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Tokyo travel alert: City’s most important train line shutting down for construction this weekend

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A long stretch of the Yamanote Line is taking a break while construction crews get ready for its newest station.

Thanks to snarled traffic, trains are by far the best way to get around Tokyo, and you can hit up the vast majority of the downtown sights using just one line. The JR Yamanote Line forms a loop around the city center, and can take you to the high-fashion boutiques of Yurakucho, otaku paradise of Akihabara, Ueno’s spacious park, museums, and zoo, and also the Shinkansen access points of Shinagawa and Tokyo Stations (the latter of which is also the closest stop to the permanent Pokémon Cafe).

The Yamanote Line is so crucial to life and leisure in Tokyo that it’s never once been shut down for construction since the founding of East Japan Railway in 1987. That streak is coming to an end, though, as the company has announced that roughly a third of the Yamanote Line will be out of service starting on the morning of Saturday, November 16.

The reason for the disruption is the ongoing preparation for Takanawa Gateway Station, scheduled to open in the spring of 2020 and the first new Yamanote Line Station since 1971. After the last Yamanote Line train pulls into the depot on Friday night, construction crews will begin installing necessary track-switching equipment related to the new station, but will be unable to finish the project by the time of the first morning train. Because of that, on Saturday morning the Yamanote Line will be shut down between Osaki and Ueno Stations, with the following 11 stops inaccessible:
● Osaki
● Shinagawa
● Tamachi
● Hamamatsucho
● Shimbashi
● Yurakucho
● Tokyo
● Kanda
● Akihabara
● Okachimachi
● Ueno

Yamanote service for those stations is expected to resume at around 4 p.m. on November 16. In addition, JR’s Keihin Tohoku Line, which will also run through the new station, will be out of operation between Shinagawa and Tamachi Stations, the two stops adjacent to Takanawa Gateway, for the entire day on November 16.

During the shutdown, JR will be increasing the frequency of trains on its Saikyo and Ueno-Tokyo lines, which provide alternate access to the stations affected by the Yamanote/Keihin Tohoku shutdown.

Source: NHK News Web via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
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1 day ago
That sucks.
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We visit the new all-you-can-eat KFC buffet restaurant in Tokyo

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This feast includes much more than just fried chicken, sides and desserts.

KFC made everyone’s dreams come true when they opened an all-you-can eat buffet restaurant in Osaka back in 2015. However, while the popularity of eat-till-you’re-stuffed fried chicken has brought us limited-time deals on occasion, people in Tokyo have generally been starved of the opportunity to gorge on a KFC buffet…until now.

So when news broke of the new all-you-can eat KFC restaurant opening in Tokyo for the first time ever, we headed down on an empty stomach to report on all the morsels available for this hotly anticipated feast.

▼ Called KFC Restaurant, the eatery is located at the new Minami Machida Grandberry Park shopping complex in Tokyo’s Machida district.

It was busy inside the complex, and seeing as it had just opened on 11 November, we anticipated the wait to be seated would be long.

However, when we got there, the number 124 was allocated to us, meaning there were 123 people waiting in line before us. So despite arriving before the 11:00 a.m. opening time, we ended up waiting for FIVE HOURS, which meant our buffet lunch turned out to be a buffet dinner instead.

The one saving grace was the queuing system, which meant we could wander around the area, or even head off somewhere else and return again, as we would receive an alert on our phone to let us know when it was our turn to enter the restaurant.

Once the afternoon had come and gone, it was finally our time to enter the restaurant. Like many buffets in Japan, KFC Restaurant has different pricing plans depending on the day or time, starting at 1,980 yen (US$18) for adults for the 80-minute lunch buffet on weekends, while on weekends the price is 2,180 yen. The 90-minute dinner buffet, meanwhile, is always 2,580 yen, and adding all-you-can-drink alcoholic beverages tacks on 1,250 yen.

▼ Just a selection of the KFC morsels on offer at the buffet.

While the display case at the front of the restaurant acted like a teaser for what lay in store at the buffet, we couldn’t wait to see exactly what type of food was on offer. So as soon as we were shown to our seat, we stood right back up again and walked around the entire buffet section, photographing everything as we went.

