Saturday, August 30, 2008

Guess What Arrived Today?

Let's just say that I'm typing this without using my hands.

This is pretty cool!

(Man. I feel lazy.)

This program does seem to need some training, though. While it handles my English just fine, it didn't do too well with my impeccable Japanese pronunciation. For example, I first tested it by listing the following Japanese cities:

"Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima"

It came out as "Cuba will suck your new Toshiba".


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Monkey! In a Subway!

Is it wrong that I enjoyed this so much?

I also love that they just happened to have several giant, green nets handy.

Because, well... you never know.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ponyo on a Cliff By the Sea (In a House, a Very Big House in the Country)

Speaking of anime, Gadling has a sneak peak at Studio Ghibli's newest film.
Again, if you're living in Japan, and you understand basic Japanese (remember - this is a kid's movie!), check out Ponyo as it's certainly worth your hard-earned yen.
I may just have to rent this next month.


Here's the trailer...

Can't... stop... singing...


Not only is Ponyo free of computer animation, but it's kicking Batman's butt.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Feeding My Inner Geek (and Giving It A Slight Buzz)

After a great day hanging out with my brother, I went to an Anime Night tonight with some friends from my old Japanese class. Nice to get out and be social. Special thanks to Dan for the hospitality and the excellent food: chicken tikka masala, homemade oatmeal cookies, blackberry pie with ice cream (vanilla or chocolate peanut butter?) and some Terrible beer. (Sadly, the massive Double Bastard was empty.)

Nothing like a spending a Friday night eating, watching anime, talking about computers, and slapping around a chuzzle.

Life is good.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Travelers of the World, Unite!

I finally got around to (slightly) updating my profile on Matador and, in honor of Obon this past weekend, I also did a post about Japanese summer festivals.

Matador was one of the first travel sites I found that really got me motivated to start blogging. Plus, it's always nice to be a part of a community of like-minded travelers. I'm looking forward to sharing some of my stories about Japan with them!

(By the way, I originally thought their slogan was "Travelers of the World, Untie!" which, while still cool and somewhat though-provoking, could prove dangerous to hikers.)

Putting The "Fan" Back In "Fanatical"

In honor of me finally watching Mr. Baseball, I also watched the encore presentation of "Kokoyaku - Japanese High School Baseball" on PBS's POV last night.

One of my jogging routes in Osaka took me past a playing field where the local Little Leaguer's used to practice. Based on their elaborate and constant taunts, it was hard to tell if they were playing a game of baseball or doing choir practice. Those guys were nuts.

Anyway, if you get the chance, check out the documentary. (It'll make you glad you did all of your after-school activities here in the U.S.) The DVD can be bought here or you can just watch the trailer.  You'll never think of September in the same way again.

(Hat tip to Dazell)

For All Intense Porpoises

Intense Porpoise
While doing some random research today, I discovered that what I'd always heard as "for all intensive purposes" was really "for all intents and purposes".

Well now, don't I feel stupid.

(Irregardless, I could care less. Supposibly.)

[Original image here.]

I Just Realized Something

I'm finally doing all of the things that I wanted to to do when I first came back from Japan two years ago. It's just taken me two years to figure out how.

Despite the delay, it feels pretty good.

Anyway, off to bed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Man, I'm Such a Nerd

Halfway done!

How cool is that??

Some would call this anal-retentive.

Some would be right.

Classical Music With Shining Eyes

I figured I'd catch up on some TED lectures while I was scanning and purging tonight. Wanted to share one of my favorites with you. I first watched this while my brother, the musician, was visiting the other week.

I love the bit in the middle with Chopin.


Sharing The Rant

This was one of the responses to the Downfall of Universal Studios video posted over at /film.

I'm going to be diplomatic and not say whether I agree or not but I will say that it does bring up some valid points and really gives a good sense of the frustration I and some of my coworkers felt while working for a movie theme park that didn't seem to care about movies and entertainment as much as we did.

(And that Quantum Leap and BTTF stuff he mentions is just sacrilege.)

Universal is the absolute worst, WORST movie studio in all of Hollywood; (you getting that anyone from Uni that is reading this).

First, let’s discuss their theme parks. Like Hitler says, they keep replacing popular attractions with crap. And not just that, they keep bringing in other competing studio properties; THE SIMPSONS RIDE (Fox); TWISTER: RIDE IT OUT (Warner Bros.); MEN IN BLACK (Columbia); TERMINATOR 2: 3-D (Artisan).

