Monday, December 28, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Today's a red letter date in the history of science!
54 years ago today, Doctor Emmet Lathrop Brown had a vision.
A picture in his head.
A picture of this:
This is what makes time travel possible. The Flux Capacitor!
Happy Flux Capacitor Day!
Monday, August 24, 2009
I got them in black because I figured that color would be the least noticeable. (And because the other ones looked like they'd been used to run through a field of Smurfs.) Sadly, when contrasted with the blinding white of my calves, these shoes are still pretty hard to miss.
Plus, they make my feet look like Mickey Mouse's, which doesn't help.
Anyway, the main reason I bought them is because I really believe in the benefits of running without shoes. That's why I'm doing this post. (Also, I want to show my younger brother that I'm not making this stuff up.)
Here's an article from the Boulder Daily Camera which, I swear, is an actual news source:
Barefoot running: enthusiasts swear by weird-looking shoes:
"McDougall, who now runs exclusively in Five Fingers and other low-support shoes, shined a light on scientific research that, in his words, shows that “running shoes may be the most destructive force to ever hit the human foot.” In fact, he writes, modern running shoes actually cause all those persistent running injuries, from plantar fasciitis to bum knees. Essentially, they make wimps of runners’ feet."(updated link here)
Also, aside from all the potential benefits of running essentially barefooted, you'll also often have this song stuck in your head, which I consider a bonus.
Here's a video of McDougall talking about his book "Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen" on The Daily Show:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
I really liked "Born to Run" but I'm glad I read it before seeing this interview. Not sure how far I could have gotten if I had to hear Christopher McDougall's pronunciation every time I read the word "Tarahumara".
Now please stop picking on my shoes, Ken.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Saturday, July 18, 2009
"What is it about us geeks that makes us such great catches for non-geeks? It’s easy to see how geeks would find partners within the world of geekdom, provided they had compatible geek interests. But many of us have managed to find spouses or significant others who are if not completely “normal,” then at least significantly less geeky than ourselves."The only problem with marrying a geek?
The Back to the Future-themed wedding cakes.
"Seattle, can you hear that train a-comin'?I only hope this encourages similar projects and a larger rail network. I still can't believe how behind the U.S. has been at this for so long.
Thirteen year after voters approved the taxes to build it, Sound Transit's Central Link light rail opens for service Saturday. Trains will run every 71/2 minutes from stations along the 14-mile line between Westlake Center in Seattle and the massive, glass-encased station in Tukwila at South 154th Street and Tukwila International Boulevard."
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Peter Sciretta over at /Film wrote an interesting post about how the original script of Back to the Future nearly "Nuked The Fridge", a term he explains below:
"After Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released, a new pop culture term was coined. Nuke The Fridge is a reference to the film’s opening scene (possible spoilers if you haven’t seen it) where Indiana Jones finds himself on a Nuclear test site and hides in a refrigerator to survive the atomic blast. The phrase Nuke The Fridge was joined as an alternative to Jump The Shark, another pop culture term based on a scene in an episode of Happy Days when Fonzie literally jumps over a shark while water skiing. The scene was considered so preposterous, and is considered by many to signify the moment in time when the show became unappealing to its core audience."Hard to believe that such a term could be used to describe anything related to the Back to the Future movies, but it's true. Obviously, I loved the first Back to the Future movie but, I will admit that the original script was pretty cringe-worthy. In fact, I talked about it a bit in this post back in July of last year:
"Now, in the original "Back to the Future" script (which, I'm sorry to say, was rather painful), the climactic scene did not revolve around Marty using lightning to power a DeLorean time machine back to 1985.
Actually, it had Marty leaving the "Enchantment Under the Sea" dance to take a road trip with Doc to Nevada where they snuck onto a restricted military base so Marty could hide out in an empty test house (with a TV playing "Howdy Doody", see a pattern here, folks?) before using a nuclear explosion (and a bottle of "Coke", in an act of really blatant product placement) to power his trip back to 1985... in a refrigerator.
Come on! When I first read that, I thought "Thank God they were smart enough to change that".Peter gives more of an explanation over why the idea was scrapped:
Director Robert Zemeckis has said in interviews that producer Steven Spielberg was afraid that children would start climbing into refrigerators and getting trapped inside, after replicating the scene in the film. Who would have thought that he would have made a film where the hero climbs into a fridge at a nuclear test site almost 25 years later.Click over to read the rest. He's even included a video of the storyboards from third-draft ending.
Zemeckis still believed that the time machine should move, and they came up with the idea of using a retrofitted DeLorean because it could lead to the gag of farmer Peabody thinking it was a UFO/Aliens. The concept of the Hill Valley courthouse didn’t come until much later. Even the third draft of the screenplay involved taking the DeLorean time machine to the atomic bomb test site. The idea was scrapped because it was deemed too expensive for the budget. ILM wanted one million dollars to create the bomb effect, and at that time, that was a lot of money. The power source was changed to lightening and the location was changed to the Hill Valley courthouse, which they filmed on the Universal Backlot.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
(You can also watch the US trailer for Ponyo in High Definition on Apple)
I really enjoyed seeing this when I was back in Japan last year. (Although my Japanese must be really rusty because I don't remember the whole "Ponyo needing to save the world" part.) Quite the voice cast Disney's assembled for this! (FRANKIE JONAS!!)
What's really interesting to me is the Ponyo theme was such a major part of the advertising campaign in Japan (to the point of making your ears bleed) yet, here in the States, you can barely hear a few notes of the theme played on a muffled xylophone (in a passing car with the windows rolled up) at the end of the preview.
I'm OK with that.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
It's Shatner VS Shatners!
William Shatner? William Shatner. WILLIAM SHATNER!!! It's the first ShatnerCon with William Shatner as the guest of honor! But after a failed terrorist attack by Campbellians, a crazy terrorist cult that worships Bruce Campbell, all of the characters ever played by William Shatner are suddenly sucked into our world. Their mission: hunt down and destroy the real William Shatner.