▼ There was, of course, a variety of KFC’s famous original recipe fried chicken

▼ Along with other classic menu items, like crispy pieces, biscuits, and cole slaw.

▼ And it wouldn’t be a KFC buffet without the Colonel’s famous mashed potatoes and gravy.

As we made our way around the bain-maries, we saw some more unusual dishes, like:

▼ A hot bacon and vegetable salad.

▼ A meatball and grilled vegetable stew

▼ A prawn gratin

Garlic rice

▼ And bread quiche

There was also a selection of “KFC Special Chicken Menu” items, including a “Japanese-style grilled chicken” made with yuzu kosho, a spicy citrus-flavoured hot paste.

▼ And next to it, tandoori chicken.

There was also a variety of baked goods on offer, including garlic toast…

▼ And rich, buttery croissants.

In the dessert section, there were bowls filled with fruity offerings…

▼ Along with more creamy morsels…

▼ And even some coffee jelly.

And because we were there at dinner, we were able to enjoy some dishes only available in the evening, including the chicken paella

▼ The meat lasagna

▼ And the rotisserie chicken.

The mash, lasagna, tandoori chicken and paella were particularly moreish, ranking as some of our favourites.

One of the most unusual offerings we found, though, was the Special Soup Curry, which has been specially designed to act as a dip for the original chicken pieces.

They also suggest adding plain chicken pieces to it, so it can be eaten like a soup. This is what we opted to do, and we were surprised by how tasty it was.

Of course, we didn’t leave without trying absolutely everything on offer, but what we found ourselves going back for again and again was the biscuits and fried chicken pieces, which were crispy, juicy, hot, and incredibly delicious.

With so many different meals available, the buffet was an absolute bargain, and one we highly recommend trying. Just be prepared to wait a while, especially if you’re heading down on a weekend, as all-you-can-eat KFC is a dream come true for many Tokyoites, especially in a country where Kentucky Fried bath salts and KFC bento lunchboxes are extremely popular.

Restaurant information
KFC Restaurant / KFCレストラン
Inside Minami Machida Grandberry Park / 南町田グランベリーパーク駅
Address: Tokyo-to, Machida-shi, Tsuruma 3-4-1
Hours: 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. (lunch) 5:00 p.m.-10:00 p.m. (dinner; last order 8:30 p.m.)

Images ©SoraNews24
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1 day ago
Looks (and tastes) world different than stateside chains.
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The UT-erus

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The University of Texas is looking to make some changes to their football stadium. They might want to rethink things a bit.


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1 day ago
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Disney Plus Crops the 4:3 Aspect Ratio of Classic Episodes of the Simpsons to 16:9, Thereby Ruining Them

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Matthew Gault, Vice:

Unfortunately, Disney fucked it up, and The Simpsons I knew from my childhood isn’t the The Simpsons that Disney+ is showing. The classic episodes originally aired in a 4:3 format, which fit televisions in the pre-HD era. Disney+ is showing reformatted HD episodes in a widescreen 16:9 ratio. The images fill up a modern TV screen, but they’re cropped and stretched. As fans have noticed, the crop can cut sight gags from the Disney+ release.

For example, the Duff Brewery gag about all Duff being the same is completely lost in the crop. Besides missing gags, the crop is generally annoying and bad. When I watched “Marge Versus the Monorail,” for example, Lyle Lanley sang about the a town with money in extreme close up. Characters’ faces are often as stretched and distorted as Marge’s smeared face on a novelty T-Shirt.

Legal, full-quality access to episodes of the Simpsons is pretty much the only reason I was thinking about getting a Disney Plus subscription, so this is hugely disappointing.

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2 days ago
Not surprised given the first day troubles. Disney is also censoring films.
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Goldman Sachs Responds to Allegations of Apple Card Gender Bias

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Developer and entrepreneur David Heinemeier’s tweet about his wife’s paltry Apple Card credit limit has sparked a government investigation and a fierce debate about sexism in the financial industry.