In 2006, just weeks before Peter Jackson’s KING KONG hit theaters, the Florida park closed the Kong attraction. The ride may have been based on the 1976 film, but either way, they knew that a new movie was in-the-works, and they had plenty of time to refurbish it to match Jackson’s version. Even though they didn’t bother to do that, closing the attraction the same time the movie hit, call me nuts, but that’s just sheer stupidity.

Closing the BACK TO THE FUTURE RIDE; what a mistake that was. And even more so bringing in THE SIMPSONS. How long is that going to last? If you’re going to have a simulated flying-type of ride, wouldn’t it have made more sense to create a BATTLESTAR GALACTICA ride based on the new Sci-Fi series, a property Universal owns, rather than pay Fox for licensing THE SIMPSONS? Or closing the E.T. ride to replace with THE MUMMY rollercoaster; sorry Uni, but the Brendan Fraser MUMMY franchise will never have the longevity that E.T. has.

How about Bruce “The Shark” JAWS at the Hollywood park. You would think that after 30+ years, with all the advances in technology, they would consider refurbishing that shark. But then again, the JURASSIC PARK RIDE is only 10+ years old, and the way it’s looked after, I’m surprised it’s still standing.

Now how about they way Uni treats it’s catalog titles. If you seriously start to think of their library of titles, other than their Universal Monsters and the Spielberg/Amblin catalog, the studio is really lacking in a vast majority of celebrated movies. And even their popular ones, it’s not like the treat them with any respect.

BACK TO THE FUTURE as an example, the DVD’s were seriously lacking, as it’s well known in some circles that there are hours of material left on the floor, all because Uni didn’t want to have to spend any more money on a fourth disc. Even the framing issues of BTTF Part II & III on the DVD’s; Universal knew a good six months in advance about the widescreen framing problem, but they just tried to sweep in under the rug until the fans made a point of it once the discs were finally released; and that’s a fact, producer Bob Gale has and will continue to confirm it.

What about their television series on DVD; QUANTUM LEAP… Ray Charles’ song Georgia is used several times in the series, but because the studio didn’t want to pay for the license of the actual song, they’ve got some half-ass version that’s not even close to the original one on aired episodes. In-fact, most of Uni’s tv DVD’s are poorly transferred, awful menus, and crappy packaging. After the fire, with so many of their tv series gone up in flames, do you think we’ll ever see a lot of those classic tv series fully restored and re-released? I think not.

And before I write this, I just want to clarify that this is a rumor, and only a rumor, I can’t confirm this, but after the fire, there was a lot of rumbling that JURASSIC PARK was lost in the fire… 100% of it, negatives and all. Whether or not that was just the first film or the entire trilogy, if it is true, what a terrible loss.

In conclusion, Universal Studios has been going downhill ever since MCA sold the company in early 1990’s. Movie studios throughout the decades have always had their ups and downs, a clump of good films, a pile of bad ones. But Universal has been steadily declining in quality and management for quite some time now, and I fear will only get worse. It’s somewhat amazing, that just right across the street from Uni sits Warner Bros., who in my opinion, has been producing some great movies over the last few years; they celebrate and takes pride and care in their film library (BLADE RUNNER; CASABLANCA anyone). Both studios are owned by giant conglomerates, and yet their attitudes and overall establishments could be more different.

Universal, shape up or close down.

That’s my rant.

The Downfall of Universal Studios

An insider's view of what happened after the fire at Universal.

(via /Film)

I laughed, but it was a nervous laugh.

RELATED POST: Sharing The Rant

What I Blog About When I Blog About Running

I've been running like a fiend lately.  Probably due to a combo of my impending Japan trip and reading Murakami's new book (which I'm really enjoying).

I'm even keeping track of my times and distances using my Nike+ iPod.  I love that thing. My brother's got one, too. We use them differently, though.  I like to keep track of every single run I do, no matter how short or slow.  My brother, on the other hand, only uses his for serious runs. He wants to keep a snapshot of his optimal runs whereas I want to be honest. (Just kidding, Ken.)

Anyway, here's a great Nike+ ad:

Keep young and beautiful, gang...

Thank You, Ebay!

Sadly, while I did not get to go to the Salute to Japanese Baseball Night at Safeco Field while my parents were here, look what just arrived in the mail today:
Awesomeness.  I might even finally watch "Mr. Baseball" tonight in celebration of my new hat.

