth of said article that they know their stuff. They recommend a brand called Yokoi as used at three Michelin starred restaurant Sushi Saito and many others. Yokoi has three red vinegar varieties Shugyoku, Kohaku, Edo-tannen-su, described as traditional, distinct / sharp, and dark / umami. They also sell a “rice vinegar” but that still is typically used as part of a recipe. The only supplier I could find online that would ship to the United States is Kabuki Knives. In their description they describe the Shugyoku variety as a “traditional Edomae sushi tradition” and the Kohaku variety as “Yokoi’s most popular red vinegar standard in Edomae… the most used red vinegar in sushi restaurants that use red vinegar”. I’d probably go with the crowd on this one since I have no idea about making sushi the traditional Edomae way.

Hon Mirin: Hon Mirin is sweet sake so the real stuff is alcoholic and thus is sold in the liquor section, there are imitations that alter it to get around the liquor tax. The stuff is hard to find if there’s no Asian markets near where you live. The New York Times published a great article titled “Catching an Elusive Japanese Flavor” about it. One of the three brands mentioned in this article is Takara. Takara Sake in California is one of the largest producers of Sake in the US and they sell exactly one variety of their Mirin online.

Kombu: Chef Nobu also specifies sourcing Kombu from Rausu, JP. This specific variety is known to have a high glutamate content. The brand I use is called Kawashimaya, mainly because I like the product label and images, that may seem like a shallow decision but it looks far more professional and quality than the others online.

Sea Salt: I like to use Okunoto Agehama Salt inspired by a YouTube video from Great Big Story. The specific brand from that video isn’t available online but others from that region made with the technique are.

Section 1: Rice Prep

  1. Wash rice with cold water. Stir and rinse quickly. Strain and repeat until water is clear.
  2. Allow rice to soak in cold water for 25 minutes.
  3. Cook the rice with an electric rice cooker, use the sushi rice setting.

Interestingly enough Chef Nozowa notes…

The rice cookers that produce perfectly steamed rice are the same ones you can find in every Chinatown or big box store. The problem with that is they aren’t certified for use in restaurants. Which makes producing batches of rice in a large capacity kitchen either illegal or impossible.

Basically saying that his trouble is finding a rice cooker with restaurant grade certification that works as well as the small batch versions you find at home. He ended up designing his own restaurant grade rice cooker to fit his needs. Surely enough though, in his “Warm, Loosely Packed Rice” video, one of the rice cookers pictured seems to be a standard Zojirushi.

Section 2: Seasoned Vinegar

  1. Combine seasoned vinegar ingredients into saucepan save 3 tablespoons of vinegar.
  2. Bring to boil over high heat.
  3. Turn off heat after sugar dissolves.
  4. Remove kombu.
  5. Cool to room temperature.
  6. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of vinegar.

Section 3: Sushi Rice

  1. Pour seasoned vinegar over cooked rice in a handai.
  2. Quickly but gently fold the rice with a shamoji to mix all of the seasoned vinegar into the rice.*
  3. Spread rice into a thin even layer and smooth out the rice.
  4. Cover with a lid.

*Chef Nozawa mixes his rice with vinegar for exactly 200 seconds but that’s with a specialized machine so… not much help there.

Section 4: Cutting the Fish

You really don’t feel like a sushi chef unless you’re cutting the fish huh? Finding pre-cut sashimi pieces at the local supermarket seems like cheating to me but that method is mentioned as valid in Nobu’s cookbook. Just know that if you do decide to cut it yourself, you’ll have a bunch of bits leftover that aren’t nice rectangles. Maybe make a poke bowl with those bits but you’ll have to consume it the day of, don’t eat leftover fish raw.

According to Nobu, the ideal fish slice is 3 by 1 by 0.25 inches. Nozawa’s slice seems to be slightly shorter, wider, thicker, and definitely more rectangular. I’ll confirm exact measurements when I grab take out again instead of pulling out a ruler at the table. Angle the knife so that the cuts come out in this shape, at the head your knife should be more vertical, at the tail more angled. Cut the filet across the sinews, not parallel. In other words, your cut should form an X with the stripes, not run alongside them.

Section 5: Forming Nigiri

This is probably best taught on YouTube but I recommend reading Nobu’s cookbook for this. The basic idea is to place the fish on the fingers of your left hand and shape by using the fingers of your right hand and curling the left hand. The instructions are clear in the book with pictures for each of his 12 steps. That’s right, 12 steps. Including a wall of text here describing how to form Nigiri probably wouldn’t be much help so I defer you to the book or other sources with images.

A mock label for my own brand of sushi rice seasoning. It probably will never come to market but it’s fun to dream.