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4 days ago
Apple won’t consider a credit raise for 6 months so that first suggestion is utter tosh. Strange oversight on the joint account thing.
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Revisiting the Apple Stock App Experiment

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Every year around WWDC, a new version of iOS debuts with a plethora of new features and capabilities, and there’s a feeling of upbeat enthusiasm towards the future of Apple’s iDevices. This was especially the case at WWDC 2019, as iPadOS was launched with a whole host of new multitasking features and quality-of-life improvements. Alongside all that, iOS debuted fresh new looks in Notes, Reminders, Calendars, and Mail.

In early September, I put myself up to the task of converting all my third-party apps in these categories to Apple’s own stock apps. For as long as I could handle it, I made the following experimental switches:

I figured it was time to revisit this experiment and see how everything turned out. To better relate everything, here’s a quick recap of my initial thoughts and impressions:

  • Notes: First-party system-wide integration, rich URL previews, direct scanner support, importing and exporting pains, no Markdown support, poor design.
  • Reminders: Better Siri integration, natural language parsing, rich task attachments, messaging and location-based reminders, no project management tools, no GTD methodology.
  • Mail: Great design, system-wide integration, security, inability to share emails, no power user or team features, poor inter-app integrations.
  • Calendar: Great design, live app icon, system-wide integration, finicky event creation, the overall design of the app icon.

Reading my initial impressions two months after the fact provides a few instances to nod and agree, shake and disagree, or flat out laugh at myself. Here’s where I ended up two months later.

Back to Bear

Of all the apps I was thinking — and even hoping — would stick, it was Apple’s Notes app. The premise of having an immediately accessible note-taking app on the lock screen on the iPad was delectable, as was the surety of knowing that Notes will likely be around in some shape or form for a very long time.

But the first-party and system-wide integrations that make Notes great were the only real checkmarks for me. Bit by bit, the frustrations grew with Notes, and I found myself redownloading and returning to Bear.

Why the Return?

In the case of Bear, this is really simple:

Organization and Triage: This wasn’t anywhere on my list of initial impressions, simply because I expected there to be no issue. But in reality, this was the dealbreaker — the folder structure inside Notes simply isn’t as malleable as I’d like.

Say I drop a screenshot inside a note of a unique home design that I either want to incorporate into a future renovation or into a future build. I generally want to organize that note a couple ways: as a “Home Renovation” note, as a “Future Build” note, and perhaps as an “Interesting Design” note. Well, in Notes, there’s no immediately noticeable way of putting that same note inside three different folders.

There’s also no fast and easy way to find your unorganized notes, nor is there a fast way to create new folders when a new type of note idea pops up. Bear succeeds vastly in this department — tagging notes with a hashtag is super fast and super easy, and there is an “Untagged” category right at the top of the left sidebar to find all your notes that need to be organized.

This, among all other aspects, is the single biggest reason for returning to Bear for my notes. Note-taking can’t be laborious. It needs to be quick, easy, and even more quick to access when inspiration starts in the future. Bear blows Notes out of the water in this regard.

Also, Markdown: Yes, I didn’t expect this to be a huge consequence of using Apple’s Notes app, but muscle memory was hard to overcome when typing out notes. Markdown is so much quicker for formatting than the rich text formatting that Apple uses. Adding links, headers, bulleted lists, and more inside Apple’s Notes app was tedious and annoying, and only served to quicken my move back to Bear.

Trusty Things 3

The Reminders refresh in iOS 13 and iPadOS came with much fanfare, as the previous Reminders app was one of the most long-in-the-tooth iOS apps in recent memory. iOS 13’s Reminders app has come a long, long way to shore up the app’s shortcomings, but it also requires a different productivity approach than many have become accustomed to with third-party options.

To me, this is purely due to the GTD methodology.

Why the Return?

I’m a little late to the “rain-on-Reminders” parade, as Stephen Hackett effectively beat me to these arguments just last week. In his piece titled Reminders Isn’t for Met… Yet, Stephen had three main reasons for Reminders falling on its face in an early switch:

  1. Sorting in Reminders
  2. Clunky task creation
  3. UI decisions, specifically regarding metadata presentation

Nodding and more nodding, at least in my camp. For me, it was specifically task creation and the following organization which did Reminders in for me.