Told you I wanted that hat.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shiny! New! Must! Own!

I've got waaaay too many journals.

Shortly after I arrived in Japan, my brother Jason sent me a very thoughtful birthday gift: a copy of Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way (with an accompanying Morning Pages Journal). I did the 12-week course and, as I result, I got into the habit of writing 3 pages longhand every morning. For 3 1/2 years.

And, if I wasn't writing journals, I was recording them. In Japan, I bought an Olympus Voice-Trek DM-30 digital voice recorder that never left my side. Alas, I also have several hours of audio journals.

Now, all of this is great because I'm writing a book about Japan so I've got tons of resources. The problem is, I'd say that a good 85% of what I wrote is little more than hard-core whinging ("Work sucks!" "Women are mean!"). But the remaining 15%? Literary gold, baby.

So, how to mine that gold? I sure as hell can't type up all of my journals. That would take forever. I could scan my journals but that would give me little more than a backup copy. (And, would also take forever.) Plus, because all of my journals are handwritten, I can't use OCR make the scanned copies searchable. (I'd even considered outsourcing the work but I didn't like the idea of other people with my journals. Besides, I'd still have to read them.)

So, I've just been stuck rereading my old journals and taking notes. I should be done around early 2015.

Cut to this morning. I started reading Michael A. Bank's new book Blogging Heroes: Interviews with 30 of the World's Top Bloggers. Near the end of the preface, he talks about having to face the tedium of having to transcribe of all of his recorded phone interviews.

Several people he interviewed recommended Dragon NaturallySpeaking, a voice-recognition program. He bought it and tried playing the interviews for the program but it didn't work. NaturallySpeaking couldn't recognize more than one voice at a time. He writes:
I still hoped for shortcut - a way to get the words from audio to text format without putting them into the keyboard.
I asked around a bit and found it. A blogger named Dan Brodntiz suggested dictating the interviews into NaturallySpeaking as I listened to the recordings. I tried it. I donned a headset-with-microphone and played an interview with Sony's Digital Voice Editor software (included with my Sony recorder). As I listened to the interview, I echoed back the subject's responses.
It worked! Trained to my voice, NaturallySpeaking faithfully transcribed the interviews. No stopping, no backing up. If the speech was too fast for me to echo, I slowed the playback.
That could SO work for me! I could just read my written journals aloud and have the computer do all of the work for me! Even better, I'd only have to PLAY my audio journals for my computer! I wouldn't even have to BE THERE!

No sitting at my desk! No typing! Heavenly! (For a writer, I sure do hate the whole "writing" part.)

I did some research and found this video review by New York Time's David Pogue testing out the latest version.

Me wanty!

[Wish List] UPDATE: And while we're dreaming, I want one of these, too.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

San Francisco Values Under Attack... the Empire.

George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg take note: sometimes the best special effects occur when the focus is elsewhere.

(Hat tip to Flexual Chocolate)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Technology Freakin' Rocks

In Japan, I used to jog to work.

Now that might not sound like much but - considering the distances involved, the occasional extremes in temperature and the fact that Osaka is comprised of a hearty blend of concrete and pollution - it was.

My coworkers thought I was nuts (particularly in summer) but man, did I love that jog. I did it so often that I started to recognize the locals and they started to recognize me. It was hard to stay in a bad mood when I was not only getting exercise, but people were smiling and waving at me. My run got me through the worst of things with work and with women (and often, a combo of the two). It kept me grounded and got me in great shape. It was a very special part of my time in Japan.

In fact, one of the chapters of my book is about my jog. (Hey, if Murakami can write a whole book about running, I can do a chapter, right?) I can't wait to run my old route when I'm back in Japan next month. A little jog down the ol' Natsukashii Lane. And measure it, too! (Thanks to the Nike + attachment for my iPod.)

My only regret about my run to work (aside from the damage I'm sure it caused my knees) was that I was never able to document it - really document it - before I left so that I could always take a look back at how things were (once my knees finally go out).

But, the logistics were too much. How does one film multiple angles of several miles of street and sidewalk snaking haphazardly through the heart of the 9th largest metropolitan area in the world? What was I supposed to do, stop and take panoramic pictures every few feet? Attach a camera to my bike? Buy a helmet cam?

I did occasionally stop to take a few pictures along the way before I left Japan, but it never felt like enough. I just had to accept that there was no way I'd get the kind of coverage I needed.

Until now.