Featuring: Captain Kirk, TJ Hooker, Denny Crane, Rescue 911 Shatner, Singer Shatner, Shakespearean Shatner, Twilight Zone Shatner, Cartoon Kirk, Esperanto Shatner, Priceline Shatner, SNL Shatner, and - of course - William Shatner!
No costumed con-goer will be spared in their wave of destruction, no redshirt will make it out alive, and not even the Klingons will be able to stand up to a deranged Captain Kirk with a lightsaber. But these Shatner-clones are about to learn a hard lesson...that the real William Shatner doesn't take crap from anybody. Not even himself.It's Shatnertastic!
Friday, June 12, 2009
"...Tony J got married a couple weeks ago, and his wedding featured a new Back to the Future-inspired wedding cake. But this time around, its not an edible DeLorean, but instead Hill Valley’s courthouse square. The cake was designed by Caryn’s Cakes in Atlanta, and the Clock Tower is made out of red velvet cake."
I don't want to say there's a test for true love, but this woman passed it.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
James Toback And Brett Ratner Move Forward With DeLorean Biopic (via /Film):
"Most film fans now know the name DeLorean thanks to Back to the Future, but there was a point where the entrepreneur was a headline-making designer. There’s a reason that the 9000 produced DeLorean cars are an iconic symbol of the ’80s. Well, two reasons: in addition to making a wild-looking car, John DeLorean allegedly trafficked drugs to generate cash for his struggling company. (He beat the charges; the ‘trafficking’ was actually an elaborate entrapment scheme.)"RELATED POSTS:
Women + DeLorean = Hot
Octane Talks About The DeLorean
Chuck Versus The DeLorean
Thursday, May 14, 2009
(via U.S. News and World Reports)
"Some researchers in Texas are trying an unusual approach to combat fire ants -- parasitic flies that turn the pesky insects into zombies whose heads fall off.This has given me an idea for a new book:
The flies "dive-bomb" the fire ants and lay eggs, and then the maggot that hatches inside the ant eats away at the brain. Later, the ant gets up and starts wandering for about two weeks, said Rob Plowes, a research associate at the University of Texas at Austin.
Although the ant exhibits zombie-like behavior, Plowes said he "wouldn't use the word 'control' to describe what is happening. There is no brain left in the ant, and the ant just starts wandering aimlessly."
About a month after the egg is laid, the ant's head falls off and it dies — and the fly emerges ready to attack any foraging ants away from the mound and lay eggs."
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Of all of the places I've ever been to in Japan, perhaps my most favorite was simply the patio of my apartment.
Not only was it a great place to catch some glorious, pollution-fueled sunsets, but I used to love just sitting out there on a deck chair with a cup of hot tea, watching the ships roll in (and, for the sake of Otis Redding, watching them roll away again).
Even though I grew up in Florida, I never really got to see the big boats. We just didn't have them on the Gulf Coast side. Which was fine with me. I like my beaches with clean sand and an empty horizon, neither of which go hand in hand with an active shipping lane.
But, in a foreign country, looking out from a high vantage point over a river whose water quality would actually be improved by an oil spill, I couldn't help but be fascinated by these giant boats floating silently by. They reminded me of toppled skyscrapers being carried by an army of ants. (A mental image that seemed a lot cooler until I typed it out.)
Anyway, during one of my long-distance calls back to Florida, I mentioned my new "ship-spotting" hobby to my dad and we got to talking about the time he worked at Sparrows Point Shipyard, run by former American giant Bethlehem Steel (you can read of its demise here).
My dad wasn't there to witness the end of Bethlehem steel. He left the shipyard shortly after I was born so he could move his growing family to Florida and pursue a career in accounting. This, in retrospect, was a wise decision, especially considering that any books written about his former place of employment inevitably had titles like "Making Steel: Sparrows Point and the Rise and Ruin of American Industrial Might".
(Also, in the field of accounting, there's a lot less falling debris that can kill you.)
Despite my dad being full of stories that ended with lines like "...and that was how he lost his other hand", my favorite of his shipyard tales was the one about the time he had pounded my initials into the boat he was working on. It wasn't much of a story, really. More a statement of fact. But it was always nice to be reminded. And I loved to hear about it.
Anyway, a few days after our phone call, my dad sent me a packet. Inside, mixed in with some junk mail from home and few papers I had to sign, was the following color photocopy of a postcard:
(Sorry about the quality. It's actually a scan of a color photocopy of a postcard from the 70s so I'd be grading on a curve if I were you.)
Below the picture he wrote:
Matt,He then recreated the series of dots that formed the six letters which make my initials. (Yes, I have a long name. No, it's not essential to the story.)
This is the ship with your initials in the rudder.
He also included a copy of the information printed on the back of the postcard:
Now, for as long as I'd known about his little act of well-intentioned rudder vandalism, it wasn't until that moment - looking at that picture and reading that info, combined with months of watching similar big boats glide past my windows - that it hit me just how cool it really was.
On the back of THAT boat was a rudder with my initials on it.
I immediately Googled "S.S. Massachusetts" to find some more info about the ship. Was it still at sea? Could I see it? What are the logistics of being able to view a rudder?
That first search proved fruitless. As did subsequent others (using every combination of words I could think of). The boat's name was just too vague. Aside from Massachusetts being a state, there was another boat with the exact same name, an American battleship built in the late-1800s. (And my dad would have only been in his teens back then. I kid, I kid.)
Anyway, while going through my big box of Japan files today for my book, I came across the photocopies he had sent me. Naturally, when presented with a choice between continuing to work diligently on my book and, well... anything else, it's not a tough decision. So, I gave the search another shot. The best I could do was find this PDF file with a copy of a copy of a bad photograph of the Massachusetts in dock (pg. 21).
Finally, in a last ditch effort, I just did a search for "tankers built at Bethlehem steel" and that's where I found this page listing tankers build in U.S. shipyards since WWII.
Halfway down the list was the following entry:
My dad's boat! At the end of the row was the following information:
No wonder I couldn't find any information on it, they renamed it! While I was sad to see that it had been scrapped, I was thrilled to find it had been renamed something a bit more search-engine-friendly. Armed with this new information, I had no trouble uncovering the interesting history of the S.S. Massachusetts.