Clunky Task Creation: I expected the new support for natural language parsing to absolutely rock when it came to quickly creating new tasks inside Reminders. Hackett:

On iOS, Reminders relies on the QuickType bar for making the typed word “Tomorrow” the due date for the task. It’s awkward, and in this example, I’ve typed the word “tomorrow” in the task name field, but to make it the due date, I have to tap it above the keyboard. Reminders should be confident enough to use what I type as metadata.

There are so many little icons and buttons inside Reminders, I felt overwhelmed at all the steps I had to take to enter a task in the app. Natural language parsing was simply not as effective as I expected.

Also, GTD methodology: Once that task was created, I ran into more headaches. It could be years of habit at this point, but I’m particularly good at brain dumping all sorts of stuff into a list. I can think of all the things quite easily. It’s the next step — organization — that requires more thought than I ever want to give.

This methodology effectively requires an “Inbox” for brain dumping. In Reminders, if this is how you work, you actually have to create an “Inbox” list where you can leave all your un-triaged tasks. But of course, because Reminders isn’t built with the GTD methodology in mind, Reminders treats that “Inbox” list like any other triaged list. There needs to be a 1, 2, 3, orderly process, and Reminders doesn’t have that.

It wasn’t long before I realized how I work, how I organize tasks on paper and in my head, and how Things fits this nearly perfectly. Brain dump into the Inbox, then keyboard shortcuts to shoot those tasks into their appropriate areas with their appropriate due dates.

I never actually expected to be able to turn my back on Things 3. But I didn’t expect to have to return to Things so quickly.

Messy Mail

Ah, yes, my undying infatuation for Apple’s own Mail app. There’s something so serene, so default, so generic about the Mail app that calls for me at least a few times a year. Generally speaking, this isn’t solely due to Mail’s design — usually Apple makes handy improvements to the Mail app each year (like swiping, or threaded conversations, etc.) that have me revisiting the app with wide, loving eyes.

But iOS 13’s Mail app is one of the biggest swings-and-misses for Apple’s Mail app in recent memory. In no way do I feel iOS 13’s Mail app is a step forward. Not only did prior shortcomings not get shored up (why can’t I share anything out of the Mail app via the share sheet yet?), weird UI decisions have led to the most awkwardly designed bottom action bar of any of Apple’s apps.

Why the Return?

First, to be candid, my email life has gone around the bush and back again over the last two months. We adopted a new email service at the office, which meant adding another email address to my email app. I’ve also gone through a major Office 365 push at the office, further opening my eyes to Microsoft’s Outlook app.

So with that in mind, it’s easy to see why Mail wasn’t going to live for long.

Lack of Integration: I’ve never been stopped in my tracks so often as I have been in Apple’s Mail app. An email flows in with a task that needs to be completed, I move my eyes around the screen looking for a way to share that email, be it with a colleague, or to my task manager, or both, and boom, dead end.

Instead, I’m met with two buttons on the bottom of the screen: an archive button and a reply button. Tapping the reply button opens up an entire screen’s worth of options, where you can reply all, forward, move the email, and more. Nowhere in this list is the ability to share the email outside the app, like Notes. If you want to forward the email, it requires two taps, which is important because this is the only way to get a task out of Mail and into Things.

(I would have said Mail to Reminders above, but the only way to make an email as an actionable task inside Reminders is by dragging and dropping the email on the iPad. There’s no way to do this on the iPhone, which is almost stunning in and of itself.)

The last thing I need is a second task list to try to tackle each day. And, as expected, emails were read and tasks weren’t completed, as my productivity attention was split between two different lists.

Also, UI decisions: More annoying than anything else: the reply button at the bottom of the email is situated in the bottom right corner (I guess assuming most folks use their right hand to navigate their iPhone?) and the corresponding reply button in the pop up menu is on the far left side of the screen. Two taps to reply or forward an email, and a long, awkward stretch of the thumb across the screen to reply — who made this decision, Apple?

iOS 13’s Mail app is a complete mess right now. I’ve almost never felt this way about Apple’s Mail app — it’s normally rock solid with just the right amount of features to keep it as my main email app. This time around, I feel like we’ve taken a step back in this department.