On August 5th, the website Guuguru Mappu (which is Japanese for "Google Maps") added "Sutoriito Biyuu" (which is Japanese for "Street View". Told you Japanese was tough). I'd heard that "street view" had finally made it to Japan but I figured that they'd only have have it for for Tokyo, maybe a few major streets in Osaka. But, no. I swear they must have driven down every side street and back alley, god bless 'em.

I checked it out tonight and it's amazing. Nearly 2 years after I left and from half a planet away, I got to recreate my jog... without having to run. I was in heaven.

Hey! There's the factory I used to pass! Cool! Oh, I watched them build that! Neat! Aw man, that cafe's gone. Oh well. Hmm, the leaves are turning. That picture must be in autumn!

Here's a few quick highlights:

The gas station where everybody used to wave at me!

The view of USJ from the bridge!

That same bridge from above! (This is why I didn't drive!)

And this picture really made me happy:

Along the last leg of my jog, I used to pass a house where an elderly gentleman would always be tending to a wide variety of potted plants. Whenever he saw me, he'd always wave and smile. I often wondered if I'd ever see him again. Well, I don't know if he'll be there when I go back next month but, the above is a picture of his garden. Made me smile.

Gmail can go down all it wants as long as Google keeps doing cool stuff like this.

(Big Brother is Watching You) UPDATE: But, even though I can't get enough of it, Japan doesn't seem too thrilled about it.

(via Japan Times)
"While some Japanese users may have wanted the service to be available here sooner, others are troubled by the potential for invasion of privacy
For example, the image of a couple entering a love hotel in Osaka made its way to the 2 Channel Internet bulletin board, but this cannot be considered an infringement of privacy because the pair were shot from behind, according to legal experts..."
Oops! Looks like I'm going to have to enjoy it while I can. (And avoid love hotels next month.)

On the less controversial side, Google Japan has also added Transit, a site that figures out the directions, transfers and costs for traveling between two locations of your choosing. (The site's in Japanese but, if you're looking for something similar in English, I recommend Hyperdia. Very useful site.)

(OK, It's Creepy) UPDATE:
While checking Google maps for this post, I noticed that they now have "Street View" for the somewhat-small Florida town where I grew up.

Why? I don't know.

But, despite my above enthusiasm, I have to admit it was a little weird seeing pictures of my parents house online. I guess I can kind of see Japan's reluctance.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Can You Spare Some Change?

A little inspirational music for your Thursday afternoon.

"Change" - Monkey Majik featuring The Yoshida Brothers

"Wouldn't be nice if the whole world got along?
Even on the small scale change is possible.

We keep saying these things,

don't even know what they mean,

as if we've never seen the other end of the street.

Start travelling, communicating, educating.

Sing them your song.

You'd be suprised how many people want to hear what your saying.

(If you'd like to learn more) UPDATE:

A little bit about Monkey Majik over at NPR.

Finally Getting Organized

Now that I'm feeling pretty comfortable with Remember The Milk, I've been going through my piles of old To Do lists and consolidating them.

I recently went through a folder full of To Do lists from my time in Japan (told you I kept everything) and it was such a relief because nearly everything on those lists was either finished or no longer valid.

Aside from this whole process making me feel really organized, I'm also getting the added bonus of feeling the accomplishment of actually throwing out old To Do lists. Until recently, that was rarity. I never got to throw To Do lists out because, well... I never finished them.

Turns out it was because my To Do lists usually looked something like this:
  1. buy milk
  2. write book about Japan
  3. solve world hunger
  4. buy eggs
Alas, while I may get 1 and 4 done, the list itself would never be done thanks to 2 and 3.  And those unfinished things would linger in the back of my mind and my "To Do" list would never get thrown out.

Well, according to Getting Things Done, it turns out those items are "projects" which need to be broken down in small actionable items and then THOSE items should be on my "To Do" lists based on context (errands, at the computer, etc.)  Makes sense!

I'll keep you guys updates on how it all goes...

One Fall Down, Six To Go

Not the best of news but, I guess I was kind of expecting it.

While I haven't seen an actual copy, it doesn't look like any of my work made it into the next Everywhere Magazine. I just came across this page where they've finally posted a list of all of the people who contributed to the final issue. Not realizing they were in alphabetical order, I scanned frantically for my name. There were four Matt's (so my heart skipped four beats this evening) but, sadly, none of them were me.