It had actually once been renamed "Ocean Runner" in 1988. But, if I thought searching using it's old name was tough, it was nothing compared to Googling "Ocean Runner", which brought up everything from powerboat rentals and aquarium pumps to shoes. Thankfully, in 1993, it was renamed the "Astro Gamma".
Two years after that, it had a bit of an oil spill:
The master of the Astro Gamma (Greek-registry 268,310-dwt tanker built in 1975, operated by Kristen Navigation Inc.) was fined U.S.$20,800 22 Jan. for spilling oil in Malaysian waters and failing to inform the country. Georgantas Dimitros pleaded innocent 20 Nov. but changed his plea during the trial. Judge Mohamed K. Abdul Rahman of the Malaysian Sessions Court at Kuantan fined Dimitros U.S.$20,000 for the first charge and U.S.$8,000 for the second. At 0905 3 July, 1995, the ship spilled oil sludge that formed a 20-kilometer/12-mile slick.Oops.
Also, a few years later, a small fire:
3.] 26 June. M/T Astro Gamma (Greek-registry 268,310-dwt tanker) suffered an engine room fire as it loaded fuel at Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The fire was extinguished by local firefighters and no one was injured. The Astro Gamma has 42 crew;Fires in the Netherlands!
Oil spills in Malaysian waters!
Adventure on the high seas. This was my kind of boat!
As I continued exploring the search results, I finally stumbled upon a more recent picture of the Astro Gamma:
It didn't age too well, huh? And I do miss the green but, hot damn... that's the boat my dad worked on! (I even found a few aerial shots over at Fotoflight.com. Just do a search for "Astro Gamma".)
In 2001, the Astro Gamma was sold one last time. This time, for demolition. (And for the low, low price of $135 per light displacement ton! Plus, thanks to Amazon's Super Saver Discount, FREE delivery to India!)
Alas, 27 years after it left the Sparrow's Point shipyard in Maryland, the Astro Gamma was dismantled by hand at the shipyard in Alang, India.
Travel writer Mark Moxon describes Alang as follows:
The word 'platform' when applied to Alang is a euphemism: the platforms are simply beach. When a new ship is about to be broken up, the beach in the relevant yard is totally cleaned, even down to the last nut and bolt (nothing is wasted in this recycling operation), and then the ship is driven straight at the beach at breakneck speed so that it quite literally beaches itself. This part is finely tuned and has been done so many times that the ships are rarely more than a few metres off the desired position, which is a relief when you think of what would happen if they applied Indian bus logic to beaching a supertanker.Cooooool.
Alang is a suitable place for such crazy antics because it has a pretty eccentric tidal system. The tide is high only twice a month, which is when the sea covers the yards and new ships are beached; then for two weeks at a time the tide recedes, leaving the ships out of the water and easy to work on. And what work it is: everything that is detachable that can be sold is removed from the inside, all the engines are gutted and removed and then the ship's body itself is dismantled, chunk by chunk.
A less flattering portrayal about what takes place at Alang can be found here, fittingly enough, in an article by the Baltimore Sun (as part of a series for which it won a Pulitzer Prize in journalism in 1997).
Had this boat not been scrapped, it's the kind of thing I would have made a pilgrimage to, but it looks like I'm a few years late.
I try to imagine the chilly day in December of 2001 when the rudder with my initials on it helped to steer the boat once known as the S.S. Massachusetts for it's final journey through the waters of the Gulf of Khambhat and, eventually, up onto the shore of an Indian beach.
I imagine the workers standing on the beach in front of it's massive red hull (the boat was once the largest ship ever built by the U.S.) and hacking open a coconut while offering a prayer for protection to the elephant god, Lord Ganesh.
I try not to think about the workers who would be killed dismantling that boat. I try not to think about the environmental damage this boat may have caused.
Instead, I wonder if anyone noticed the series of block letters pounded into the rudder. If somebody did, I hope it made them smile. Because, while I'm not sure of the exact details, I like to picture my dad as a brand-new father - just a few years younger than I am now - giving a quick glance over each shoulder before pounding his newborn son's initials into the rudder of a really big boat.
How could that not make me smile?
If there's anyone out there who has ever worked on, took pictures of, or happens to have the rudder of the S.S. Massachusetts (aka "Ocean Runner" aka "Astro Gamma" aka IMO#7390038), get in touch with me in the comments or via the email address in the sidebar. I'd love to chat!
Friday, April 24, 2009
Look what I just found in my Flickr inbox:
"Hi Matt,Very cool.
I am delighted to let you know that your submitted photo has been selected for inclusion in the newly released seventh edition of our Schmap Seattle Guide:
Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame
If you use an iPhone or iPod touch, then this same link will take you directly to your photo in the iPhone version of our guide. On a desktop computer, you can still see exactly how your photo is displayed and credited in the iPhone version of our guide at:
Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame
Finally, if you have a blog, you might also like to check out the customizable widgetized version of our Schmap Seattle Guide, complete with your published photo:
Thanks so much for letting us include your photo - please enjoy the guide!
Managing Editor, Schmap Guides
Here's a widget of the area with my photo:
Monday, April 20, 2009
Well, hello everybody! Been a while, huh? Did you all have a good Easter? A good April Fools' Day? A good any-other-holidays-I-missed-since-my-last-substantial-update?
Mine weren’t bad, I guess. Nothing remarkable.
(Side note: I was originally going to write some sort of April Fools' Day-themed post wherein I would joke that I had given up on the book and decided to look for a real job, perhaps use my remaining savings to go back to school, after which I’d find a nice non-Asian wife, settle down, have a couple of 2.3 kids, etc. but I realized it all sounded much too sensible and my intention was to be funny, not make my grandparents proud.)
I hadn't noticed how bad my posting had been lately until about 2 (3?) weeks ago when, for the first time in ages, I checked my Google reader (which, thanks to neglect, has now started grow and become self-aware. I fear it may join up with my Remember the Milk to-do lists and revolt).
