You lookin’ at me?

Yes, mr. caterpillar. I am.

He was bloomin’ impressive I must say. Pretty fierce looking, but didn’t bite.

Anyway anyway what have I been up to? Well, been very busy as ususal. Kanji (up to 1,550 now, 492 to go), preparing data and downloading programs in anticipation of migration to the Mac (ordered this morning, due for delivery next week – can’t wait!), gravelling a section of garden, strimming, bought my travel insurance (special “year abroad” policy covers me for the brief trip back to the UK next summer for the wedding), sorted out accomodation in Tokyo (Ogikubo) (many thanks to *Twinkle* for finding it for me and David for paying the deposit in my absence), stockpiled more epilepsy drugs – and I pick up another 22 boxes (2,200 tablets) tomorrow – hurrah for free prescriptions! Let’s hope the authorities don’t accuse me of drug smuggling or the such like…

Today marks official entry into the legendry Three Week Time Zone. Time spent in such a time zone has been proven by scientists to go Extra Fast, especially if one still has 492 kanji to learn and one is going to be receiving a MacBook (and a 2GB Ipod nano for free incidentally). Believe me, from here on it’s one great big rollercoaster.

I hope time stands still at the weekend as that’s when I’ll be visiting *Twinkle*. If time doesn’t stand still, at least the Earth Will Move 😉 Something very special is happening on Sunday, about which I am forbidden from commenting, but which I’m soooo happy about.

Following a weekend up in Sheffield it’s back to my folks’ place for a few days to help them start building a porch – concrete smashing and the such like. Should be fun, I quite enjoyed helping them put the greenhouse up a couple of years back. Bonding and all that stuff you know.

Anyway, as you have probably gathered by now, I don’t really have anything of interest to tell you at the moment you, but hold onto your hats because the ride is about to begin!

what a cutey!

Goodbye Bill, Hello Steve

(Gadget boy speech ahead)

Ahh, I have finally succumbed.

After years of mocking those ‘pretend’ computers known as Macs, whilst secretly always wanting one, I have decided it’s time to make the switch.

Thing is, my current laptop, now in it’s third year of daily use, really is on it’s way out. Broken hinges, missing key, hard drive completely full and – most serious of all – CD/DVD drive broken, it is becoming more and more stressful to use. The main problem is this: without a working internal CD ROM drive it is impossible to format and reinstall. Thus, 3 years of gunk have piled within the confines of the C drive, gunk that will not shift no matter how many times one deletes files manually, runs clean-up programs or defrags. The only thing that will clean this baby (other than a working internal CD ROM drive that will cost over 300 pounds to have installed) is Mr. Muscle Oven Cleaner. But I don’t like the smell.

It’s got to the stage whereby if I want to read emails in my email application, I have to click on the icon, then go away for up to ten minutes whilst it launches. That is no exaggeration! Image the temptation to hit it with a hammer!

So, the decision was made some time ago that I needed a replacement at some point within the next six months. Money was set aside for it …and I thought I’d probably get another Windows system. However, I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with what Microsoft have to offer – and all these Genuine Advantage spyware programs bug me. Only this morning my laptop restarted whilst I was out of the room because Microsoft told it to. Severed my download of the 007 podcast! Vista, the new MS operating system due out next year is sounding increasingly blahhhh; all in all, time for a change. I love my iPod, it has made a huge difference to my summer, and has provided me with education and entertainment through Podcasts and so forth. AND it’s so sexy I sleep with it. Speaking of Podcasts, I think it was looking into the requirements for making Advanced Podcasts that really got me thinking about buying a Mac. Thing is, you just can’t make an Advanced podcast (i.e. one that includes chapters/different photos/clickable links – see the Q Magazine music review podcast for an example) on a Windows system – you need Apple’s Garage Band software and a special plugin.