My biggest disappointment is not that I didn't get published but that I won't be able to try again with them (this will be there last issue). And, even though it'll be a little while longer before I finally get to see my name in print, I'm still thankful for their support. (Particularly here and here.)

The Japanese have a saying "nana korobi ya oki" which means "Fall down seven times, get up eight".

Consider this my standing back up. May everyone on the Everywhere team have no trouble getting back on their feet again, too.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


My... hero...

"Phelps lends a new spin to the phrase 'Breakfast of Champions' by starting off his day by eating three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise.

He follows that up with two cups of coffee, a five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar and three chocolate-chip pancakes.

At lunch, Phelps gobbles up a pound of enriched pasta and two large ham and cheese sandwiches slathered with mayo on white bread - capping off the meal by chugging about 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks.

For dinner, Phelps really loads up on the carbs - what he needs to give him plenty of energy for his five-hours-a-day, six-days-a-week regimen - with a pound of pasta and an entire pizza.

He washes all that down with another 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks."
Apparently, he's pretty good at swimming as well.

(Dear God, Look At That Sandwich) UPDATE:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Doin' Hard Time in the 100 Acre Woods

Somehow, I don't think this guy will be working at Tokyo Disney any time soon.

Winnie-the-Pooh held for robbery?
"Japanese police have arrested a 20-year-old man who attacked and robbed two people after they stared at his Winnie-the-Pooh costume, officials said on Tuesday.

Masayuki Ishikawa was hanging out on a Tokyo street corner after midnight last month while wearing the cuddly costume, accompanied by two friends dressed as a mouse and a panther, when he took offence (sic) at being stared at, police said.

'It's uncommon to see people dressed up like this, so the victims were watching them. Then the perpetrator came up and said 'What are you staring at?'' a police spokesman said.

Ishikawa and his friends beat up the two victims and stole $160..."
Aside from the brilliant mental image of a Pooh bear going all Travis Bickle on some unsuspecting couple, the best part to me is that "the group had apparently donned the unusual garb because they had run out of clean clothes".

I'm not sure what's funnier, that they thought this was a perfectly good alternative to doing laundry or that they actually had mouse, panther and Winnie-The-Pooh costumes lying around.

(via Yahoo! News)

My Thoughts on the Olympic Opening Ceremonies

Opening ceremony or Third-eye poster?

Finally got around to watching the Olympic ceremonies.

Wow. I mean, WOW.

Not only was it visually spectacular but, from a performers point of view, it was technologically amazing. I still can't figure out how they pulled it all off. I found myself welling up more than once.

That is, of course, when I wasn't yelling "Hey, BBC announcer, shut the hell up!" at the screen. And to think that I watched the British version because I figured it would be less annoying than the American version.  Not so.  The music may have been spectacular but I wouldn't know because I had to keep the damn TV muted to avoid hearing the inane and often utterly pointless banter between the commentators:

(actual quote)
"Tai chi, this is. Often performed by old people.
Often performed by young people."
 Um, duh.

Or the commentary was so snarky, it was offensive:

(not-so-actual quote, but close)
"And now we see the Tibetan athletes and the Chinese athletes walking together. You can hardly tell how much they really, truly and deeply hate each other."
Or this:
"There are performers representing the 56 ethnic groups of China dancing in the stadium. Few people realize that China's makeup is that complex."
"Well, that's right. You see, as China grew over the centuries - much like a giant cancer full of rich, vibrant colors and pageantry - it basically absorbed all of those areas. Simply stunning."
"Absolutely. Just imagine the amount of laundry they could do."
"Just imagine."
But, despite the snark of the British announcers, the opening ceremony still impressed the hell out of me.

Thankfully, the Japanese alphabet is based on the Chinese one so I've got a leg-up. (Because, it these opening ceremonies are any indication, they'll be owning our asses soon.)

UPDATE: Some really cool pictures from the Opening Ceremony over at

(hat tip to Flexual Healing)

Bad Cloud! Bad, Bad Cloud!

Talk about timing.

Right around the time I decided to move a lot of my stuff online, Gmail went out:

(via Gmail blog)
We feel your pain, and we're sorry

"Many of you had trouble accessing Gmail for a couple of hours this afternoon, and we're really sorry. The issue was caused by a temporary outage in our contacts system that was preventing Gmail from loading properly."
Mind you, it was only for a couple of hours but this doesn't bode well for my confidence. I still think I'm going to be using "the cloud" as a back up, but I certainly won't be depending on it in the immediate future.

