Archive for March, 2009

Being more than just a (very well-trained) monkey

Cherry blossom budsSometimes I feel almost overwhelmed by the number and variety of possibilities that are open to me (and to anyone) here in Tokyo (read ‘on planet Earth’).

Having made a decision a couple of months back to reach out into the community and connect with others, I have been almost dumbstruck by the things I have seen being achieved around me.

The nature of the events I’ve attended means that most of the people I meet are those who are actively shaping their lives, choosing to bring about change, both major and minor.

As a result of meeting these people, my life now is very different from that of 8 weeks ago. Perhaps my daily routine is not all that different, but my thinking and relationship with my surroundings certainly is.

It is clearer than ever that I have what I would almost call a duty to make the most of my time here, to do what I love to help others (the first stage in The Big Life Experiment Age 31~ is the podcast and videos).

Again and again I’m struck by the fact that whilst unique, I am also no different from anyone else. At the end of the day, we are all human, we are all spirit, we are all living these lives that we have been ‘given’. No-one has been ordained by any ‘God’ to do anything, to be ‘successful’, no-one is superior or inferior. It’s just that whilst some people have chosen to spend their precious 24 hours doing some things, others have chosen to do others.

You know Gandhi only had 24 hours in a day as well. That’s the same as me. And you.

Tomorrow I will start in a new role at the company that I work for. This will see me positioned in the centre of office goings-on (a part of which is politics), having to deal with the idiosyncrasies of staff that have been there far longer than I have.

I’m going to use this as an experiment. An experiment in changing a culture. As it’s an experiment, I will be free to try different approaches, without fear of failure. There is no failure, just learning.

Some might say these are dangerous times to be sticking your neck out in, with companies looking for opportunities for reduce their labour costs, but I say that these are the times that demand exactly that – people sticking their necks out to try something new, different, better.

The only rule is to remain honest, and to retain integrity – that is, to act in accordance with what my gut tells me is right, and never stoop to lying to save face or ‘win’, no matter how embarrassing or difficult that might be.

If i didn’t do this, I’d be wasting my time. A trained monkey could do my job (trained in MS Office / telephone manners etc), but I have no intention of breaking the commitment I made when I accepted the job – both a legal commitment, and a personal commitment.

Oh, there’s one more rule, and that’s that I don’t take my work home with me. 40 hours a week is already a lot to be giving over to a ‘project’ that ultimately is not a key part of my overall plan.

My thanks to my friend Tom for helping me see the opportunity here. Much appreciated.

[EDIT] Blimey, this monkey is really struggling to come to grips with all his monkey duties.

… and of course I don’t mean that everyone at my company are monkeys, because they’re not. They all do a myriad of tasks at the same time, requiring far more than just banana-skin peeling skills.

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Saying RAAAAAA to life

SistersA week between Mumbles…. how about that?! I think Twitter‘s to blame. I wonder what the global impact of Twitter has been upon blogging? If my performance is anything to go by it’s not insubstantial.

Is this a good thing? I’m inclined to think it is, and it isn’t.

The nature of Twitter means it can be done on the road, no need to sit down in front of the computer – thus providing us with more time to do stuff out there in real life.

However, it also means that there’s less motivation for us to think things through. Big decisions get compacted down to a single line of text, responded to in kind.

For me personally, whilst I am now posting here less regularly, I’m not thinking that this marks the demise of the blog. Far from it. Thanks to Twitter, blogs are far more likely to be read – if you write something of interest! (I’ll have to figure out how to do that :-)


With only a few minutes to spare before I head off to do my regular bit of voluntary work at the town hall, this post will also be a little twitter-like.

The pace has really picked up. For the past couple of weeks I’ve had every day pretty much fully booked, going from work at 7pm to meet someone / attend an event – weekends have also been filled with ‘stuff’.

Work too has suddenly become a lot busier, with the departure of a colleague leading to a whole new area of responsibility – and a whole new area ripe for improvement. As I’m taught the new systems, I’m finding myself constantly looking for ways in which processes can be streamlined – as with many SMEs in Japan, there is so much room for improvement. I like to work in an environment where people say things like ‘Hey! That might work, let’s give it a try!” instead of what is often heard in Japan, “oh, you’d have to speak to so and so about that …but we’ve always done it like this so I don’t think it can be changed”. I’m fortunate in that there is a degree of the former in my workplace.