The software issue (i.e. Windows software not working on a mac) is proving to not be such a big deal. Turns out that both Mac and Windows use the same version of Dreamweaver. There’s some good cheap image-editing software that can replace Photoshop (I rarely used its advanced features anyway), and I can live without Office. And of course, I could partition the 100GB hard drive and install Windows on the other bit if push came to shove. Speaking of specs, I’ve opted for a 1GB memory, and 2GHz Intel Core Duo. That should be plenty to cope with the huge images from the Sony Alpha 100 I’ll be getting when I land (the pound is so expensive at the moment, great for us going on our year abroad).

As you can tell, I’m excited. I am Gadget Boy. I know that this does not fit comfortably with my anti-consumerist beliefs, but I am prepared to be a hypocrite when it comes to computers. My apologies, Earth and People.

The only thing is – will it arrive in time? It takes them 3 days to make it, 7 days to ship. That’s ten days from Monday when I order it, which takes us up to the 24th, only ten days before I leave. Hmm, it should be enough time I spose.

Will my kanji study dissapear out of the window? I hope not.

Anyway, I’d best be off. Have to try to figure out how to transfer over 6,000 emails from Outlook to Apple Mail. There appears to be no direct route, so I may have to type them all again, one by one…


TGW outage

I know TGW went down for much of yesterday, and I’m pretty sure it’ll disappear again at some point in the next few days, for anything up to 3 days. Once it’s back up it should be fair sailing for as far as the eye can see, and a bit further than that too, even if you are using binoculars.

It’s all part of my global domination plan.

UPDATE: Ok, all done. We have sucessfully made the transatlantic voyage despite the grounding of passenger flights to the US. We can now enjoy 25 times the bandwith we had previously, at about a third of the price. Hurrah!

The podcast is coming

Well well well what a busy boy I have been.

I’ve spent the past couple of days – in-between digging clay out from beneath a polytunnel that is undergoing a resurection – creating all the gubbins behind the podcast I plan to launch next month.

There was me thinking it would take five minutes. But oh no… First there’s the logo and all in Photoshop (it’s very basic, but I like it), then hours wrestling with the CSS to try and get the layout right, then there’s the server on which I’m testing it crashing, then there’s the myriad of RSS feeds to tie up, iTunes to submit it to blah dee blah dee blah. Anyway, it’s all done, and I’ve even uploaded my pilot episode, which thankfully, iTunes managed to pick up. In fact I’ve just received an email from them telling me that it is now officially listed in the iTunes music store, picture and all! The first episode is 13 seconds long, saying “please come back next month”. Exciting stuff.

Oh, while I think of it, sometime in the next week Tame Goes Wild will be moving, from Canary Wharf in London, to some server in the US. In theory this will not result in any downtime, but knowing how these things usually go, it may dissapear from your screens for a while. The end result will hopefully mean no more crashes, and less money going out of my pocket. Go Daddy have amazing customer service, thoroughly reccommend them.

Ok, enough tech talk. So, the podcast… I’m thinking one 30-minute episode per week. Am yet to think of what to include – IDEAS PLEASE!! I’m thinking general updates on how life is going over there, gaijin alert incident reports (ooooooooohh), phone-in messages (arghh that means publishing my Skype i.d.) (not that it’s exactly tricky to find me as it is), interviews with …er …people? Dogs in tracksuits? (either face-to-face or via Skype, although I’m not sure how good dogs are at using Skype). Reviews of the best electronics stores …and 101 other ways to spend your scholarship. I’ll have to get *Twinkle* in on the action too, for a weekly Japanese lesson. Then of course there’s music, lots of free and legal tunes available on the podsafe music network…

Any more ideas?

It could of course be a pile of crap, but ultimately, this does not matter in the slightest. The fact is is that this is primarily an exercise in the development of confidence, a voyage into the world of broadcasting (albeit in a very small way). Whether or not I get an audience is not of great concern. Too big an audience would actually be a problem as my bandwidth is limited! Having said that, it would be delightful if I could entertain a few souls upon the way, as it does make me smile when I see others moving their facial muscles to perform such an action. That one too.