Anyway, more at Lifehaker. Nice to see I'm not the only one with reservations.

Do you trust the cloud?

Day Two

Good day yesterday.

Finished editing the hardest sequence of a "Doc Brown in Seattle" video I'm making for my old coworkers in Japan. (I'll post the video once I'm finished.) Worked on my computer for a while. Jogged, exercised, swam in Green Lake.

Afterwards, I sat on beach chair in the shade and brainstormed up a list of all of the fun, non-work related things I want to do during my Japan trip (may post the list soon as well). Aside from getting me even more excited about this trip, it gave me what, I think, is a pretty good idea for an article. "10 fun/exciting/disturbing things you can do in Japan to impress your friends". Title could use some work but you get the idea. Started brainstorming on that and have pretty much written most of the article. Very cool.

Treated myself to some Mexican food before spending the evening reminding myself how to use Remember The Milk. Got a lot of help from this really good article (via the RTM blog) about integrating David Allen's Getting Things Done into the program. I've been doing all of my To Do lists with pen and paper and, well... I've just got so many lists and folders, I've grown numb to them.

So, I'm going to give this a shot. If you're not familiar with Remember The Milk, it's an online To Do List manager. Because it's online, I can check it from any computer (even my phone) which is great but, I'm still warming myself up to the idea having everything strictly online.

Fortunately, the programs allows me to create Smart Lists to narrow down my tasks to specific criteria and then just print it out. Eventually, I plan on installing Google Gears so that I can use RTM offline but one thing at a time. I'll let you know how it goes!

OK. I'm going to do a bit more writing then it's time to dive back into the "Collection" phase. And drink a lot of coffee. And ignore the sunshine.

Monday, August 11, 2008


Greetings from Green Lake!

After a cloudy yet productive morning, the sky cleared and I found myself needing to get outside. So I came here to jog (3 days in a row!) and, afterwards, actually took my very first dip in Green Lake. Water was a bit cold but it was really refreshing, if not unnerving.

I guess I'm just not used to swimming in a lake. Must be because I grew up in Florida, a place where pools, oceans and gulfs are for swimming and lakes are decorations for golf courses and, more importantly, home to gators. That means lakes are usually the very last place somebody ever saw their pet poodle or little Timmy sitting on the dock before hearing a big splash.

A lifetime of hearing stories like that made it a bit hard for me to fully relax. Well, there was that, and the group of kids playing Marco Polo. For those of you who don't know, Marco Polo is a water game where one kid shuts his eyes and keeps yelling "MARCO!!" while his friends back away from him or her and reply loudly "POLO!!". The point of this game is to annoy adults.

It's very successful.

Actually, I'm starting to wish there were some gators out here. Or, at least, a rusty hook or two.

It's "Go" Time

This is it.

(Cue the theme to "Rocky". Or "9 to 5". Or both.)

4 weeks from today, I'm flying back to Japan for a month.

No more messing around. It's time to cut out the b.s. and get busy. I want to do this right.

While I haven't had a chance to get into it lately, I'm really excited about this trip. After 2 years, I finally get to go back to Japan. I'm dying to see how much things have changed (particularly at work) and I'm really looking forward to visiting some old friends and coworkers, popping by my old neighborhood, hopefully even stopping back by the elementary school to see if any of my old students from the after-school program where I volunteered are still there.

Oh! And, hot springs! I can finally soak in a hot spring again! And I can do all of those little side trips I'd been meaning to do when I lived there but never got around to. It's going to be wonderful.

But, because I can't keep things simple and because I seem to be a glutton for punishment, I want this trip to be more than just a vacation.

SO much more.

First and foremost, I want to use this trip as a chance to fill in all of the blanks and answer any questions that have appeared while writing the first draft of my book. (What was the name of that train station? Which stage assistant was that? Why, again, am I trying to write a book?)

Also, I'm really hoping to find the right ending for my book. At the moment, the ending is a bit of a downer. [But a fitting and hopeful conclusion to a remarkable character arc of mythic proportions, my dear potential editors and publishers!]

So, in order to make sure I'm getting all of the answers I need, I must figure out the rest of the questions. That means it's time to get all of my old notes, photos, audio files and emails sorted, processed and archived for easy access. Time to polish off some nearly-finished chapters and articles. Time to get organized. I've been needing a good deadline to get me motivated and now I've got a great one.