Sadly, the only folder in my Google Reader that wasn't 1000+ full of unread feeds was my Narcissism folder (the one containing feeds by and/or about yours truly). I clicked on it and, before I even had a chance to relive the delight of some of my most recent Tweets, I saw that it had been over a month since I’d last posted here.
So I'm currently using today to write this as-promised update and, hopefully, even polish up a few old posts that I never got around to hitting the submit button on.
And just why haven't I been blogging much recently, you ask? Why have Matt’s Tweets been reduced to a twickle watewy? (Why does everyone who uses Twitter start to sound like Jonathan Ross?)
I'd love to say my little hiatus was because the book had sold or because I was out on another fantastic adventure somewhere on the other side of the planet but, sadly, the truth is that March was just a really busy month for me.
On top of spending a lot of time working on my book proposal, there were also the weeks of obligatory panic as I approached yet another birthday. (Usually this involved repeating "what the hell am I doing with my life??" while sobbing, curled up in a ball in my shower. Hey, at least I haven’t bought a sports car, right?)
Anyway, despite the age-related panic, I'd been making a ton of progress on the book proposal. Now, why am I spending so much time on a proposal for a book that I haven't even finished? Well, every book on publishing that I’ve read lately talks about how it's possible to attract an agent for a nonfiction book without having completed that book. Having not completed my book, this appealed to me. Besides, I work better with a deadline. Also, it would be great to finally have some professional input, someone in the business to say to me “more of this”, “less of that” and “you should consider therapy”.
So, the plan was to write the proposal and then find an agent, who would then offer feedback and perhaps suggest an editor. Then, once the book is done, the agent would start proposing it to publishing houses. Hopefully, one of the publishing houses likes the book enough to publish it. Hopefully, the public likes the book enough to buy lots of copies. Hopefully, an A-list Hollywood motion picture director buys the rights and asks me to star in the movie version. Hopefully, fame and fortune result. Hopefully, I get asked to write a follow-up book. Wash, rinse, repeat. (Told you I had all this planned out.)
Well, I've got some good news and some bad news (which actually is really good news, I guess, but I didn’t really feel like it was at the time).
The good news is that I talked with a literary agent!
Now, not THE literary agent I’m hoping to attract. And not even one that represents narrative nonfiction. But, an agent nonetheless.
OK, yeah… and by "talked to” I meant “we Tweeted”.
I had stumbled across a literary agent named Colleen Lindsay when she started something called “Query Fail Day” on Twitter. All day, she and her fellow literary agent friends twote about some of the more unprofessional book queries that had recently landed on their desks. (A nice summary of some of the lessons learned that first Query Fail day can be found here.)
I found the whole thing fascinating and thoroughly terrifying. I ended up following a bunch of the agents on Twitter that day, including Colleen who, a few days later, held an “Ask an Agent Night”. Taking full advantage of this opportunity, I sent her the following Tweet:
(A close second: "What the frack am I doing trying to write a book?")
Her first reply was informative and heartbreaking (and is the bad news):
After fighting to keep my head from exploding, I thanked her and told her I’d better get back to work. Her next reply was unexpected, brief and brutally honest:
Short of say "we should amputate" or "let's get married", those were the last three words I want to hear from anyone.
Now, as great as it was to finally have some honesty from someone inside The Business (for which I am extremely thankful), I was bummed because I was really hoping to have snagged an agent (and, while we're dreaming, an advance) sometime in the near future.
And now, thanks to three little words, I was back to finishing the damn thing on my own again. Suddenly, the light at the end of the tunnel seemed a whole hell of a lot further away.
Fortunately, I was about to make a huge revelation that would change my attitude and my approach as well as give me a burst of much-needed enthusiasm. A revelation which I owe, in large part, to the most unlikely of places: Microsoft.
(As a result of my polishing up chapters lately, I've been getting in the habit of stopping things with a little bit of a cliffhanger. You know, to keep the kids reading.)
Thursday, April 16, 2009
This one goes out to all of the Charlie Chaplins in my life...
HELLO, I’M FAMOUS STARRING JOHN HODGMAN
"That is when I was approached by a grown man pretending to be Charlie Chaplin.
Now, I guess it is some people’s dream to meet Charlie Chaplin, or just someone dressed as him. But even as a 10-year-old, I found Chaplin’s work to be pretty maudlin and cheap. He was no Buster Keaton, in any case. And as “Chaplin” approached, I considered saying so to his face.
But there was a problem. At this time in my life, I had very long hair. It was an affectation, and an awful one at that. But it was a better affectation, I would argue, than the affectation of dressing up as Charlie Chaplin, even if you are doing it for money.
But this wasn’t the problem. The problem was that because I was a small child without a beard or moustache, people routinely thought I was a girl. And this would lead to occasional embarrassing situations. Double takes as I entered the men’s room, for example, or being referred to as “Joan,” or being expected to kiss Charlie Chaplin on his white powdered cheek. All of these things happened, all of the time.
And so the moment came, after some predictable cane-and-bowler-hat shenanigans, that Charlie Chaplin sat next to me and indicated that he was ready for me to kiss him. For obvious reasons, his expectations were unspoken, just as mine were quite clear: I did not wish to kiss the fake Charlie Chaplin. But let’s just say that they didn’t call him the Little Tramp for nothing. He waited me out. It was clear that I was powerless. It was clear what was going to happen, and I let it happen."
(via Hard Rock Cafe):
"Hard Rock International today announced it will open a Hard Rock Cafe in the heart of downtown Seattle. Scheduled to open in July 2009, Hard Rock Cafe Seattle will be located on 116 Pike Street, less than one mile away from the Seattle Center Arena, where rock legend Jimi Hendrix performed at his first headlining gig. The Seattle cafe, situated near the famous Pike Place Market, will be one of the city’s premier dining and entertainment destinations, with two floors and more than 14,000-square feet of space, including spacious seating, a unique open-air rooftop deck and Rock Shop featuring Hard Rock’s limited-edition merchandise. In addition to a state-of-the-art facility, the cafe will also feature rock 'n' roll memorabilia from Hard Rock's iconic collection."