PigeonThe bird table / window ledge I made last week (of which this isn’t a picture, this is a pigeon that was unimpressed by the cherry blossom) is now sporting a wealth of vegetation, with lavender, parsley and assorted flowers now bringing a great splash of delicious green to our bedroom / winter workspace. The birds remain happy, devouring all the food I put out for them. It’s not uncommon for up to 14 sparrows to be seen fighting over the seed. I was going to live-stream some video from it yesterday, but it seems the birds realised that – and boycotted the event. I guess they’re not happy with being paid peanuts.

My efforts to create a large network of friends in Tokyo continues to be a great success. This week I was fortunate to attend a party at the Appliya offices – Appliya being a rising star amongst iPhone / iPod touch developers. It was inspiring to hear about their culture of creativity, and to meet so many individuals who are doing what their passion inspires them to do. (I also got an interview for the upcoming podcast with Genkii, who were all over the news earlier this week with their 3D virtual world for the iPhone).

I also met up with Karamoon, an online acquaintance of several years who, until now, I’d never met. He’s working hard to bring about a Tokyo BarCamp [@tokyobarcamp - this is a very exciting project and I'm sure will be a great success. I'd encourage others interested in technology in Tokyo to attend, especially those who've not been to a Barcamp before now.

Cherry BlossomYesterday *Twinkle* and I hosted a little cherry blossom party - unfortunately we were a week early so the cherry blossoms that fill the entire glass-doored wall to our East were yet to bloom (although as can be seen it's only going to be a couple of days before they do). Yesterday also so saw the Himonya Park Cherry Blossom festival take place - all around the pond were groups eating and drinking on the traditional blue tarps. There was dancing, a display by the fire brigade, food stalls, drumming, and a plant sale.

International boat race - the German / Japanese teamOh, and an International Boat Race: England vs. Germany vs. Japan! Germany, represented by our good friend Daniel, won by a mile. Well, by about 300 metres. England (me) were second, and Japan (our neighbours) took a relaxing detour around the fountain.

Last night I attended the sayonara (goodbye) party of a good friend @papadimitriou, someone whom in a very short space of time I've found to be a great source of inspiration. Whilst at the party we remembered that we were supposed to be taking part in the weekly podcast Japan Tech Talk - kudos to our host Robert in Nagoya for dealing with the drunken rabble that called in! [photo courtesy Andrew Shuttleworth]

The podcast is coming on. I’ve uploaded the first mp3 file – it’s not an episode in itself, just a kind of promo – although it’s real purpose is actually to establish the feeds and entry in the iTunes podcast directory. I’ll let you know what it is when Apple are done reviewing it.

The live-streaming marathon all went very well. I’ll be posting a video review of that once I, er, well, hang on, I think we need a new section…


MAC / PC CORNER

…manage to edit the video.

Don’t tell my old MacBook, but it’s soon to be replaced.

I say ‘old’, but actually the only old bit about it is the motherboard – virtually every other part has been replaced at least once during the last 18 months. I’m replacing it as a) the small screen makes audio / video editing difficult, and b) it just doesn’t have the power I need for editing videos – the other morning I spent a good deal of time editing a multi-track video in Screenflow, only to lose all my work when my macbook ran out of memory and panicked. Even editing RAW files from my Nikon DSLR in Adobe Lightroom has been causing problems lately, with regular hangs when processing those that I uploaded to Flickr yesterday. With over 20,000 photos in my iPhoto09 library, loading that takes forever too (just since the upgrade from 08) – meaning I’m reluctant to look at my photos.

Macbook ProMy new baby will be a bit of beast: the 17″ Macbook pro. I’ll be going for the default 4GB of RAM etc. They claim the battery lasts up to 7 hours – I’ll be putting that to the test when it arrives next month. My current MacBook will be passed on to *Twinkle*. She doesn’t seem all that thrilled, even though I insist that it’s basically ‘new’ due to all the repairs it’s had!

We also have another new Mac in the family (inherited from my sister-in-law) – an old iBook G4 (1Ghz/640mb) with a broken DVD drive. Having bought an external DVD drive for it I’ve been able to install Leopard – it runs no problem, although admittedly we’re only using it for the internet and iTunes. I plan to use that as our live stream server when the birds are feeling co-operative.