Another thing I want to do on this trip is attempt to write from the road. At the moment, a lot of the stuff I'm writing is about things that happened years ago. So, to remind myself of what I was thinking at the time and how I felt, I have to go back and reread journals and old emails, look at pictures, etc. It's time consuming.

But the things I'm finding easiest to recreate are based on notes that were written when I actually took the time to sit down and to do a rough draft of a story right after an event occurred, while everything was still fresh. Makes sense, right?

So, I want to practice doing more of that. Work on taking this process of translating an experience and a handful of photos into a polished article and whittle it down from taking several months to a matter of days or hours. Ideally, I'd like to take pictures and notes in the morning, upload and process them in the evening and have them posted before bedtime. I don't have to do this every day, but a few times would be nice. Just to see if I can.

In order to do this, I want to get mobile. I've made giant leaps with the blog but I want to do more. I want to build a site dedicated to just my photography. I'd also like to set up online storage for my writing and my pictures so I don't have to lug around folders and hard drives and DVDs. I also want to get the smaller of my laptops cleaned up and streamlined for travel. I also want to do more electronic submissions to magazines. And, I want a pony.

As for this blog, I'm going to try and finish up a few old posts that I started but just haven't gotten around to hitting the "publish" button on. Word of warning, I'm not sure how many new posts I'll be doing in the next few weeks. They may be few and far between. They may take on an organizational theme. They may be nostalgic. They may be longwinded and boring (like this post). They may be nonexistent. We'll see.

The good news is, once I get this blog updated, I can finally send it out to all of my friends and family who, along with basic grooming habits, I've started to neglect.

Oh, and I also want to get in crazy good shape. Even thought I'm arriving just past the end of the official climbing season, I want to tackle Mt. Fuji again. (My first and only other attempt resulted in me summiting the mountain just before sunrise only to be greeted with a nice view of the inside of a cloud.) Another reason for wanting to get in shape is well, you know... the ladies. I've got to look good for my public. (Cue "Let's Get It On". Or "9 to 5.")

But, the most important thing I can do over the next few weeks is continue to delude myself into believing that all of this is possible - despite the fact previous attempts at such massive life changes before a large trip failed spectacularly - and that I'm not just setting myself up for a huge letdown and a massive pain in the ass.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I Think I May Have a Problem

It just hit me. The reason I keep putting off watching the copy of "Mr. Baseball" I received from Netflix is because I'm actually planning on taking notes.

Yeah. "Mr. Baseball".

I may need an intervention.

Nintendo Lunchbox

Still have that broken Nintendo lying around? Looking for a stylish way to pack your sandwich? Have more free time than I do? Then, turn your old NES into a lunchbox with the help of Fluctifragus (and Sasquatch).

I found that it helps if you blow into your sandwich before your put it in.

(via Instructables by way of Lifehacker)

Japanese Wisdom-isms

"Nothing in the real world is as beautiful as the illusions of a person about to lose consciousness."
- Haruki Murakami, "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running"

Friday, August 8, 2008

U.S. Men's Soccer Beats Japan

First the hot dog eating contest, now this.

Don't worry Japan, you're still number one where it counts.

This Is Just Too Cool

Slow motion video of a lightning strike.

ILM's got nothing on Mother Nature.

The world is just awesome. (Boom De Yada.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Survived It

Family left this afternoon.

What a week. Depending on who you ask, it went great or it was a disaster. Personally, for the most part, I enjoyed it and thought, considering the circumstances (and finding out about Everywhere), it went well. We saw a lot, did a ton and I didn't have to pay for food. Life is good.

Sure, there were tensions but I probably won't bore you with the details or risk upsetting those involved. I may do a posting or two about some of the more light-hearted stuff (including a post on how I've earned my place on the "Terrorist Watch List" by taking pictures of a wind sculpture) but I'll probably just save all of the juicy family-related stuff for a David Sedaris-like collection of essays which will help me save money on therapy (and destroy my chance at an inheritance).

Anyway, back to reality.

Trimming Songs in iTunes

Speak of the devil. We were just showing our brother how to do this yesterday:

iTunes' Start and Stop Times
(via Macworld)

Even better, once you've chosen the correct Start and Stop times, you can then choose "Extract to MP3" and create another song based on that selection.  You might even be able to make a ringtone out of it...