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Did You Know That Zac Efron is Obsessed with 'Back to the Future'? (via Cinematical):
"So he's obviously a huge Back to the Future nut, which, honestly, makes me like him a little bit more now -- but does that mean he'd also jump to play McFly if a studio presented it to him? Or, like a true fan, would he yell, scream, hiss and throw flaming piles of monkey poop at any studio henchman who does so little as hold a conversation about taking on the role in either a sequel or a remake?"Let's hope he's a true fan.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Geez, has it really been a month since I last posted??
Wow, sorry about the massive gap everybody. That past few weeks have been really busy. Had a few revelations with the book and, alas, the whole of my very limited attention span has been focused in that direction ever since then.
But fear not, loyal reader, I should hopefully have a nice, fat, rambling update posted in the next few days to get you all caught up on what's been going on on my end of the keyboard. I would write more now but I plan on spending the rest of today aging.
Christ... 35. That's half of 70.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
"Segway Japan and the city of Yokohama will jointly try to convince the Japanese government to allow people to use Segways on designated public roads in the city. With a population of 3.6 million, Yokohama is Japan’s second biggest city.I can't imagine what could have made it so popular...
The move is highly unusual, but can explained by Yokohama’s efforts to boost the local economy and promote the use of environmentally friendly vehicles in the city. Japan’s road traffic law currently proscribes the use of Segways or Segway-like vehicles (such as Toyota’s Winglet). However, Segway has sold about 1,000 vehicles so far in Japan, where they are used in exhibition centers and similar public facilities.
The average price for a Segway in Japan is $10,000 (the picture above shows former Prime Minister Koizumi riding one, which was given to him as a present in 2005 by then president Bush)."
Sunday, April 5, 2009
(via Los Angeles Times):
"In a sign that the recession is cutting into the Walt Disney Co.'s park business even deeper than originally thought, Disney today said it eliminated about 1,900 jobs at its domestic theme parks through job cuts and attrition.I'd love to be back performing at a theme park right now but it's not exactly the best time to audition, huh? The good news is that my brother and all of my friends at Disney have survived this round of cuts.
The entertainment giant in February announced a reorganization of its parks and resorts operation, which it acknowledged would set the stage for job cuts. But it didn't say at the time how many positions would be eliminated. The changes were announced amid falling attendance and expectations that the recession has many more months to run its course. But today's announcement signals that Disney is bracing for an extended downturn in its business as consumers continue to keep their wallets closed."
Thursday, April 2, 2009
"According to research in the UK, consuming the caffeine in seven cups of instant coffee a day may leave you more likely to see, hear and smell things that aren’t there.I have trouble believing this. As does the pirate and his pet giraffe standing next to me.
Durham University researchers found in a study of 219 college students published today in Personality and Individual Differences, that people who drink at least 330 milligrams of the stimulant a day were three times as likely to have hallucinations as those who consumed less than 10 milligrams a day."
The good news is that I'm still far, far from the 77.66 cups of drip coffee that would be required to kill me.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
"That cup of coffee that many gym rats, bikers and runners swill before a workout does more than energize them. It kills some of the pain of athletic exertion, a new study suggests. And it works regardless of whether a person already had a coffee habit or not."Sweet caffeine dulls the pain...
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Not sure if you all noticed my Tweet the other week when I first stumbled upon the genius of Kutiman remixing YouTube videos (thanks to Merlin Mann over at 43Folders) but I just found a cool article about it...
Kutiman's ThruYou Mashup Turns YouTube Into Funk Machine
(via The Underwire from Wired.com):
"'I downloaded a clip from a drummer, who I now realize is Bernard Purdie, who's sessioned on all kinds of records,' Kutiman said. 'All it needed was some bass and guitar; I loved the idea that I was playing along with him and he didn't even know it. But once I decided to download another clip and play over it, I thought, 'Why not get another video to play over it?' Since then, I haven't really slept or eaten. I lost track of night and day. I'd just pass out and wake up on the computer. I was fascinated by the idea. It was so magical.'"
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Colonel Sanders rescued from river after 24 years:
"He was covered in mud when pulled from the river, and had lost both legs and hands, not to mention his glasses. But Colonel Sanders still had his trademark smile, 24 years later.Never understood how anyone could survive a swim in that river (much less 24 years in it) but I'm guessing it had something to do with those 11 herbs and spices.
A statue of the KFC mascot has been found in a river in Osaka, a city official said Wednesday, nearly a quarter century after being tossed in by crazed baseball fans who felt the image of restaurant founder Harland Sanders resembled a key team member."
Keith Olbermann even talked about it (and Orlando, no less) on last night's Oddball:
Heh heh... "blowhole".
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Also known as "The 30-Year-Old Virgin".
Big hat-tip to Flex MacGuffin for taking the idea and running with it and to Judd Apatow for throwing a few Doc Brown impressions in "Knocked Up":
Oh, and quick tip to any sexy ladies out there who may find themselves on a date with me in the near future: if you don't know who Doc Brown is and you'd still like a ride home, dear god, don't tell me.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
During a recent trip to Uwajimaya (the Japanese grocery store here in Seatte), I picked up a copy of the February issue of Kansai Time Out, a magazine I'd read frequently while I was living in Osaka.
Now, I am usually not the type of person to ever write to an editor but after reading a letter they'd published called "Easy Does It" written by a KT Williams in Kobe, I couldn't help myself. I wrote the entire response before I went to bed and emailed it the next morning.
Since I probably sent it too late to make the March issue and because it might not be timely enough to make the April issue, I am including what I wrote below.
Here's the original letter:
Easy does itHere's my response:
My pet peeve is people who whine about "globalization." I remember reading something in your magazine last year about Buy Nothing Day and it really upset me. Therefore, I feel that I must educate some of your younger readers about what Japan was like BEFORE Costco, Starbucks, Amazon, etc., arrived and made our lives here so much easier.
I remember walking into a supermarket for the very first time shortly after we moved to Japan. Shopping for basic groceries was a nightmare! I couldn't read anything on the labels. I bought ajar of spaghetti sauce and it tasted terrible. They didn't even have diet soda. I drink Diet Pepsi but I would have settled for Diet Coke or even Tab if they had it.
