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< Piro >

"Broken Limbo"

Monday - August 18, 2008

[Piro] - 10:33:57 - [link here]

I need to apologize for the very serious delay of the past week. Most of it stems from a very difficult problem i was having with the new t-shirt printing and production that took almost 4 entire days to resolve... a problem that needed to be fixed and at times i wondered if i was ever going to overcome. It has delayed not only this comic (since i have been spending most of my time on it) but has delayed production and shipment of all the shirts that you folks have ordered from the store. The good news is that last night i was finally able to resolve and fix the issue. Subsequent testing has confirmed that the issue is indeed fixed, and the print quality of the shirts is up to what i (and you) expect them to be.

The limbo i have felt like i have been living in for the past week is now broken.

Of course, the euphoria that came with finally resolving the problem (it had to do with being able to properly print in high speed (bi-directional) mode as opposed to normal speed (unidirectional) which was more than doubling the time it took to print shirts) has now passed and i'm having to face the big catch-up with not only orders but the comic as well.

This comic is actually not too far off from being done, but i still have a few more frames to finish before i can post. On top of this, now that the printer is working properly i have to actually be there to ramp up production so we can fill all the outstanding orders.

So, that said, I would first like to apologize for the delay in shipment of your shirt orders from the Megagear store, and let you know that we are now back online and orders will start being filled and shipped as soon as i can get them printed and out the door. Thank you for your patience. As for the comic, it's coming - and now that i am past this big hurdle with this new production method and i will be switching my priorities back to that thing that i would much rather be doing - drawing comics.

I also owe you folks a rant with more info on what exactly this all is. I'll do that too in the next few days.

Ah, the joy of learning the ins and outs of new production methods, new machines... Sometimes it's learning the technical bits and tricks and ins and outs of machines that always have their own personality and quirks. Sometimes it's a question of learning what voodoo or magical incantations to recite. Sometimes it's finding that hidden little hatch on the back marked with a squiggly looking cephalopod-like creature that pops out and reveals an intake where where you can pour appropriate measures of your own blood. Finally found that hatch last night. Hopefully it will stay satisfied for a while as i try to rebuild my red blood cell count with copious amounts of coffee and wheat thins.

It's a bit of a spoiler, so if you'd rather wait for the finished comic, don't look, but here's a rather nice frame from this upcoming comic. I'll be posting the finished comic as soon as i can finish up the remaining frames later this afternoon. Thank you again for your patience - time to get back to work.

< Dom >

Note 145 bowls on the right...

"All the Soba in the World"

Wednesday - August 27, 2008

[Dom] - 11:43:09 - [link here]

Like most guys my age, I tend to compare life situations to scenes from The Simpsons. It's just how the modern male (Homo Pop Culturior) deals with life situations. When the concept of wanko soba was presented to me, the first thing that came to mind was the episode where Homer goes to hell and is told "You like donuts, eh? Well, have all the donuts in the world!"

Here's the setup for Morioka's famous wanko soba: for a median price of about 2500-3000 yen, you get all-you-can-eat soba noodles with a few extras. There are conditions, though. For one thing, you aren't allowed to choose your own portions. A waitress with a tray full of bite-size portions of soba stands over your table like a vengeful god, filling up any empty bowls with a cheerful noise (our waitress gave us "jan jan!" "don don!" and "mada mada!" mostly) and alarming speed. The bite-size portions are pretty variable, but for the most part, they're easily lifted with a single swipe of your chopsticks. And, as the standard warning speech notes, the little splash of broth that comes with your soba is a trap; you're better off dumping it into a conveniently supplied bucket than eating it.

Once you start, you can't stop. Standing up, covering your bowl, and other such gestures are seen as signs of defeat and end your soba challenge. The moment you decide you're finished - or the wait staff/your gag reflex tell you it's a good time to stop - your meal is done and the staff politely brings you a small, healthy dessert and a knowing message that you can feel free to stay seated until you're ready to walk again.

All in all, it's like a demented version of Brazilian barbecue, with the infinite patience of Japanese waitresses replacing the hawk-eyed watchfulness of the gaucho. Either that, or it's like calves being raised for veal.

When Seiya and I sat down at Azumaya, a restaurant near Morioka Station, we spent some time talking about other people's records - Seiya's friend from Fudai had hit about 70, while the village record was something like 140. I had no idea what to expect, so the numbers seemed abstract. To try and get a better feel, I spent some time sitting at the table watching other people taking the Wanko Soba Challenge. There were families and groups of students at the restaurant, divided into two groups: challengers and record-keepers. The challengers concentrated on eating until they could eat no more, while the record-keepers provided encouragement, photographic evidence, and a running count of how many bowls of soba had been eaten.

One challenger stuck out in my head, after he hit a hundred bowls to the general applause of his school friends. The first words out of his mouth were "I'm happy, but, umm, how do you say it," and though he couldn't complete his sentence, the pain in his voice said it all. I resolved not to succumb to the lure of big numbers and just eat until I was done.

Soon, it was time for the challenge itself - the beaming waitress came up to our table with fifteen tiny bowls of soba and we were off. As we started, I declared that my goal was to eat fifty bowls. After slurping down seven mouthfuls of noodles, things looked good. In between servings, Seiya and I, sportsmen and competitors at heart, kept a running count of who was ahead. After a slow start, I got the hang of the best slurping strategy and built a quick lead - at around the forty-five mark, I held a six-bowl lead.

As I approaced the point of no return (or, as I called it jokingly, the "point of too much return") at around seventy bowls, two things kept me from stopping. One was the feeling that I needed to beat Seiya, since there was a friendly bet going, with no prize but pride (the most important prize of all, in some minds). The other was the waitress' sadism. When I gingerly lifted the last noodle out of my 70th bowl, she politely inquired if I was okay while blithely pouring me another bowl of soba. Her voice was friendly, but it seemed to me that behind her eyes lurked the hatred of someone whose job is to shovel noodles all day while promoting the folly of man.

At seventy-one, I tried to cover up my bowl before she could get to me, but she moved with the speed of a serpent and I couldn't help but keep going. For seventy-two, she learned my tricks and snuck in another bowl under my feeble chopstick barrier, and seventy-three was in my bowl before seventy-two was fully in my mouth. Seiya found this amusing, but he couldn't escape the waitress' wrath either. I managed to squeeze out a chuckle from my chipmunk's mouthful as he weakly fended off the waitress, defending the last noodle in his bowl by using his chopsticks and the lid of his bowl like a sword and shield. At the same time he put the last noodle in his mouth, he slammed the lid down with a brief cry of triumph. It was quickly cut off by a few groans as the sound caused the soba in his stomach to shift, and he was quiet after that.

My own escape from soba hell was pretty tame in comparison. I chose the passive-aggressive route, and refused to eat the last bowl, which resulted in the removal of one bowl from my stack (Seiya has pictures - they're quite impressive) and a final count of our records. In all, Seiya and I ate 145 bowls of soba - 73 for me, 72 for him. I managed to stop before I felt ill, which seems to be an achievement in and of itself.

For the next few minutes, Seiya laughed at his own predicament while I sent out victorious text messages to most of my friends, who either responded with G Gundam lines (東方不敗は?! 王者の風よ!) or general disgust (thanks, RiceSuki). He also declared that he wouldn't eat soba for a year or more.

Me? I think I might get some more today. It was pretty tasty, but I didn't have any time to enjoy it.


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