UPDATE: You totally can.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Well, crap

I figured I'd check the Everywhere Magazine website before I went to bed to see if there was any way to tell if one of my article submissions or pictures had made it into the next issue. That's when I found this:

(via Everywhere's Blog)
"To the Everywhere Community,

Launching a travel magazine was always an ambitious undertaking, but 8020 Publishing is committed to the idea of creating beautiful publications that combine the vitality of the Web with the richness of print. You made it possible for us to produce four terrific issues of Everywhere, but sadly we must now suspend publication of the magazine."
It's a shame because I really liked Everywhere Magazine and, even if I didn't get published in it this time, I was looking forward to trying again for the next issue. That magazine not only inspired and motivated me but also gave me my two biggest ego boosts as an aspiring author thus far. I'm sad to see it go.

Special thanks to all of the people who worked there.

As for my submissions, there's still a chance they may show up in the final issue but I haven't heard anything yet.

Ah, well.

When Lifestyles Collide

Ah, mornings. The calm before the storm.

It's a little after 7. Brother Jason is still asleep, the Other Brother Ken is probably jogging (and enjoying the alone time) and my parents are at the hotel either sleeping or giving the continental breakfast a run for its money. Not sure how long it'll be before I hear from them saying it's time to meet up so, while I wait for my video of last year's Blue Angel show to upload to YouTube, I'll write what I can.

Anyway, the whole gang arrived safely from Florida yesterday afternoon. The "gang" being both of my parents, Jason and my parents' friends Don and Julie. Fortunately for Ken and me, we didn't have to meet them at the airport since they rented a bus 13-passenger van at the airport.

A quick back story: As much as Ken and I wanted to see our family, there was some trepidation on our part. Seattle suits us. We love hiking. Why drive when we can walk, right? So we walk, a lot.  My parents, not so much.

Also, most of the stuff we do in and around Seattle is for 2 or 3 people, tops. We can't even fathom the logistics of planning things for a group of 7.  Oh, and one last thing, while Ken and I have nothing against drinking and we do sometimes quite enjoy it, we rarely drink.  It's expensive and it doesn't really fit with our active lifestyles.

So, with that in mind, imagine my surprise when, in the 20 minutes it took me to walk from my place to their hotel, the rest of my family had already made a beer run, broken out the snacks and were working on round number 2. (It's going to be a loooong week.)

Don't get me wrong, it's great to see everybody. Mom's lost a lot of weight and everybody looks nice and recently sunburnt. It was the first time in a while that the rest of my family has seen me with actual hair so they were shocked at just how dark it's grown in. Mom seemed disappointed that all 3 of her formerly-blond children have become brunettes and proposed a "frosting party" when we come home for Thanksgiving. Enthusiasm was less than stellar so Dad just said he would stop dying his gray.

At this point, I hadn't eaten anything yet, so I wanted to hold off on drinking. This was a mistake. This meant I was sober as my family increasingly was not. As the mean-blood-alcohol-content of the room grew around me, the level of humor decreased to the point that they were reading humorous porn titles off the internet.

"Good Will Humping!" (laughter)
"Saving Ryan's Privates!" (more laughter)
"Saturday Night Beaver!" (raucous laughter and a few hiccups)

Norman Rockwell, eat your heart out.

Every time I thought I could corral them up and get them to a restaurant, somebody else popped open another drink.  Eventually, we all walked to the nearby RAM Brewery for a late lunch and more drinks. The place is probably 3 blocks away.  It took us, like, an hour to get there.

As we passed the crowed patio of a Starbucks, my dad said loudly "Hey, they have Starbucks here in Seattle?" and got few dirty looks.

We finally made it to the restaurant.  Now, I only seem to get really bad service when I eat with my parents or when I'm starving. Since this was both, the meals took forever. The iced tea I ordered somehow became a "Butt Face Lager" and, thanks to an early toast, I gave up on waiting to eat before drinking (and resolved to eat before leaving the house today).  Once I got some food in me, I was fine. Enjoyed a BBQ meatloaf sandwich and some conversation.  We followed our lunch and drinks with more drinks at Teddy's, a bar near Green Lake.  By the time I got back to my place, I'd drank more that afternoon than I had the past year or so.

Ended the night staying up late chatting with Jason about some ideas I have for a musical show he performs in back in Orlando called "The Outer Toons". I was worried my suggestions would offend him (considering how poorly my attempted improvements were handled back in Japan) but he was thrilled with my ideas and said he couldn't wait to share them with the rest of the group once he gets back. It was a pretty good feeling.

Anyway, seems the gang's up. Not sure what Ken's got planned for us today. We'll see.

Wish us luck.