A friend of mine tried to cheer me up by suggesting that I try some of the local food. I told her I didn't come to Japan to eat Japanese food. I want to eat what I ate back home (I'm sorry if this sounds selfish, but I am very picky about what I eat.) I couldn't even find Doritos for my kids. I asked my parents to send a couple of bags, but sending chips in the mail was not the smartest idea. Needless to say they arrived smashed to bits. I almost tore my hair out in frustration!
Full disclosure: I I-o-v-e coffee.(Do not even try to talk to me in the morning until I've had at least three cups.) I remember going to a coffee shop near our house. The owner was a very nice lady and we had a pleasant chat, but I wasn't very happy when I saw the bill: A thousand yen ($10) for coffee and toast! My friends back home stared in disbelief when I told them this story.
I'm sure your readers can figure out where this is going. Yes, I do all my shopping at Costco (I haven't been inside a Japanese supermarket for over seven years). I drink my coffee at Starbucks three or four times a week. I buy all of my books and DVDs from Amazon, I'm sorry if that doesn't sound "politically correct," but I'm not going to change my lifestyle to please others. Besides, there are PLENTY of people who feel the same way (having pizza and hot dogs at Costco has become a Sunday tradition for plenty of foreign AND Japanese families in Kansai).
It's time for everyone to face the fact that the world is getting smaller and that shopping is a good thing that brings many people happiness. Buy Nothing Day is a waste of time that will accomplish absolutely "nothing" (pun intended). Instead of complaining, we should be writing "thank-you" letters to these wonderful corporations for enriching our lives. Every voice counts. lf we"think locally" and "act globally" (to borrow a phrase), we can improve our lives in Japan AND stimulate the economy at the same time.
K.T. WILLIAMS KOBE
To the author of "Easy Does It" (February Issue),
Thank you, Sensei, for taking the time to "educate" us younger readers. ("Sensei" being the Japanese word for "teacher". "Japanese" being that non-English sound you hear around you on your walks to "hot dog night" at Costco.) I was surprised to hear how much the "Japan before Costco, Starbucks and Amazon" you described sounded a lot like… oh, what's the word? That's right… JAPAN.
What were you expecting? The entire premise of your letter is "I moved to another country and (scream!) everything was DIFFERENT!!" What a depressing way to experience life. I remember walking into my first Japanese supermarket and being delighted that I couldn't read anything. Grocery shopping was an adventure! Sure there were some missteps along the way (I had a friend who itched for days before realizing her "bubble bath" was tub cleaner) but, had I never ventured from my safety zone, I would have missed out on so many wonderful new tastes and experiences. And what a sense of accomplishment to discover products I liked and to reach a point where I could shop with confidence and without a dictionary. I'm sorry to hear that you seem so unwilling to enjoy this process.
And, while there's nothing wrong with having access to comfort foods while overseas, your "my way or the highway" attitude is laughably inappropriate and your little diatribe makes you sound like a crotchety old man screaming "get off my lawn" to a group of kids playing in their own yard. You are the guest in Japan, not the other way around.
This is not about being "politically correct", either (as you so condescendingly put it). It's about respect; being open-minded enough to embrace the culture of your adopted country, even it means eating the occasional bad spaghetti sauce or paying 10 bucks for breakfast. (By the way, in kissatens, you're not just paying for the coffee and the toast but, thanks to high rent and land prices, you're also paying for the space. But, I suppose it's understandable you don't know this. You've only been in Japan for 7 years.)
And please don't belittle the efforts of a handful of people who want to take ONE DAY a year to remind people that there's more to life than Big Macs, especially when your biggest contribution to society seems to be little more than cranking out thank-you notes to CEOs from your IKEA GUNGHULT chair as you rejoice in the systematic homogenization of the world because it means you no longer have to take the train to Osaka for a Grande Frappuccino. (I'll bet you even order it in English.)
You talk about how these "wonderful corporations" can "improve our lives" but, here's the thing: Some lives don't need improving. Japan has a rich and long history and, believe it or not, some of us actually like that. We're the type of people who, instead of saving some cash by having a coffee we can now buy damn-near anywhere on the planet, would rather spend a few hundred yen extra for the experience of a proper Japanese coffee, all the while supporting smaller, local businesses (and yes, even stimulating the economy). We like the differences. We embrace the challenges. We love Japan for being Japan. And WE sure as hell don't want it to change to please YOU.
May I make a suggestion? If you truly are more enriched by massive global corporations than by local culture and if you honestly find more happiness in consumerism than in connecting with the residents of this fascinating country, do us all a favor: go home.
We'll have a bag of Doritos waiting for you.
Friday, March 6, 2009
"This application emulates the Time Circuit Panel, similar to the one installed into the DeLorean Time Machine, an invention of Doc Brown, the key character of one of the best movies of 80s (you know which one - 'Back To The Future')."
Hopeless Back to the Future geek?
Yeah, there's an app for that.
(via Weird Asia News):
"How did it get there? This is the question haunting the archaeologists who discovered the Swiss watch in an ancient tomb in Shangsi, southern China, they believed had not been opened since its occupant’s funeral, which occurred during the Ming Dynasty (15-16th centuries).
The miniature watch, which is in the shape of a ring, is thought to be barely a century old. The mysterious timepiece was encrusted in mud and rock and had stopped at 10:06 am. On the back of the watch, the word, ‘Swiss’ is engraved.
Its presence raises more questions than answers… like: Where did the watch come from? Could the watch/ring have been planted at the tomb, but if so, why and by whom?"
And you thought the U.S. was nutty for change.
By the way, you know the part where Magic Japanese Obama turns a lemon into a tangerine? In Japanese, the word for tangerine is "mikan".
That's right, that whole trick was a setup for the pun "Yes, mi kan".
God, I miss Japanese TV.
(Oh, and if anyone out there can help me find an accurate way to describe the sound that the Japanese audience makes at 2:56, 3:18 and 3:33, it would greatly help with several parts of my book.)