This means we now have a spare Toshiba laptop …which has just found a new home following an accident my friend had yesterday with a cup of water and their own laptop.

Anyway, I’ve long wanted to get into video production, but without a powerful-enough computer for anything other than the simplest of edits it’s something I’ve held back on. I look forward to branching out into this field with the arrival of the new one.


Another field I’ll be branching out into is singing jazz.

Yes, I know, I can’t sing (I’ll be making a point of this in our podcast).

Yesterday, one of our cherry-blossom guests, a chap in his early 50s, spotted my Samson Condenser Mic and became interested in what I was doing. Turns out he has a ton of studio gear, and regularly produces CDs for local jazz bands. For some reason he asked me to go along to the next session and see what it was like – and then (following practice) to record a song myself!

I’ve often wanted to be a singer, despite not being able to sing. I’d like to take lessons – but it’s not enough of a priority at the moment.

Oh, one final thing – I’m currently listening to Miracle In The Andes. It’s a powerful story. Shocking, gripping, inspiring.

Anyway, I’d best be off. Since I started writing this post I’ve actually cancelled my voluntary work, need to focus.

Incidentally, we have beautiful blue skies in Tokyo today, it is just glorious.

tarra.

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Livestreaming the Tokyo Quarter Marathon – Take Your Seats

This event is sponsored by Japan Podshow – launching shortly!

LIVE STREAMING VIDEO PLAYER

If I’m not streaming, the previous live-streamed video will play.

(Go to http://www.qik.com/tamegoeswild to see a live-updated map of exactly where I am. There is also a comments tab – click on that and enter your comment – I will read them all out at the end – when I’m running my Phone will vibrate to tell me you have commented.

iStreamingFinal prep is done. I completely redesigned the iStreaming hat. It’s now rock solid, and doesn’t interfere with my vision at all. It is secured with a length of trouser elastic, multiple safety pins, a Japanese bandana, with a hat over the top). My thanks to Nami for coming up with the basic concept for this new device).

It’s angle will be maintained by an adapted stand that I got with an iPod voice recorder, and no less than three Sponges of Speed, all of which are actually made of paper for added forward momentum. The iPhone itself sits in an elasticated Belkin armband case that has been cannibalised.

I shall be using the iPhone’s built in mic, which what with the iPhone being in the Belkin case will be fairly well sheltered from the wind. I tested it tonight – it works pretty well.
The iPhone will remain connected to a powerful eneloop battery throughout by a cable running under my shirt to my pocket (thanks to Steve for the recommendation).

I will also have a Mophie Juice pack Just In Case.

I will start broadcasting on and off from 7am JST, 11pm BST, 10pm UTC. We should be moving onto the start of the course at around 8am JST – the starting gun will be fired at 09:10am JST. We aim to complete the race in 50 mins max.

What could go wrong?

What I am going to attempt to do is highly dangerous and should not be attempted at home. Any number of things could result in catastrophic disaster:

  • The organisers may confiscate my iPhone due to broadcasting rules
  • The signal may fail. This is actually bound to happen at some point. If the stream is broken, the iPhone will buffer the video, and then continue to stream it from where it left off when it picks up the connection again. This can result in a delay of a few seconds, or even a minute or two.
  • It may rain. I never did get the umbrella hat sorted.

But these are necessary risks if we are to prevail. I face them with a brave heart and legs that are destined to run.

I’d like to thank everyone that has helped me in my effort. Special thanks to my friend and trainer Tom, my teacher Nami, and the army of Twitters / Tokyo friends who have supported me whilst seeing this for what it really is – a big bit of sillyness.

Thanks also to Kamasami Kong of the Tokyo Metpod for following the story, Bhasker at Qik.com for publicising it, and Steve at www.tuaw.com for ensuring that the story reached readers all over the world.

GANBARIMASU!

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Live-streaming the Tokyo Qtr Marathon: A video response to my critics

Tame Talk TV Episode 001: Response to the Streaming Marathon Critics

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Livestreaming the Marathon hits the headlines

picture-6The folks over at The Unofficial Apple Weblog, a very popular site focusing on all things Mac, have just posted my story.

There’s going to be a lot of eyes to carry on my head.

Yikes.

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