Anyway anyway if anyone has any idea of what you would like to hear on the podcast do let me know, as I’m clueless.

thankin you.


Weather Permitting, I’ll have somewhere to live


Today, The Daily Mumble finds me riding a Virgin.
The view is spectacular.

I’m on the line between Newton Abbot and Exeter, a journey which provides stunning scenery if one looks out to one’s right, out onto the Atlantic ocean. At least I think it’s the Atlantic – the one that blobs up and down off the south coast of England whilst looking blue. To my left, the estate surrounding Powderham Castle. A herd of deer, a bunch of moo moos, a flock of silage bales twinkling black and white in the bright sunshine, blackberry pickers lining the hedgerows, eating more than they put in their recycled ice-cream containers, a scrap metal yard with stacks of semi-crushed cars balanced precariously up to the sky. Cotton wool clouds and Lance Bros. Logistics.

I’ve just spent the weekend with my brother and his lady, enjoying a real holiday which for me involves watching TV, eating bacon, drinking San Miguel and taking photos of the Devonshire outback. It’s so nice sometimes to be a complete lazy git and do nothing. Startrek, Startrek The Next Generation, The Flintstones, all had me enthralled, glued to the box. A real treat was provided by Friday’s showing of Trainspotting, which I’ve not seen for at least 8 years. A genuinely great film in my opinion, and one that rounded off a really nice day, the majority of the latter half of which was spent on the beach at Weather Permitting, the greatest festival to hit the south coast in the last 7 days.

A few of the revellers around the washing machine

The turnout was good, both in terms of numbers and in terms of quality. A fire-filled washing machine drum provided the heat for the BBQ, whilst the sea provided wetness for paddling. One of our number had her foot nibbled by a seal, something that would have induced jaws-like panic in me, but which she took in her stride. Mind you, I do have a great fear of the sea, possibly stemming from the time when I was swept out by the rip current and had to be rescued by lifeguards, combined with last summer’s Japanese Jellyfish incident in which I found myself surrounded by the things. Thus, when the Aerobie thrown by my brother sailed over my head and into the sea, I hesitated – dare I enter the water to retrieve the costly article before it sank? That beach had a habit of suddenly dropping away, and I didn’t have my swimming gear on. And it was bloody freezing!

As you can see, I did eventually brave the depths of the Atlantic, wading in as the red rubber ring sank to the shifting sands below. After a brief struggle I managed to fetch it from its watery resting place, and thankfully lived to tell the tale.

Stephen returns from washing the washing machine in the sea

This weekend I also received some somewhat disconcerting news – my accommodation in Japan has fallen through, four weeks before arrival. It’s not so much the practical implications of this that I find upsetting – I’m sure I’ll be able to sort something out for when I get there – it’s more the emotional significance. It had been John John’s wish that his apartment in Tokyo, where he had been based for many many years, be ‘kept in the family’ in the event that he was not able to return there. We had been planning my stay there since last year, as he’d been planning to take a ‘year out of Japan’ in any case, long before his health began to fail. Thus, when he began his further travels on the non-Earthly plain, it was decided that it would be appropriate for us to proceed as planned.

Unfortunately, the situation has now changed, and it will now not be viable for us to ‘keep it in the family’ as John John had wished. Whilst this is no-one’s fault, I do feel somewhat guilty, guilty for letting JJ down, being unable to keep my promise. Still, these things happen,. It just requires a bit of a shift of thinking on my part. The thing is, my heart had already began to move to its new home in Kichijoji – an example of that can be seen in the map of the local park that I published a few days back.

Despite all this, I now feel quite positive about the situation. I am a firm believer that there is a reason for everything, no matter how unfair it may seem at first. I am sure that what had happened will ultimately result in a situation which works for the benefit of all. Indeed, the first signs of this are already producing buds, as I consider this new set of circumstances, and think of possible solutions, solutions which fundamentally shift how my year in Japan may pan out.

Anyhow, my Virgin is just about to pull into Bristol Temple Meads where I need to change, so I must depart.