OBAMA IS BEAUTIFUL WORLD
Japan's Obama Mania
Meet the Japanese Obama
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
The February issue of octane does a story on the history of the DeLorean (with some great pictures):
"Nightmares are not that uncommon in automotive history. One only has to look at the Boulevard of Broken Dreams that is the British car industry to see where we’re coming from. Few are as infamous as the DeLorean DMC-12 – because if we’re talking about cars that embody the hopes and ambitions of their creator, but which fail spectactularly, then few come close to comparing with his gullwing-doored, stainless steel-panelled sports car."Related Posts:
Women + DeLorean = Hot
Chuck Versus The DeLorean
Roads? Where We're Going... We Won't Need Roads
Friday, February 27, 2009
"Besides cultural opposition, Japanese citizens possess high, complex standards when it comes to cellphones. The country is famous for being ahead of its time when it comes to technology, and the iPhone just doesn't cut it. For example, Japanese handset users are extremely into video and photos — and the iPhone has neither a video camera nor multimedia text messaging. And a highlight feature many in Japan enjoy on their handset is a TV tuner, according to Kuittinen."Japanese phones have forever ruined me on any American phones. Yes, even the iPhone.
And this doesn't help.
UPDATE: OK, Nobuyuki Hayashi (who was quoted in the article) has clarified his view of how the iPhone is doing in Japan. Turns out they like it after all.
And, who am I kidding, I bought an iPhone.
And I love it.
Anyway, total hypocrite.
A finger-swiping, 3G connected hypocrite.
UPDATE II: "72% of the Japan smartphone market"?? Yeah, we take it all back.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
In honor of today, I went back and checked out some of my old posts. Here are a few (ordered chronologically) that had the unique combination of being predominantly original content and not entirely sucking:
- Taking To Snow Like A Fish To Waterskiing
- Sono Jimusho ("The Office" in Japanese)
- The stupid, it burns.
- What It's All About
- Women + DeLorean = Hot
- Nuke The Fridge
- Technology Freakin' Rocks
- The Profile Picture Debate Continues!
Speaking of anniversaries, another interesting thing about today's date that I don't think I realized when I first created this blog is that it's also the anniversary of my last day in the U.S. before heading to Japan back in 2003. That's right, tomorrow will be the 6th anniversary of my flight to Japan to work at USJ. Crazy.
Anyway, I've been so caught up will putting my book proposal together that I haven't been able to put a lot of time into the blog the past week or so. Polishing up some sample chapters and making an outline is taking longer than I thought it would. But, since I've been reviewing a lot of the stuff I wrote about my first few weeks in Japan, I may post some of the more moderately humorous anecdotal stories onto this blog over the next few days to mark the anniversary of their occurrence.
Stay tuned! And thanks for stopping by.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Rarer still is when a person who shares my last name gets on the news because her pet chimpanzee chewed somebody's face off.
Sandra Herold, Chimp Owner, Interviewed About Attack:
"Sandra Herold, owner of Travis the chimp, the chimpanzee who was killed by police after mauling a woman and nearly killing her, is speaking out about the horrific attack. NBC interviewed Herold, where she described trying to save her friend by stabbing the 200-pound animal, who Herold thought of as her son, with a butcher knife."Awful news. I hope the woman who was attacked can make as full of a recovery as possible.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Japan's economy shrinks 12.7% annualized in third fiscal-quarter - MarketWatch:
"Japan's economy contracted at its sharpest pace since 1974 in its fiscal third quarter, raising the prospect the Bank of Japan may unveil additional stimulus measures this week to combat a darkening economic outlook in the world's second-biggest economy."Since 1974. And this is after their whole "lost decade" in the 90s. Scary stuff.
Course, it doesn't help having this guy as your Finance Minister:
(That was fast) UPDATE:
"Japan's finance minister resigned on Tuesday after being forced to deny he was drunk at a G7 news conference, but the move may be too late to save unpopular Prime Minister Taro Aso or the long-ruling party from voters' wrath."That's one thing I'll give the Japanese, they sure know how to resign.
Monday, February 16, 2009
"Even in these difficult economic times, far-away destinations are not out of reach. We were curious to hear what our community might say about frugal travel to Japan, a place that is as full of fascinating sights and sounds as it is expensive. Here is a collection of just a few of the many tips shared during the conversation, from visiting an out-of-the-way island in the Inland Sea to deciphering the pastry labels on convenience store breakfasts."
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Steven Levy on the Burden of Twitter:
"Guilty. I feel guilty that I have a blog and haven't contributed to it for seven months. Guilty that all my pals on Facebook post cool pictures, while the last shots I uploaded were of Fourth of July fireworks—from 2007. Guilty that I haven't Dugg anything since, well, ever.
It's not that I don't like social networking—I adore it. I love the way it transforms my ragged circle of contacts and acquaintances into something approaching a community. Every site becomes a personalized small town where strangers don't stay that way for long. I'm fascinated by the quirks and preferences my 'friends' reveal through comments, status reports, and alerts.
That's where my guilt comes in. Because of time constraints and just plain reticence, I worry that I'm snatching morsels from the information food bank without making any donations. Instead of healthy, reciprocal participation, I'm flirting with parasitic voyeurism.
So, driven by guilt, I try to pitch in. I post Facebook status reports, send iPhone snapshots to Flickr, link my Netflix queue with FriendFeed. But as my participation increases, I invariably suffer another psychic downside of social networking: remorse.
The more I upload the details of my existence, even in the form of random observations and casual location updates, the more I worry about giving away too much. It's one thing to share intimacies person-to-person. But with a community? Creepy."
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
"Amusement parks make a strong showing on the Forbes Traveler list of Eastern Asia’s most visited tourist attractions. From Universal Studios’ outpost in Osaka, Japan, to the Happy Valley theme park in Shenzhen, China, roller coasters and fantasy-themed lands draw millions annually."According to this site, they came in at #6:
"This Osaka outpost of the Universal Studios theme parks welcomed 11 million visitors in its first year of operation (2001). In 2007 the movie theme park, home to Snoopy’s Sound Stage Adventure and Hollywood Dream: The Ride, was visited by about 8.7 million people."Take that, Forbidden City!