Clunky Calendar

I’m not much of a calendaring kind of guy — most of my events are created by my wife in our shared family calendar, or I add work appointments via Outlook on my Windows PC at the office. It’s a pretty rare occasion that I have to add something to my calendar from my iPhone or iPad.

As a result, Calendar is the one app that had a chance to stick in my stock app experiment. If I didn’t have to create events inside Calendar, I figured the app would stick thanks to its live app icon and immediate first-party integration whenever a date showed up in an iMessage or email.

In the end, habit prevailed — I’m back to Fantastical.

Why the Return?

Because I use a calendar app to reference more than create, I tend to want my calendar app to present events quickly and with minimal effort. iOS 13’s Calendar app isn’t strong at this and this is my main point of contention with the app. Further, for the few times I do need to create an event, there’s nothing quite like scrolling and tapping through dates and times to drive me bananas.

Displaying Event Information: Referencing your schedule in iOS 13’s Calendar app is more tedious than I anticipated. The app opens to a view of your current schedule for the day, and tapping on the month in the top left corner returns you to the overall monthly view. This monthly view is where I’ve been trained to live, as an outlook for the next week or two is more important than my current day’s schedule.

The monthly view is super bland — days with events have a single gray dot in them, indicating almost zero information about your future schedule. Tapping any specific day in this view shoots you back to the daily schedule view — in order to see all your events in that day, you have to scroll through the daily schedule. You can shorten this process somewhat by tapping the ambiguous button in the top right corner — once you tap this button, you’ll be provided with a list of your events on the chosen day, rather than be shot to a daily schedule view of that specific day.

Contrast this to Fantastical’s monthly view and you’ll see why I find myself annoyed with Calendar’s processes. Any day in Fantastical that has an event has a colored dot corresponding to the event’s specific calendar. Anything orange in my Fantastical view is a family event. Anything purple is a Sweet Setup event. Anything blue is a baseball event. And so on.

When referencing your calendar, Fantastical far exceeds the capabilities of the stock Calendar app.

Also, Natural Language Parsing: And if referencing your schedule inside Calendar wasn’t awkward enough, creating events in the Calendar app sure will be. There’s just no substitute for typing Supper at the in-laws at 7:00PM on November 25th /f to create a perfectly timed event in my shared family calendar in Fantastical. This same event creation in Calendar would take some typing, some swiping, some scrolling, and some more list choosing to put in the right spot in your calendar.

If there’s one feature I expect Apple to make to its Calendar app in iOS 14, it’s natural language parsing. Natural language parsing is already available as actions in Shortcuts as well as inside the Reminders app. It seems all but destined to make its way to the Calendar app.

Until Next Year

My fear is that the results of this experiment somewhat reflect every major iOS (iPadOS, specifically) release of the last few years. By that, I mean that there’s an exuberant “This will change how you use the iPad forever” moment in the weeks and months following WWDC, followed by an overall return to prior form. There’s enormous proof that the iPad and Apple’s own stock apps have changed how people work, but that change has been far more gradual than expected — it’s over the course of multiple iterations of iOS and iPadOS where we’ve seen larger impacts on workflows and productivity.

It’s this slow, gradual trudge forward that creates frustrations for third-party developers to meet and fix, and it’s why there is such a large group of people who are reliant on the best third-party apps on their iPhones and iPads. Apple just won’t introduce the share sheet to its email app, so developers created an email app that thrives with the share sheet.

This has happened in every category in the iOS App Store, and it’s happened for good reason.

Apple’s stock apps are good. Some of them are even great. But, for every annoyance or roadblock in Apple’s apps, it’s almost a certainty there’s a third-party app out there that fixes that annoyance.

I’m a man of habit. As it turns out, Things, Bear, Spark, and Fantastical have entrenched themselves in those habits.

It’s going to be very difficult for a different app to weasel its way in there.

You can read our full reviews for these great third-party apps here:

Our Must-Have, Most Used Productivity Apps

We spend an inordinate amount of time sorting through hundreds of apps to find the very best. We put together a short list of our must-have, most-used apps for increasing productivity.

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4 days ago
Surprise the stock apps are still neglected! I used to be this way but third parties have really outclassed Apple, and honestly what’s left aside from private APIs? Apple just can’t make a good move lately.
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