(Course, Tokyo Disney totally kicked our ass.)
"The Universal Studios Hollywood backlot that caught fire on June 1 of this past year will reopen after nearly a year of reconstruction. The fire was accidentally started by Universal employees doing repair work in that area and caused massive damage to surrounding buildings and props as it spread over almost four acres. Backlot access has been closed to park guests since the incident as Universal began construction to repair and replace damaged sets and facades."Related Posts:
Save the Clock Tower!
The Downfall of Universal Studios
'Candy Land' coming to bigscreen
"Universal Pictures is sweet on 'Candy Land.'G.I. Joe, Transformers, Candy Land. Way to run with a trend, guys.
Studio has set Etan Cohen to write and Kevin Lima to direct a live-action feature based on the enduring Hasbro board game.
Project is the first film to emerge from the deal U made last February with Hasbro, whose properties are the basis for the summer tentpole films 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra' and 'Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.'"
I'm still waiting for Chutes and Ladders.
Monday, February 9, 2009
(via The Japan Times Online):
"Universal Studios Japan said Saturday that about 1,800 people lined up the same day to apply for part-time jobs this spring — twice as many as last year.Ya think?
The push is part of USJ's annual recruitment drive. It needs about 1,200 people to fill 26 types jobs ranging from store clerks to park guides.
'This is the largest number of applicants we've had since the opening of the park,' said a USJ official.
'It's probably because of the recession,' he said."
Sunday, February 8, 2009
An Open Letter from Doc Brown to Marty McFly:
"Dear Marty-Read the rest over at Nerdist.
Having recently reviewed the surveillance footage of the events of the night you went back to 1985, I couldn’t help but be slightly taken aback by your spurious reasoning of only allowing TEN FUCKING MINUTES to SAVE MY GODDAMN LIFE. Ten minutes??? Really. You actually thought that you could get from the Courthouse to Twin Pines Mall (I’m sorry, I mean LONE Pine Mall now–way to run over a tree, fucknut) in ten minutes."
Saturday, February 7, 2009
(via Overthinking It):
"Everyone is familiar with the classic “Johnny B. Goode” scene from Back to the Future and the accompanying controversy: how dare the filmmakers insinuate that a white kid (Calvin Klein/Marty McFly) actually invented rock & roll instead of a black guy (Chuck Berry)? Haven’t white people stolen music from black people enough already?"
Friday, February 6, 2009
"Transformers will be making its debut as the theme park mega-attraction at Universal Studios Singapore come 2011, fusing 3D-HD media, mega special effects and stunning robotics with a ride system designed to forever transform our perceptions of a theme park experience.Still not excited about this. (And am I the only one out there who has no interest whatsoever in the Transformers II movie??) I can only hope this ride is not popular enough to make its way to Universal Studios Japan. While they could probably use it to replace the Backdraft ride, I fear that "Transformers: The Ride" will be the end of "Back to the Future: The Ride".
The first-of-its-kind attraction is scheduled to make its debut in Singapore even before it appears in Universal Studios Hollywood in the US."
Hope I'm wrong.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Namely, should I change my profile picture from this:
My original rationale for the current profile picture was that it was just so god-awfully bad that, when people saw it, they would (hopefully) want to stick around to see what this little blog was all about. Also, I liked that the blue backdrop matched my blog's color scheme. Finally, I was hoping to build some sort of "cross-platform brand recognition" so that I could eventually feature that picture prominently in the submission packet for my book. Heck, maybe even use it as the author's photo. And for future driver's licenses.
I pointed all of this out to Samantha and her response was that "Doc Brown - though interesting - is not as hot as 'not Doc Brown'". A good point, and one I did not take lightly (especially considering I don't want to drive away my key, core demographic: sexy ladies).
Anyway, I ended up getting a surprising amount of feedback (surprising to me, at least) and the overwhelming answer so far is: neither.
(Sorry, Sam. Sorry, Matt's Cuban-Style Roast Pork Sandwich. Sorry, bad Doc Brown picture.)
Several reasons were given. (My favorite being from a reader who thought that, while my new picture looked good, it was an odd way to hold a slice of pizza.) But, overwhelmingly, people still wanted to see me as Doc Brown. Just not a Doc Brown that was so - as Shannon (a ravishing and provocative new reader) put it - "poopy pouty face".
Faced with the task of finding a new profile picture, I couldn't help but think about how much easier the whole process would be had I performed in a country heavily populated with high-tech, top-of-the-line camera-toting shutterbugs who would take pictures of me several times a second from every possible angle and then frequently present those pictures to me as gifts.
And then I remembered I'd worked in Japan.
So, I busted out my massive box of fan pictures and started searching. Some of the fan pictures were, quite literally, "fan pictures":
These, while humorous (and useful on hot days), would not make very good profile pictures.
Most of the other pictures were scary. A remarkable number had me with my mouth open. But, there were a lot of good ones. So, I picked a nice handful, scanned them and I present them to you now. There are a lot in this post but it's because I tried to include a large variety. These were taken at various stages of my Doc Brown career. Different shows, different wigs, different levels of tolerance for my Japanese superiors.
So, if you don't mind and if you've got a few seconds, take a look and let me know what you think. If you'd like a closer look, click to biggify them. I did touch them up a bit to try to get rid of the dust and the yellow of time but, bear in mind, most of them are scans. Once I have an idea of which ones you all like, I can probably track down the original digital copies.
So, without further ado, let the competition begin!
This first picture was taken by my (ever-so-handsome and talented) brother and I'm currently using in the background of my Twitter page:
A few suggested that I should be smiling. This one feels a bit forced:
Here's one that's a bit more natural:
It was also suggested that I use a picture of Doc doing the very-Japanese "peace sign pose". Here are two that I found:
Here are a few shots from the "Doc and Robot" show:
This may not make a great profile photo but, I love this picture:
Here are a few pictures from the DeLorean show:
And some from the "In Search of the Fifth Element" show:
Two pictures with the Segway:
And finally, a couple of random poses:
So, what do you think??
[Special thanks to Ken, Ai, Mai, Yoshiko and Asako for the pictures, the applause and the memories.]